A Brief History of Seven Killings

by Marlon James

Hardcover, 2014

Call number




Riverhead Books (2014), Edition: 1, 704 pages


On December 3, 1976, just before the Jamaican general election and two days before Bob Marley was to play the Smile Jamaica Concert, gunmen stormed his house, machine guns blazing. The attack nearly killed the Reggae superstar, his wife, and his manager, and injured several others. Marley would go on to perform at the free concert on December 5, but he left the country the next day, not to return for two years. Deftly spanning decades and continents and peopled with a wide range of characters--assassins, journalists, drug dealers, and even ghosts--A Brief History of Seven Killings is the fictional exploration of that dangerous and unstable time and its bloody aftermath, from the streets and slums of Kingston in the 1970s, to the crack wars in 1980s New York, to a radically altered Jamaica in the 1990s. Brilliantly inventive and stunningly ambitious, this novel is a revealing modern epic that will secure Marlon James' place among the great literary talents of his generation.… (more)

Media reviews

If, like James, you’re from Jamaica, then recent history might suggest a gangster chronicle, and the central plot and metaphor of his novel is an intricate set of connections between the attempted assassination of the Singer and the rise and fall of a J.L.P.-connected crime boss called Josey
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Wales. The man who comes to kill the Singer, icon of peace, is a gangster whose export business is not reggae but cocaine. It doesn’t matter whether this hypothesis is factually verifiable. It isn’t. What matters is whether the story is persuasive and suggestive.
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Library's review

If you've ever read Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, you'll remember the feeling of switching 1st person narrative with each chapter, and the multi-vocal layering and revealing of a story from different points of view. Marlon James has expanded this technique with more than a dozen main characters and a
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dozen more (or at least it felt like that number) minor characters, each telling their piece of a story that unfolds over several decades of Jamaican (with side trips to Miami and New York) intrigue involving The Singer (aka Bob Marley), Jamaican "posses", CIA agents, anti-Castro Cuban mercenaries, and Rolling Stone journalists. As James writes in the Afterward, it is "a novel that would be driven only by voice." The voices include nearly inscrutable (for the uninitiated) Jamaican English, American hipster English, Cuban Spanish translated into English, and a British "Sir" speaking from beyond the grave. Hold on to your dreads, it's a wild ride. (Brian)
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User reviews

LibraryThing member kidzdoc
This novel is centered around the attempted assassination of the legendary Jamaican reggae singer Bob Marley (referred to as "The Singer" throughout the book) at his home in Kingston on December 3, 1976, two days before he was set to perform in the "Smile Jamaica" concert organized by Prime
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Minister and People's National Party (PNP) leader Michael Manley. The free concert was aimed at cooling tensions between the PNP and its main rival, the Jamaica Labor Party (JLP), which had been building throughout the year in advance of the contentious election that was held in mid-December. Each party supported gangs in Kingston, which controlled neighborhoods and districts within the capital and used whatever means were necessary to get residents to vote for their candidate, and as JLP gang leaders fought to gain power, PNP leaders fought just as hard to maintain what they had, in a country beset by poverty, corruption and violence. Along with these two factions was a far more lawless segment of brazen young men, who operated outside of the normally accepted boundaries and brutally murdered anyone who crossed their path.

The initial scene shifts from 1976 to 1979 Kingston, to 1985 NYC, when the city was in the middle of a vicious crack epidemic with violent gangs from Jamaica and Colombia who fought viciously to control the booming drug trade, and to its fateful end in 1991.

The novel consists of narratives from numerous colorful characters in the book, including the gang leaders Papa-Lo, Weeper, Josey Wales and Bam-Bam; Alex Pierce, a writer for Rolling Stone who manages to get inside information about the attempt on the Singer's life, but finds his own life in danger as a result; "Doctor Love", a Colombian CIA consultant who is also involved in the drug trade centered in Medellín; and Nina Burgess, a young shape shifting woman who appears throughout the book, in different roles and with different names. The author did a masterful job in maintaining this reader's interest throughout its nearly 700 pages, as the violence and suspense increase during the book's last chapter to its sudden, shocking ending.

