A Brief History of Seven Killings

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A Brief History of Seven Killings
A Brief History of Seven Killings, Cover.jpg
Cover of the 2014 hardcover edition
AuthorMarlon James
Cover artistGregg Kulick
CountryUnited States
PublisherRiverhead Books
Publication date
2 October 2014 (hardback), (electronic book)
Media typePrint
Awards2015 Booker Prize

A Brief History of Seven Killings is the third novel by Jamaican author Marlon James.[1] It was published in 2014 by Riverhead Books.[2] The novel spans several decades and explores the attempted assassination of Bob Marley in Jamaica in 1976 and its aftermath, through the crack wars in New York City in the 1980s and a changed Jamaica in the 1990s.[3]


The novel has five sections, each named after a musical track and covering the events of a single day:

The first part of the novel is set in Kingston, Jamaica, in the build-up to the Smile Jamaica Concert held on 5 December 1976, and describes politically motivated violence between gangs associated with the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People's National Party (PNP), especially in the West Kingston neighbourhoods of Tivoli Gardens and Mathews Lane (renamed in the novel as Copenhagen City and Eight Lanes),[4] including involvement of the CIA in the Jamaican politics of the time. As well as Marley (who is referred to as "the Singer" throughout), other real-life characters depicted or fictionalized in the book include Kingston gangsters Winston "Burry Boy" Blake and George "Feathermop" Spence, Claude Massop and Lester Lloyd Coke (Jim Brown) of the JLP and Aston Thomson (Buckie Marshall) of the PNP.[5]


The book was awarded the 2015 Booker Prize. This was the first time that a Jamaican-born author had won the prize.[6] According to the BBC: "[Booker chair of judges Michael] Wood said the judges came to a unanimous decision in less than two hours. He praised the book's 'many voices'—it contains more than 75 characters—which 'went from Jamaican slang to Biblical heights'".


HBO has optioned the novel and is planning a television series, although no debut date has been announced.[12]


  1. ^ Miller, Kei (10 December 2014). "A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James review—bloody conflicts in 1970s Jamaica". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  2. ^ Lazar, Zachary (23 October 2014). "Sunday Book Review: 'A Brief History of Seven Killings,' by Marlon James". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  3. ^ "A Brief History of Seven Killings". Good Reads. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  4. ^ Escoffery, Sherman (22 October 2014). "LargeUp Interview: Marlon James on "A Brief History of Seven Killings"". LargeUp. Retrieved 22 November 2015.
  5. ^ Harvey, Chris (13 October 2015). "Marlon James interview: 'I didn't want to fall into a pornography of violence'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 22 November 2015.
  6. ^ Masters, Tim (13 October 2015). "Man Booker Prize 2015: Marlon James wins for A Brief History of Seven Killings". BBC News. Retrieved 13 October 2015.
  7. ^ "National Book Critics Circle Announces Finalists for Publishing Year 2014". Critical Mass. National Book Critics Circle. 19 January 2015. Archived from the original on 22 January 2015. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
  8. ^ The Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards. "Winners by Year".
  9. ^ "Winners of the 27th Annual Minnesota Book Awards". Minnesota Book Awards. Archived from the original on 18 July 2015. Retrieved 30 July 2015.
  10. ^ "Top three books named for 2015 OCM Bocas Prize" Archived 5 April 2015 at the Wayback Machine, NGC Bocas Lit Fest website, 31 March 2015.
  11. ^ "The Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2015 shortlist is revealed" Archived 25 September 2015 at the Wayback Machine, The Man Booker Prize website, 15 September 2015. The 680-page epic was "full of surprises" as well as being "very violent" and "full of swearing". Set across three decades, the novel uses the true story of the attempt on the life of reggae star Marley to explore the turbulent world of Jamaican gangs and politics. Wood said the judges had come to a unanimous decision in less than two hours. He praised the book's "many voices" – it contains more than 75 characters – which "went from Jamaican slang to Biblical heights".
  12. ^ "Marlon James' Novel A Brief History of Seven Killings to Become HBO TV Series – News About Penguin Books USA". www.penguin.com. Archived from the original on 13 June 2015. Retrieved 13 June 2015.