A Brief History of Seven Killings

A Brief History of Seven Killings

Cover of the 2014 hardcover edition
Author Marlon James
Cover artist Gregg Kulick
Country United States
Language English
Genre Fiction
Publisher Riverhead Books
Publication date
October 2, 2014 (hardcover), (electronic book)
Media type Print
Pages 704
Awards 2015 Man Booker Prize
ISBN 9781594486005

A Brief History of Seven Killings is the third novel by Jamaican author Marlon James.[1] It was published 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, 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 neighborhoods 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 Man Booker Prize. This marked the first time that a Jamaican-born author has won the prize.[6] According to the BBC: "[Man Booker judge 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, with no début date yet announced.[11]


  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". 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'". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 22 November 2015.
  6. "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". bookcritics.org.
  8. The Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards. "Winners by Year"
  9. " The Minnesota Book Awards. "
  10. "The Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2015 shortlist is revealed" Archived September 25, 2015, at the Wayback Machine., The Man Booker Prize website, September 15, 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".
  11. "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 2015-06-13. Retrieved 2015-06-13.
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
The Narrow Road to the Deep North
Man Booker Prize recipient
Succeeded by
The Sellout
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