A Brief History of Seven Killings is a literary tour de force that tells the story of Jamaican politics and culture in the last quarter of the 20th century, which is filled with interesting characters and details. Reading it was a wild but fascinating ride, and it certainly deserves its spot on this year's Booker Prize longlist, and I think it would be a good candidate for the shortlist as well.
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LibraryThing member EBT1002
This Booker Prize-winning novel is built around the attempted murder of Bob Marley in Kingston in 1976. Amidst political turmoil and alarmingly escalating violence, several gunmen entered Marley's mansion two nights before he was to deliver a "Peace Concert;" Marley was mildly injured, his
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girlfriend and manager more dangerously so, but they all survived. The raid was assumed to be perpetrated by gang/posse members upset by Marley's apparent attempt to bridge, through music, the violent chasm between supporters of the People's National Party (PNP) and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). As the election of 1976 drew near, tensions between the two major parties were notable and gang-related violence steeped in the ideologies and loyalties of the parties was defining the public image of Kingston.

Marley's novel is told from several first-person perspectives and it extends from the violent landscape of the mid 1970s in Kingston to the 1990s in New York and Miami, as Jamaican drug cartels branched out into lucrative American markets. Boldly written and exquisitely researched, the novel transported this white middle-class American reader into a subculture that is certainly terrifying but one that also, in James' deft hands, becomes almost comprehensible. The characters are vivid and deeply human. And the stories are heartbreaking, horrifying, and ultimately humbling as James astutely exposes the all-too-recognizable motivations of even the most brutal killer. He doesn't flinch; he is not making excuses or sugar-coating the devastation wreaked by the posses, the drugs, and the racial oppression and its companion, deep poverty. But he writes with compassion. Ultimately, the result is a gripping, moving, mind-blowing reading experience that I wholeheartedly recommend. I say "bravo!" and I will read more of this talented author's works.
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LibraryThing member Schmerguls
Since I try to read all Booker winners, I forced myself to read this totally repulsive book. It is the 38th Booker winner I have read. It was so awful I checked on the rating I gave other Booker winners to see whether I should quit reading such. I find I have given five stars to only three Booker
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winners (The Remains of the Day,,Paddy Clarke, Ha Ha Ha, and Schindler's List) six have been given four stars, 8 have been given 3 and a half stars, four have been given three stars, five have been given two stars, two were given one and a half stars, four were given one star, and three besides this one got one-half star (The Ghost Road, Vernon God Little, and The Lines of Beauty) I wish I could give this one a negative number. It purports to be based on an event in Jamaica's history, but the telling of the event is so repulively done, with all expletives and obscenities and crudities undeleted, that it was an ordeal to read. And it is called "brief" though it goes on for 688 pages!. Every blurb on the book jacket is as far as I am concerned a total lie. It is undoubtedly the most repulsive and uninteresting book I have ever read and the best thing about my reading of it was when I got to page 688 and I could close the book and seek to forget it.
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LibraryThing member chrisblocker
Let me start by saying this is one of the most misleading titles I've come across in my many years of reading. No, this is the most misleading title. First of all, there is nothing brief about A Brief History of Seven Killings. It is brief compared to Infinite Jest or War and Peace perhaps, but not
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by much. Not only is this a long book, but the language and structure make it feel much longer than its nearly 700 pages. Secondly, seven killings? I just know that someday someone is going to count every killing in this book and that number is going to be way more than seven. I'm tempted to do it myself, but I know I'd hate myself afterwards for actually taking the time. I'd guess that if you added up every killing mentioned, whether it be in the primary plot or in backstory, there would be closer to 150. So yeah, a brief history of seven killings, my ass.

