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John Crow's Devil

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  193 ratings  ·  33 reviews
Pile them up, a Marlon James character says repeatedly, and Marlon does just that. Pile them up: language, imagery, technique, imagination. All fresh, all exciting. This is a writer to watch out for.”—Chris Abani, author of GraceLand, winner of the Hemingway/PEN Award

“This is the finest and most important first novel I’ve read in years. James’s writing brings to mind earl
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Hardcover, 226 pages
Published September 1st 2005 by Akashic Books
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Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean RhysBreath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge DanticatThe Dew Breaker by Edwidge DanticatIsland Beneath the Sea by Isabel AllendeThe Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat
Caribbean Literature
49th out of 299 books — 112 voters
The Color Purple by Alice WalkerTheir Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale HurstonBeloved by Toni MorrisonKindred by Octavia E. ButlerRoots by Alex Haley
Best Black Historical Fiction
134th out of 138 books — 148 voters


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Community Reviews

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Richard Vialet
Feb 11, 2015 Richard Vialet rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Cormac McCarthy, Gabriel García Márquez, and Toni Morrison
"Come now, church, who is ready to be violent for the Lord?"
There's something about organized religion that can be really terrifying at times, with the way it can feed on fear and trump all logic and decency. This is illustrated to the nth degree in the unsettling debut novel by rising star Marlon James. The book tracks the downfall and destruction of the small Jamaican village of Gibbeah, in the wake of a religious battle between two evangelical preachers for the control of both the Holy Sep
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Kathy
Coming off my high from "Book of Night Women" I was excited to read Marlon's (yes, we are on a first name basis) first book. I was a little disappointed. It was good but did not come close to "Night Women".

This book is about an isolated Jamaican town that is full of sinners including the alcoholic Peacher that the call the Rum Preacher. One day a stranger comes in, Apostle York and kicks the Rum Preacher out of the church and vows to clean up to town of all its sin. What happens next is a battle
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Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

One of the things I like the most about Akashic Books is that, unlike so many other small presses, they make a deliberate effort not to put out only an endless stream of mopey character dramas about white creative-classers living in Brooklyn; take for example one of their latest, John Crow's Devil, which i
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Ebony
James is supposed to be like Garcia Marquez and Toni Morrison and sure there was a lot of the supernatural in it that I didn’t have a reference point for, and I don’t know anything about Jamaica in the 50s, but really? (I’m trying not to spoil it). People are so stupid. They just believe anything. I guess that was the point, but I admire people who are in tune with spirits and connected to ancestors, but these people were so super gullible that I didn’t admire them. It’s like their ancestral con ...more
Mezan Ayoka
Finished this one last week. It reminded me a bit of Erna Brodber, because of its non-linear storytelling and rich cultural unearthings, specifically African retentions in the Caribbean. Nonetheless, it stands on its own and was a frightful and uneasy exploration of repressed anger brought out in a spiritual environment. It was interesting that a male writer was very good at writing labrish and suss. And I also liked that the exploration of mental instability (craziness) was dealt in this place ...more
Kathleen Hulser
Amazing, incantatory battle between two preachers in the benighted village of Gibbeah. A volcanic village in the Caribbean cockpit country where "Nothing was the only thing you could cut by half and still have too much." Belief is mixed with Obeah, the streets are more haunted than dreams and rolling calf strikes fear in the scarred heart of the beleaguered. "Christianity is not a romping business" and the war over souls brings death -- where even death offers no eternal sleep of peace. John Cro ...more
Bobby
Loved the lyrical language and the "island-ness" of the story. Using local vernacular added a real sense of ethnicity and originality to the book. I hope Mr. James has a lot more stories to share with us.
Janet Carr
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nathan Larson
Can't tell ya how much I adore this book. Marlon is in charge. He is the man.
Marilyn
Fire and Brimstone ministers clash in 1957 Jamaica.
Amaya Smith
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Yulande Lindsay
This is a debut novel. A...DEBUT...novel. It is written with the assurance of someone who has been publishing for decades. It is written by someone who knows his people, knows his religion and who knows himself. John Crow's Devil seethes with hate, fear, guilt and rage. Ostensibly about a spiritual battle between two men of God, better yet, between Good and Evil, it is so much more. It examines the inner fears and desires of the people of Gibbeah, the small Jamaican town where the book is set. I ...more
Stefani
Unlike anything I've ever read and filled with the fervor of religious mania. The small, sleepy Jamaican town where the story is set is God-fearing and wary of change—their current preacher known as the "The Rum Preacher" for his tendencies to imbibe throughout his sermons is suddenly run out of town by a new man called "Apostle" York who seems to materialize out of thin air. Strangely, not one person questions where he came from or why, but simply accept that he is the new man of God that they ...more
Alisia
A story with a touch of magical realism and a heavy dose of religious fervor. Set in the author's native Jamaica at some point in the 1950's, it is the story of the battle between two flawed individuals, each who try to take control of a small fictional town.

