FIRST JAMAICAN TO WIN THE COVETED PRIZE
WINNING NOVEL INSPIRED BY REAL-LIFE ATTEMPTED MURDER OF BOB MARLEY
JAMES CITES DICKENS AS A MAJOR INFLUENCE
(All Images courtesy of themanbookerprize.com/media)
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James was 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, who now resident in Minneapolis, is the first Jamaican author to win the prize in its 47-year history. This is the first Man Booker Prize winner for independent publisher, Oneworld Publications. James will take part in his first public event as winner of the prize at Stylist LIVE on Thursday 15 October.
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 check from Emmanuel Roman, Chief Executive of Man Group. Guests at the event, which was broadcast live on the BBC News Channel, included the other 2015 shortlisted authors, well-known figures from the literary world and VIPs including the Duchess of Cornwall and Culture Secretary John Whittingdale.
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. (The special designer bound edition of the book was created by Stephen Conway, a Fellow of the UK’s principal bookbinding society, the Designer Bookbinders.)
The Man Group, one of the world’s largest independent alternative investment managers, has sponsored the prize since 2002 and is a partner that mirrors the quality, integrity and longevity of the prize. The long-term future of the prize was further secured in 2011 with the announcement of a renewed 10-year sponsorship from Man Group. (The title ‘Booker Prize’ therefore only applies to prize years 1969 – 2001, before Man Group plc’s sponsorship began and since 2002 it has been called The Man Booker Prize for Fiction.)
A Brief History of Seven Killings By Marlon James. Published by Oneworld Publications (£18.99)
On 3 December 1976, just weeks before the general election and two days before Bob Marley was to play the Smile Jamaica concert to ease political tensions, seven men from West Kingston stormed his house with machine guns. Marley survived and went on to perform at the free concert. But the next day he left the country and didn’t return for two years. Inspired by this near-mythic event, A Brief History of Seven Killings takes the form of an imagined oral biography, told by ghosts, witnesses, killers, members of parliament, drug dealers, conmen, beauty queens, FBI and CIA agents, journalists, and even Keith Richards’ drug dealer. The story traverses strange landscapes and shady characters, as motivations are examined – and questions asked.
Marlon James was born in Kingston, Jamaica, on 24 November 1970. His first novel, John Crow’s Devil, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Commonwealth Writers Prize, and was a New York Times Editor’s Choice. His second novel, The Book of Night Women, won the 2010 Dayton Literary Peace Prize and was a finalist for the 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award. James’ writing has appeared in Esquire, Granta, Publisher’s Weekly and The Caribbean Review of Books. James currently lives in Minneapolis, USA, and is Associate Professor of English at Macalester College.
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).
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.’
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. (More on the nomination process below.)
The 2015 shortlisted titles were:
Author (nationality) Title (imprint)
Marlon James (Jamaica) A Brief History of Seven Killings (Oneworld Publications)
Tom McCarthy (UK) Satin Island (Jonathan Cape)
Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria) The Fishermen (ONE, Pushkin Press)
Sunjeev Sahota (UK) The Year of the Runaways (Picador)
Anne Tyler (US) A Spool of Blue Thread (Chatto & Windus)
Hanya Yanagihara (US) A Little Life (Picador)
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 recognized 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.
The winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize was chosen from 156 entries, including 18 called in by the judges.
· For the Man Booker Prize, UK publishers may submit novels written in English and published in the UK between 1 October 2014 and 30 September 2015. The number of books a publisher can submit will depend on that publisher’s inclusion in longlists over the previous five years, as follows:
· 1 submission – publishers with no longlistings
· 2 submissions – publishers with 1 or 2 longlisting(s)
· 3 submissions – publishers with 3 or 4 longlistings
· 4 submissions – publishers with 5 or more longlistings
This means that the number of submissions for each publisher may change year on year. The rule that allows submission of any new title by an author who has previously been shortlisted for the Booker (pre-2002) or Man Booker Prize remains.