Ironically, the title's inaccuracies highlight the two qualms I had with this book. First, that it seems unnecessarily long. This is especially true in the first half. Once the rhythm is established, the characters solidified, and the patois is deciphered, A Brief History... takes off, but it still seems longer than necessary. The second issue I had was that it was much too violent for my tastes. Sure, we're talking about some Big Don/Mafioso kind of story here, so it's expected, but my anabaptist sensibilities can only handle so much rape, dismemberment, and explosion of faces. I don't watch Tarantino films or subscribe to HBO for a reason; if this book were adapted for film I would not watch it.

Length and personal feelings about violence aside, A Brief History of Seven Killings isn't a bad novel at all. Its greatest strength surely rests in its skillful implementation of voice. Many characters are given time to tell their respective story in these pages, and Marlon James nails each. At first, it may be difficult for the reader to follow the Jamaican verbiage and the stream of conscious pattern some of the characters use, but stick with it and you will be greatly rewarded. From CIA agents to drug-addicted thugs, from kingpin of the mob to a journalist who knows “the real Jamaica,” James expertly gets into these characters brains and makes their words resonate. I'd have liked to have heard more from the victims and more from female characters, but I suspect the author had his reasons for only skimming the surface in regards to these perspectives. Even though this story mostly focuses on the powerful, there is plenty of pain in this novel; everybody hurts sometimes, even heartless killers.

Like the dialogue and the characters, the story is all over the place. It spans decades and places and subplots. Like much of this novel, if you stick with it, it mostly pays off in the end. I guess that's the briefest possible way I can sum up this novel: it's challenging, but it mostly pay off if you persevere.

Of the three Man Booker finalists I have read so far, this is my favorite. I don't think it has quite the magnitude and appeal required of the winner (I'm hoping one of the other three I have yet to finish show that), but it is a worthy finalist. Certainly, Marlon James is an author I will return to and one that will probably be up for many awards throughout his career.

One question I have, more as a footnote, is why write a book about a famous person, make it obvious whom you're writing about, but never mention the person by name? Referring to Bob Marley always as The Singer was slightly irritating. Other real people were mentioned in this book, people who are still alive and have more power than Marley had, and James said more slanderous things about them, so it doesn't seem he did so to protect himself. Is The Singer some kind of homage to Marley? Personally, I didn't like it. At least not in the dialogue. The Singer this, and The Singer that. I would've been like, What bomboclot singer are you pussyholes talking about? (Oh yeah, you'll definitely pick up some Jamaican slang if you read this novel.)
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LibraryThing member Opinionated
Superb. A book I have been waiting most of my life to read. Marlon James handling of voice and perspective is amazing, and whilst he does occasionally make the reader do some mental calisthenics to tie all the threads together, he gets the balance just right most of the time

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ABOUT?: It takes as its starting point, the shooting of Bob Marley and members of his entourage in December 1976, presumed to be by members of the CIA backed JLP (Jamaica Labour Party) in response to the upcoming Smile Jamaica Peace Concert to be held a couple of days later, which had initially been intended to be politically neutral but was widely seen as an initiative of the left leaning, Cuban backed PNP (People's National Party) . The book is based around the shooting, the perpetrators of the shooting, a witness to it, and an American journalist who wants to write about it, and then follows the main characters into the 1990s in the Jamaican controlled drug trade in New York. Whilst the characters are fictional, a couple are pretty easily identifiable with real people who are now dead and its possible that Marlon James is making accusations about the perpetrators of the Marley shooting

WHAT WOULD IT HELP ME TO KNOW BEFORE READING? A little of the history of political violence in Jamaica in the 1970s, the role of Bob Marley as a neutral figure of influence above politics, and the Jamaican take over of the New York drug trade. Also, the text is littered with references to Marley's lyrics and also the lyrics from other reggae hits of the time

IS THE JAMAICAN PATOIS HARD TO UNDERSTAND? No - you've just got to read the book with the rhythm of the accent in your head, and you will soon get into the swing

WHY IS BOB MARLEY REFERRED TO AS "THE SINGER"? Presumably to avoid trouble from the litigous Marley family. Not every reference to him here would necessarily be considered positive, from his eye for the ladies, to alleged presence at kangaroo courts.

