Sunday, 10 April 2016

A Brief History of Seven Killings

"A brief history of seven killings" is written by Marlon James and starts in seventies Jamaica and ends in nineties New York and along the way there are a hell of a lot more than seven killings.

Back up a bit...  I'm a huge Bob Marley fan, I am white and middle aged (class?) so I would be right?  But I have been listening to Bob's music since my childhood and I always will.  I'm fan enough to have read loads of Marley biographies including Timothy White's brilliant "Catch a fire".  This book in particular describes an assassination attempt made on Marley on 2nd December 1976 at his home, 56 Hope Road, Kingston.  "A brief history of seven killings" starts with the events leading up to this attempt, the act itself and the immediate aftermath.

Beginning in loose fact with the whys and wherefores of the Hope road shooting which made headlines all over the world at the time, Marlon James story charts the fall out from this crime which is still officially unsolved. Throughout the novel Marley is referred to simply as "The singer".  The events are told in the first person by a cast of characters; "Top Ranking"gunmen and foot soldiers, politicians, terrorists, CIA and ordinary Jamaicans all of whose lives changed forever that day.  Many of these characters are thought to be based on real people and real events that occurred after 1976.  The narrator is a long time murdered "Duppy".

The story leaps forward in time and place.  Jamaica for more politics and the hope of peace in 1979, New York and Miami for cocaine murder madness in 1985 and a final bloodbath in 1991.  We follow some of these characters through the fifteen years of the tale but others don't make it, sometimes we feel sorry of the victims, sometimes we don't.  The Kingston slums are portrayed harshly as cruel and violent beyond belief as is the Bronx later in the book.  Life is cheap.  Different place, same characters, same result?

Is it any good?  Fucking hell yes!  The book is almost seven hundred pages long but I managed to read it in about five days.  The book was stuck in my hands and in my head and the only option was to keep reading and see where the madness would take me and who would be the survivors?  Then there's the question; of all the many hundreds of killings, which were the seven?  I'm pretty sure I worked it out and the one that got away.

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