In addition, the judges ‘call in’ a number of novels each year: in addition to their main submission, a publisher may submit a list of up to five titles for consideration, accompanied by a justification from the editor. The judges are required to call in no fewer than eight and no more than 12 of these titles. The judges are also permitted to call in other books published within the requisite dates, even if the book has not been submitted through any other route.
For a look back at this year’s prize, a full history of the prize including previous winners, shortlisted authors and judges, listen to the Man Booker Prize Podcast series or watch the Man Booker Prize vloggers on YouTube, and to learn more about the prize’s history and share your thoughts online, visit: www.themanbookerprize.com.
Man Group is one of the world’s largest independent alternative investment managers, and a leader in high-alpha, liquid investment strategies. Across its four investment managers (Man AHL, Man FRM, Man GLG and Man Numeric), Man Group has a diverse offering in hedge funds and long only products spanning equity, credit, managed futures, convertibles, emerging markets and multi-manager solutions. At 30 June 2015, Man Group’s funds under management were $78.8 billion. The original business was founded in 1783. Today, Man Group plc is listed on the London Stock Exchange under the ticker EMG.L and is a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index. Man Group also supports many awards, charities and initiatives around the world, including sponsorship of the Man Booker literary prizes. Further information can be found at www.man.com.
The Booker Prize Foundation Advisory Committee, which advises on any changes to the rules and on the selection of the judges, represents all aspects of the book world. Its members are:
Richard Cable – publisher, Random House;
Mark Chilton – Company Secretary and General Counsel of Booker Group plc;
Basil Comely – BBC TV;
James Daunt – Managing Director of Waterstones;
Jonathan Douglas – Director of the National Literacy Trust;
Maggie Fergusson – writer and Secretary of the Royal Society of Literature;
Derek Johns – Non-executive Chairman, Granta;
Peter Kemp – Chief Fiction Reviewer, The Sunday Times;
Nigel Newton – publisher, Bloomsbury;
Fiammetta Rocco – Books and Arts Editor, The Economist (Man Booker International Prize Administrator);
Emmanuel Roman – Chief Executive Officer, Man Group;
Eve Smith – Secretary, the Booker Prize Foundation and
Robert Topping – Topping & Company Booksellers
The Booker Prize Foundation is a registered charity (no 1090049) which, since 2002, has been responsible for the award of the prize. The trustees of the Booker Prize Foundation are:
Jonathan Taylor CBE – Chair, former Chairman of Booker plc;
Lord Baker of Dorking CH; Bidisha – writer, critic and broadcaster;
Victoria Glendinning CBE – biographer;
Baroness Kennedy QC – former Chair of the British Council and Principal of Mansfield College, Oxford;
James Naughtie – broadcaster;
Christopher Pearce – former Finance Director of Rentokil plc;
Dr Louise Richardson – Principal and Vice Chancellor of the University of St Andrews.
Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, Sir Ronald Harwood and Baroness Neuberger are Vice Presidents of the Foundation
The Trustees of the Booker Prize Foundation have appointed Gaby Wood as the next Literary Director of the Foundation. She succeeds Ion Trewin, who died in April. Gaby will take over full responsibility for the Man Booker Prize at the conclusion of this year’s prize. The literary direction of the 2015 prize will in the interim be handled by Fiammetta Rocco, Administrator of the Man Booker International Prize and Books and Arts Editor of The Economist.
The Booker Prize Foundation has a longstanding partnership with RNIB. The Foundation funds the production of the shortlisted titles in braille, giant print and audio, which the sight loss charity produce by the date the winner is announced. The accessible versions are then made available to the tens of thousands of blind and partially sighted members of the RNIB Library. People with sight loss face a significantly limited choice of books in accessible formats and often have to wait much longer than their sighted peers for titles to be made available to them – and there are many more books that they will never have the chance to read. The Foundation is working with RNIB to change this story. The Booker Prize Archive was given on loan in 2003 to Oxford Brookes University where it now resides.