IS ANYONE ELSE REAL? Marlon James has been at pains to point out that the characters are composites, but several characters, such as "Papa-Lo" and "Josey Wales" are clearly identifiable with real people. As for the communities of Kingston that are referred to, "Copenhagen City" is clearly a composite of Tivoli Gardens, still a JLP stronghold today

WHY IS IT CALLED "A BRIEF HISTORY OF SEVEN KILLINGS" WHEN THERE ARE MORE THAN SEVEN, AND ITS NOT BRIEF?: This is the title of article that the journalist Alex Pierce, is writing for The New Yorker.

IS IT PERFECT? No but I am giving it 5 stars anyway. A couple of the threads don't' work very well. The involvement of the CIA and Cuban interests don't make sense unless you are aware of the political affiliations of the JLP and PNP which most readers won't be. The circumstances of the death of the a most feared hitman seems unlikely. One character seems to be able to change identities at a bewildering speed which again seems unlikely . Most importantly, naming one of the most important characters Josey Wales, when there is a historical DJ called Josey Wales, active at the same time, and its not him was a bit weird. And the US based scenes in the second half of the book don't carry the same punch as the Jamaican scenes, for me anyway

ANY OTHER QUIRKS? A couple. Firstly in the cast of characters at the beginning of the book, there are a couple of characters listed who don't actually appear. Really. I assume this was a reference to the notoriously inaccurate Jamaican record covers of the 1970s. And there are musical references which are out of time. For example the hitman Bam-Bam wants to "rip the S off Superman's chest, pull the B from Batman belly" which is a reference to a lyric in a Barrington Levy song, but one from several years after the unfortunate Bam-Bam's demise

SHOULD I READ IT? Yes - its genius. Read it now and give a copy to your friends
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LibraryThing member Eyejaybee
Every now and again the leading literary critics seem to get together to consider whether they can pull off another emperor's new clothes scam on the reading public. The cover of this book is adorned with numerous plaudits, including one proudly attesting that the book was included on '23 best
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books of the year' lists. I wonder if they had been reading the same impenetrable text that I found.

In a recent review of James Ellroy's 'Perfidia' I remarked that, as I will probably be dead in twenty years' time, I simply don't have time to waste on books that are deliberately impenetrable abstruse. This novel was an even more blatant offender. Still, I won in the end - I simply left it in the underground train when I alighted, feeling suddenly free of a pernicious burden.
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LibraryThing member gypsysmom
I have to say that the last few years the Man Booker prize committee has chosen some great books to win the prize. Last year the book that won was The Narrow Road to the Deep North, a harrowing tale about prisoners of war in Burma. The year before that The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton won, a
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doorstop of a book about the New Zealand gold rush that showed the best and worst of mankind. Then this year the winner is this book which covers 15 years in Jamaica's ghettos. None of them were easy reads but they certainly show the best of contemporary fiction.

This book is told by a number of different people including several members of ghetto gangs, a CIA operative, a writer for Rolling Stone magazine and a young Jamaican woman who had a one-night fling with Bob Marley. In December 1976 Marley was scheduled to give a concert in Kingston Jamaica which was called a Peace Concert but it was widely believed to be an attempt by Prime Minister Manley to sway the electorate to vote his PNP party back in to government. Members of a ghetto gang from the part of Jamaica loyal to the JLP tried to assassinate Marley in his home. This book is about that attempt and what happened to the various perpetrators.

Marlon James grew up in Jamaica and he has a unique writing style that places the reader right in Kingston. Much of what he writes about is violent, filthy and poverty-stricken and yet, you don't want to turn away, you just want to go deeper. I was in Jamaica in 1970 and I remember the undercurrent of violence that was always present. I also remember the music and the Rastafarians and the white sand beaches and the great food and I would go back in a flash. Even after reading this book I would be eager to experience the island again.
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LibraryThing member mhanlon
This was a great read, very raw, and probably not sanctioned by the Jamaican tourism board.
LibraryThing member TeresaKander
**I received this set of audio CDs from Library Thing in exchange for an honest review.**

First of all, the title. A Brief History? What, exactly is BRIEF about 22 CDs which require over 26 hours of listening? To be honest, I was overwhelmed before I even started, but I hope that it would be so
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compelling that the time would just fly by for me.