John Crow's Devil is an amazing first novel, with extremely interesting, well-developed characters. It's an interesting take on sin vs redemption. Neither the Rum Preacher or the Apostle are quite what they appear. It is easy to mock the to
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Hartley Palmer
It was a page turner!!
Margaret
The graphic reality of life in Jamaica is vivid in this tale of a small 1957 town, enraptured by a new preacher. The tale is alternately insightful and horrifying, but maybe when you describe the inner workings of humanity, those are synonymous... The dialect was really hard for me to parse at first, but I got into the rhythm of it eventually. A classic tale unfolding what we ultimately do for love or loss, whichever has become more powerful in our lives.
Joseph
Near perfect first novel set in Jamaica. Two reverends battle for the soul of fledgling Jamaican village in the late 1950's. James uses a voice that many readers may deem difficult to follow, at first, but really I found it quite easy to slip into the dialect. It is a fine specimen of terse literature that gets out of the story's way and takes the reader out of his comfort zone without ever letting him think about putting the book down.

Highly recommended.
Dominiquep
Read this over a year ago for a lit class. It was amazing, and it gave me hope that the kind of books I wish to write will be accepted in the West Indian literary circles(paranormal, mystic, magical realism). It shows how everything comes full circle, and it was a very captivating.

I personally loved the use of Jamaican culture, and our religious landscape to create such a believable story.
Naeemah Huggins
Took me three tries to get into this book, but I finally made it to the end. It got good around the middle. In true Marlon James fashion he kept me intrigued when I finally figured out what I was reading about. It was good and Jamaican, the narration (audible) was spot on. It was a story about human nature, mob mentality, good vs evil, black magic, things that make a good island story.
Dergrossest
A very sexed-up and interesting book which slips and slides between religion, the occult, insanity and, finally, a bittersweet reality. Not a particularly innovative story, but it sets a very cool mood, between its third-person narrative and Faulkner-esque first person island slang-speak (even though I hate Faulkner). Also, an odd ending, but still satisfying. Recommended.
AJ
I heard an NPR reviewer say -to the effect - that this was a brilliant, clear portrait of hell. AMEN! This is urgent and seductive writing on very difficult insights, speculations, and views into Caribbean style slavery. The narrator just brings it - truth, hurt, fear, love, compassion, paradox, and contradiction. Man-oh-man is THIS a great read.
Annette
I dont know what to say...Yes I do I read this book thinking how could it top his other book; well I was wrong they both are amazing to say the least this author is one we need to watch for in the future. Yet again another book that I love!
Teleasha
Pretty good! I am now a fan of Marlon James! I LOVED The Book of Night Women. James delivered that same flavor in John Crow. I just need him to write more:)
Linda
A little sexually raw in places but the conflict good vs evil was so very well played out that I remained transfixed through-out.
Tammy
Dec 07, 2011 Tammy marked it as to-read
Recommended in the book, Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading.
Zoomusicguy
Brilliantly dark story about good vs. evil and the way those lines often blur.
Oriana
Jan 26, 2010 Oriana marked it as to-read
Recommended to Oriana by: bibbikinz gomez
Highly recommended by someone whose literary tastes I trust wholeheartedly.
Kisha
Will give you Nightmares while you sleep and Visions while you're awake.
Kristin Boldon
For the February 26 meeting of Gods and Monsters book group. Wow.
RH Walters
A challenging book of unremitting ugliness and sorrow.
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Marlon James was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1970. He graduated from the University of the West Indies with a degree in literature and is the author of The Book of Night Women, which won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He currently teaches a creative writing course at Macalester College, Minnesota, USA and is working on his next novel ...more
More about Marlon James...
The Book of Night Women A Brief History of Seven Killings Kingston Noir Making the Trees Shiver: An Anthology of the First Six Years of the Fort Greene Park Summer Literary Festival

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