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Marlon James Wins the 2015 Man Booker Prize for A Brief History of Seven Killings

 
Alert! Marlon James has won the 2015 Man Booker Prize for his book, A Brief History of Seven Killings.

The 2015 winner was announced by chair of judges Michael Wood in London’s Guildhall at a black-tie dinner this evening.

James was presented with his prize by the Duchess of Cornwall. The 44-year-old author is the first Jamaican to win the prize since it was established in 1969. A Brief History of Seven Killings is his third novel.

James, who currently lives in Minneapolis, US, was handed a cheque for £50 000 (about R1 030 000), but the real benefit will be the dramatic boost in sales following his win. Last year’s winner, the Australian writer Richard Flanagan, sold over 10 000 hardback copies of his novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North in the week that followed his win, a 3 141 percent sales increase on the week before. Sales of the novel eclipsed the total number of books Flanagan had sold in the previous decade.

A Brief History of Seven Killings is a fictional account of an attempt to take Bob Marley’s life. Wood said: “This book is startling in its range of voices and registers, running from the patois of the street posse to The Book of Revelation. It is a representation of political times and places, from the CIA intervention in Jamaica to the early years of crack gangs in New York and Miami.

“It is a crime novel that moves beyond the world of crime and takes us deep into a recent history we know far too little about. It moves at a terrific pace and will come to be seen as a classic of our times.”

The Man Booker Prize opened entries to English-language writers of all nationalities two years ago, after previously being restricted to writers from Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth.

This year’s Man Booker Prize shortlist was Tom McCarthy (UK, Satin Island),
Marlon James (Jamaica, A Brief History of Seven Killings), Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria, The Fishermen), Sunjeev Sahota (UK, The Year of the Runaways), Anne Tyler (US, A Spool of Blue Thread) and Hanya Yanagihara (US, A Little Life).
 

Satin IslandA Brief History of Seven KillingsThe FishermenThe Year of the RunawaysA Spool of Blue ThreadA Little Life

 
 

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Press release:

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James is tonight, Tuesday 13 October, named as the winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize for Fiction. A Brief History of Seven Killings is published by Oneworld Publications.

The 44-year-old, now resident in Minneapolis, is the first Jamaican author to win the prize in its 47-year history.

A Brief History of Seven Killings is a 686-page epic with over 75 characters and voices. Set in Kingston, where James was born, the book is a fictional history of the attempted murder of Bob Marley in 1976. Of the book, the New York Times said: ‘It’s like a Tarantino remake of “The Harder They Come”, but with a soundtrack by Bob Marley and a script by Oliver Stone and William Faulkner…epic in every sense of that word: sweeping, mythic, over-the-top, colossal and dizzyingly complex.’

Referring to Bob Marley only as ‘The Singer’ throughout, A Brief History of Seven Killings retells this near mythic assassination attempt through the myriad voices – from witnesses and FBI and CIA agents to killers, ghosts, beauty queens and Keith Richards’ drug dealer – to create a rich, polyphonic study of violence, politics and the musical legacy of Kingston of the 1970s. James has credited Charles Dickens as one of his formative influences, saying ‘I still consider myself a Dickensian in as much as there are aspects of storytelling I still believe in—plot, surprise, cliffhangers’ (Interview Magazine).

This is the first Man Booker Prize winner for independent publisher, Oneworld Publications.

Michael Wood, Chair of judges, comments: ‘This book is startling in its range of voices and registers, running from the patois of the street posse to The Book of Revelation. It is a representation of political times and places, from the CIA intervention in Jamaica to the early years of crack gangs in New York and Miami.

‘It is a crime novel that moves beyond the world of crime and takes us deep into a recent history we know far too little about. It moves at a terrific pace and will come to be seen as a classic of our times.’

In addition to his £50,000 prize and trophy, James also receives a designer bound edition of his book and a further £2,500 for being shortlisted.

On winning the Man Booker Prize, an author can expect international recognition, not to mention a dramatic increase in book sales. Last year’s winning novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan, has sold 300,000 copies in the UK and almost 800,000 worldwide. Hardback sales of The Narrow Road to the Deep North in the week following his win eclipsed his combined BookScan sales for the previous decade. Flanagan described the experience as ‘the most extraordinary honour… you are fully aware that you are no longer standing in the same place you had been previously as a writer.’

Other recent winners have included Hilary Mantel (2012 and 2009), whose Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies have been adapted into award-winning adaptations on stage and screen, and Julian Barnes (2011), whose The Sense of an Ending will soon be adapted for film. Other winning novels that have gone on to have second or third lives as stage and screen adaptations include Schindler’s Ark (directed by Steven Spielberg as Schindler’s List), The Remains of the Day and The English Patient.

This is the second year that the prize, first awarded in 1969, has been open to writers of any nationality, writing originally in English and published in the UK. Previously, the prize was open only to authors from the UK & Commonwealth, Republic of Ireland and Zimbabwe.

First awarded in 1969, the Man Booker Prize is recognised as the leading award for high quality literary fiction written in English. Its list of winners features many of the giants of the last four decades: from Salman Rushdie to Margaret Atwood, Iris Murdoch to JM Coetzee.

Michael Wood was joined on the 2015 panel of judges by Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, John Burnside, Sam Leith and Frances Osborne. The judges considered 156 books for this year’s prize, including a total of 18 call-ins.

Marlon James’ name was announced by Michael Wood at a black-tie dinner at London’s Guildhall, where James was presented with a trophy from HRH The Duchess of Cornwall and a £50,000 cheque from Emmanuel Roman, Chief Executive of Man Group. Guests at the event, which was broadcast live on the BBC News Channel, included the shortlisted authors, well-known figures from the literary world and VIPs including the Duchess of Cornwall and Culture Secretary John Whittingdale.

Marlon James will take part in his first public event as winner of the prize at Stylist LIVE on Thursday 15 October.

Royal Mail is issuing a congratulatory postmark featuring the winner’s name, which will be applied to UK stamped mail from Wednesday 14 to Saturday 17 October 2015.

Man Group has sponsored the prize since 2002. One of the world’s largest independent alternative investment managers, Man Group is a partner that mirrors the quality, integrity and longevity of the prize.

Ends

Man Booker Prize longlist details

Image courtesy of The Guardian

 

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