Unfortunately, that just didn't happen. Because of the heavy accents of some of the readers (the book is told from several points of view), as well as the Jamaican dialect, I had a difficult time even understanding what they were saying, much less how it all was supposed to fit together. Perhaps if I had a print copy of the book I would have been able to get further in, but I seriously doubt it.

I listened to approximately three hours before I had to turn off the CD player and got take two aspirin for my splitting headache.
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LibraryThing member Othemts
This novel is anything but brief, but instead an epic story told from multiple points-of-view sprawling over three decades and spilling out of Kingston to New York City. There also a lot more than seven killings depicted. The title of novel is sort-of explained later in the narrative as a kind of
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The action of the story takes place over five days. The first two are in December 1976 and detail the attempted assassination on Bob Marley (referred to throughout the novel as "The Singer"). Later sections of the novel are set on single dates in 1979, 1985, and 1991 and deal with the ongoing personal and political ramifications of the assassination attempt as well as the rising crack epidemic. The narrators include gang members and dons of Jamaica's political party-aligned gangs, a CIA agent, an American music writer originally from Rolling Stone, the ghost of a murdered politician, and a young woman desperate to leave Jamaica for the USA who changes her identity several times throughout the novel.

This is a challenging book to read due to its sprawling narrative and dozens of characters. It's hard to keep track of the whole story and honestly I think some of the chapters may just as well be self-contained short stories. The Jamaican patois used by many of the characters can also be difficult although I enjoyed listening to the voice actors on the audiobook. But the hardest part of the book is that is just so brutal, violent, and unceasingly grim. That doesn't make it a bad book, of course, and I do like to be challenged. But it was a hard book to read nonetheless.
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LibraryThing member PrimosParadise
Finally. First, this book is a brilliant piece of writing with numerous narrators switching up every chapter. The story of Jamaica in the 70's and 80's and the social and political upheaval that occurred was essentially new to me although I knew about the shooting of Marley. Living in the Midwest
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can be somewhat insular. But the way he handles the multiple characters and points of view is fairly magical and impressive. However, I will say that this for the most part was not a real enjoyable read. I started this in March and put it down around page 500 in April because it was really beating me up and became a real slog. My main complaint is this: I am not familiar with patois dialect and it really required me to read, re-read and re-read again several paragraphs and even a whole chapter so that I could get some kind of depth of understanding as to what the author was saying. Many times I put the book down from pure frustration. Whish raises a question that arose from reading this book: If the dialect that is native to an area is used in the writing of a book, how many less people does the author fail to connect with simply because they do not understand the dialect? This is not like those books that sneak in some French or Spanish into a book (e.g. The Plains Trilogy by Cormac McCarthy)because you can always look up the language to determine the meaning. But in this case there is no place to go. Several individuals suggested the audiobook to understand the language, but while I have no problem with audiobooks I think books are made to be read and if the only way they can be understood is for someone else to read them to you then hasn't the author failed the reader to a certain extent? If the author is trying to tell a story/communicate a point and the reader doesn't understand the language used (not the vocabulary) and has no secondary source from which to seek help then hasn't he failed his/her audience? In this book the patois dialect was used for several characters, but for a couple it was so heavy that it often made the chapter impenetrable.
Bottom-line I have a deep respect for the book, the author and the story he was trying to tell I just didn't enjoy the overall reading experience. (BTW the violence in this book is vicious in ways that are almost impossible to describe but never feel exploitive)
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LibraryThing member Bostonseanachie
This powerful weighty tale is told from multiple points of view -- black and white, straight and gay, educated and less so, powerful and (eventually) less so, alive and much much less so. The voices are distinctive, the characters honest in some essential sense, even as they are many of them crooks
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and murderers. While the "Singer" overshadows everything in this book, it is violence that largely permeates its pages as the animating spirit -- violence of every kind and persuasion, many of the acts crude and apparently senseless, and yet imbued with a certain logic when looked at from at least one character's point of view. The heroine of the tale is a survivor, a shapeshifter, a woman whose voice (and fear and yearning) remain constant even as her name changes. The men of the tale, nearly all of whom die in its pages, are brutal and clever and lyrical and passionate; their deaths do not end their voices; many ghosts speak in these pages long after they are gone. This is an epic tale; the language is relentless profane and often obscene besides. I was thinking in Jamaican curses for a month after I finished.
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LibraryThing member AdonisGuilfoyle
