Marlon James

Jumel Terrace Books in-house novelist may be the novelist of the year.

While I am reading the galley of Marlon James’s A Brief History of Seven Killings (both as above) I will reserve judgement but not my enthusiasm.  I really like what it’s got going on.  It is the sort of reading experience I am always up for; a highlife story.  In this, I am not alone.  Advance reviews are calling it the book of the year and, from what I’m reading, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he sells a lot.

I’m smitten but, as you know, I’m prejudiced.  A former neighbor, Marlon, who teaches in my homeland, maintains a Harlem presence, frequently staying with us when he’s in New York.  We’ve kept up book chat since we met on the publication of his first novel, John Crow’s Devil (Akashic Books), in 2005 when the shop first opened.  These chats have covered a lot of ground over the years; rather free-ranging.  Today, for instance, we had a long revel over the literary legacy of Kyle Ostott’s antebellum bodice-whipping Falcolnhurst series (pulp fic’ wonders, in stock now!), starting with Mandingo, in some ways ending with his more enlightening but no less entertaining Book of Night Women (signed 1sts, order now!).

His Brief History, at 669 pages anything but brief, could be an exception to the fact that there has not been a black male novelist on the New York Times best seller list in decades.  I’m snubbing E. Lynn Harris (N.O.S.D., as they say on the Upper East Side: “Not Our Sort Dear“) whose works don’t succeed sufficiently to qualify as pulp lit but merely as pap, I can’t think of anyone else since James Baldwin.  Incredible?  Too credible.

Marlon’s book is an exception.  A lot of people who aren’t considered and don’t consider themselves novel readers are going to make an exception of themselves and read one because it’s about sin and where it gets us, a sordid story of hard-boiled tuffs rocking and crooking in the roughs of 1970s Kingston, Jamaica and 1980s New York, New York like nobody’s business.  So thrilling!  More, later, when I’ve finished the book.

Coming in October from Riverhead Books.

Catch up to On Turbulence, a MJ work-in-progress appearing in Revolver.

Monday, October 6th, 2014, 8:15 pm.  Marlon will read from A Brief History of Seven Killings with Laila Lalami at the 92nd Street Y.

Monday, December 15, 2014, 7 – 9 p.m.  Marlon will be in conversation with Salman Rushdie at the New York Public Library.


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