This novel has been lurking on my TBR pile for two years, and after a false start, I was absolutely determined to read the whole thing this time. Nope. I don't usually review books that I abandon, but after getting halfway through - and 375 pages would have been a suitable length, I feel - I've
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realised that the plot just isn't going to progress any further, and I can't stand another 300 pages of Jamaican patois (badly written, apparently), violence and arrogant American characters. I don't have a problem with the language or even the macho bullshit, but I do object to reading the same chapters again and again. My fault entirely, I should have known better to avoid the winner of the Man Booker Prize! Life is just too short, but I'm claiming the half I did get through for my annual tally anyway.
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LibraryThing member Algybama
Though it's almost always some combination of humourous, inventive, and profound, I still felt far too many pages to be a dull slog. The "plot" comes across as a patchwork of research highlights, losing purpose repeatedly and only barely sustained by the fun of the language.
LibraryThing member hfineisen
Wonderful audio! I also have the book. The audio is done with different characters so you really get the feel for the characters and the various points of view which can get lost or run together while reading. This is a gritty and satirical story that is commentary on our polite world today. Not
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for the faint of heart. And my guess is we will see a movie version as well. I suspect that version will be just as delightful.
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LibraryThing member vnesting
I have made a valiant effort to listen to this epic, 22-disk audiobook. I think the story is fascinating and really appreciate the full-cast narration, which makes it much easier to keep all the characters straight. But I have been listening to it in short bursts over a couple months and I am still
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only halfway through it! When you stretch out a book or audiobook like this over such a long time it is hard to keep track of all the plot threads. I am giving up for now, but hope to come back to it someday -- maybe when I am taking a long road trip.
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LibraryThing member Laura400
I read the book, not the audiobook. I found it a slow and somewhat difficult read. The subject matter is right up my alley, the underlying story is fascinating, the characters are compelling and the author is incredibly gifted. However, the narrative felt overlong and the story was almost showily
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violent in parts. It's an impressive work, by an author I'll watch, but I didn't enjoy the actual reading of the book as much as I had expected.
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LibraryThing member eachurch
What an incredible novel! Profane, violent, raw, and full of amazing voices, James has created a kaleidoscope of characters who remain distinct and vibrant throughout the book. Unfortunately, during the time I was listening to it, I didn’t have any long car trips so I ended up listening to it
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over a period of several months, but the characters were so distinct and the various story lines so well done that I never once struggled to remember what was happening or who a character was. Listening to it, made me greatly appreciate James’ use of dialect. It helped that the multiple narrators were all fabulous. It is anything but brief, and there are a lot more than seven killings, but it is a wild ride that is well worth taking.
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LibraryThing member ozzer
In this riveting novel, James deftly combines actual historical facts with imagination to tell the story of the events and characters surrounding the attempted assassination of Bob Marley in 1976. The mood is unrelentingly dark and violent with only one hint of redemption when Nina Burgess, who
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witnessed one of the murderers leaving the scene, flees Jamaica for New York; changes her name several times and eventually becomes a nurse. The story is narrated by a host of interesting characters and follows the ripples of the crime to Miami and the slums of New York. James uses stream of consciousness to explore the putative thoughts and motivations of the people involved to invent a new reality from the limited historical facts. Since most of the characters are poor Jamaicans, James needs to use dialect that can sometimes challenge understanding, and expose the reader to multiple Jamaican idioms for blue language. Despite the challenges, these dialects and phrases lend an important strength to the novel.
The Marley Smile Jamaica Concert coincided with a dangerous and politically unstable time in Jamaica. Both political parties (JLP and PNP) were vying for power using gangs as enforcers. Marley’s motives were suspect. The CIA feared a move toward pro-Cuban communism. Poverty was rampant in the slums of Kingston. Out of this toxic stew arose a violent drug culture that spread over the next few decades from Columbia to Miami and New York. Meanwhile Marley passed away from cancer and a freelance writer—Alex Pierce—possibly modeled after James himself, tenaciously pursues the story with particularly negative personal consequences. Although hypothetical, the story James and his alter ego tells makes for a compelling read.
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LibraryThing member bg853
I applaud the reviewers who were able to finish this 22 disc audiobook, I unfortunately was not one of them. The Jamaican patois required absolute concentration which left me exhausted. While I usually am the first to advocate audible books (my audible library has over 1200 books), this book is the
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exception to my rule. After months of attempts, I have given up.

For what I did finish, the writing was remarkable. Unlike some others, I did not find the violence gratuitous, just historically accurate. I look forward to attacking this in print.
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LibraryThing member St.CroixSue
This book won the Minnesota Book Award and I can definitely see why. It is the telling of the complex and challenging era of lawlessness in Jamaica during the 70’s and 80’s. The readers of this audio book were exceptional and the writing was compelling, however, I was unable to finish. The
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violence, drugs, torture, rape, random killing of children, and corruption of all levels of government was something I was unable to handle. Very real and very intense.
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LibraryThing member TomDonaghey
A BRIEF HISTORY OF SEVEN KILLINGS by Marlon James is like a mix of cocaine and fizzies shot straight into your cortex. Fast paced, explosive, unique and terribly efficient in turning your view of Jamaica from that of cow-like tourist to homicide witness. While the multiple characters, each with at
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least two names, makes it difficult at first to get a grasp of what is happening, once the story grabs you it is as if King Kong went looking for a date and you just happened to be Fay Wray.
I thought this book was a fictionalized expose about the attempt on Bob Marley’s life in 1976, and in a way it is, but it is about survival and redemption. While the early part of the tale is building to the central theme of the attempt on the life of “The Singer”, it isn’t about Marley almost at all. In fact it is so little about him that his character is only called “The Singer” and never referred to by name.
This is a story about the side of Jamaica the tourist never sees, the place where dark and evil, guns, drugs, brutal sex and humiliation collide, often with terrible results. And this is about the victims, innocent or not, who struggle to survive in a horrendous environment.
The first half of the book is about the people and events leading up to the assassination attempt. The second section of the story is about clearing up all the witnesses to the event, particularly those who were handling the guns.
That is a very simplified review of the plot as there is so much more going on in every paragraph.
If you think James Elroy with a Caribbean accent, you would be on the right track as to the feel of this book. Gutsy and bold with a no holds barred approach to the characters and the plot, this is a riveting tale.
I listened to this book on audio disc and at first the patois gave me pause. Also the many characters with their multiple names, gang names, real names, aliases and cover names, was a bit confusing, but as soon as I got it straight I realized this was one of, if not the best book, I had read all year.
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LibraryThing member drmaf
Couldnt finish this, just too heavy. I was drawn to it by the mention of Bob Marley, whose music I adore, but it barely mentions him at all. Exceptionally violent ( and I'm by no means squeamish) and the Jamaican slang just gave me headaches. Defintely one for hardier souls than myself.
LibraryThing member bodachliath
An intense, epic tale, this is a visceral, vibrant, violent book, and an impressive feat of literary ventriloquism, largely written in various forms of Jamaican patois. Not an easy read, and not an easy book to judge either. A story that tells much about Jamaica's politics and ghetto gangs and
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their motivations. The starting point is the attempted assassination of Bob Marley in Kingston in 1976 - but the scope of the story is much wider.
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