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A Brief History of Seven Killings

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  29,543 ratings  ·  4,213 reviews
On December 3, 1976, just before the Jamaican general election and two days before Bob Marley was to play the Smile Jamaica Concert, gunmen stormed his house, machine guns blazing. The attack nearly killed the Reggae superstar, his wife, and his manager, and injured several others. Marley would go on to perform at the free concert on December 5, but he left the country the ...more
Hardcover, 688 pages
Published October 2nd 2014 by Riverhead Books
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Cathy Vincevic There are so many bumbclot references in this book I almost found myself using the term. I looked it up on Urban Dictionary:

A cloth or rag u…more
There are so many bumbclot references in this book I almost found myself using the term. I looked it up on Urban Dictionary:

A cloth or rag used to wipe ones anal region. However, most Jamaicans use it as a substitute for the word f*ck to express anger or surprise.
Bumbaclot! Dem tek mi rolex and mi new links!!(less)
Barrington Whitey Generally in Reggae music it refers to the Western political / capitalist system in an oppressive sense or specifically the Police. The latter is used…moreGenerally in Reggae music it refers to the Western political / capitalist system in an oppressive sense or specifically the Police. The latter is used most predominately in the book.(less)

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congratulations and ADORABLE!!

this book is a little challenging at the outset, but if you stick with it, you will be rewarded like a motherfucker. (note: if that word upsets you, this book is not for you)

it's not the length that is challenging, although 700 pages is a nice chunky brick of a book, and it's not the dialect, unless this is your first exposure to patois. even then, this is a multi-voiced novel, with several characters who are not jamaican, so unlike The Book of Night Women, there ar
Barry Pierce
When I open a book and see a lengthy character list I know I'm in for a wild ride. However Marlon James' A Brief History of Seven Killings is more than just a wild ride, it's a brutal masterpiece that deserves its place as one of the best books of this decade so far.

James weaves a Dickensian plot around Jamaican history and culture. The entire plot is based on the events surrounding the attempted assassination of Bob Marley in 1976. It's a fictionalised history of Jamaica from the 1970s through
Petra Kiss
Update I've just watched Autopsy: Bob Marley. Watching the true story of the politics and events surrounding the attempted assassination on Bob Marley involving the CIA, made this book, even in retrospect, really come alive. The spin the author put on it, was the same conclusion as the documentary, although they were very circumspect about putting it. It doesn't matter whether you read the book or see the programme first, each adds to the other.

I don't know how to review this book
Petra Kiss
I've finished the book at last. It is an incredibly long listen. You become involved in the stories of these Jamaicans, Cubans and Americans, dead and alive all acted out in the narration by actors who feel their parts. It is sheer genius and so I'm immediately reading the paperback. Once I've finished it, I'll review the book properly. Suffice it to say that it didn't resonate with me as The Book of Night Women did. It did take me, though, into a parallel universe that I have never experienced ...more
Michael Finocchiaro
Marlon James takes us through an insanely violent roller coaster ride where various actors in the drama surrounding the house invasion and assassination attempt on Reggae Uberstar Bob Marley's Kingston, Jamaica house in December 1976 tell the story in a series of Faulkneresque first person dialogs. How much of this is factual, I do not know, but based on the fact that James had a team of researchers and took four years to write the novel as well as the fact that the story does seem plausible if ...more
Update 2: I found a BBC documentary about Marlon James, his work and his life, called Imagine. The link where you can see the film is:

Update: Apparently there is going to be a TV series on HBO based on the book. It is going to be interesting. Can't wait to actually hear the patois!!

4.5* I have to subtract half a star because I almost quit at page 400. It got boring at that point but I am very glad I stuck with it. Although there were times when I was cou
Sean Barrs
I’ve been reading this book for an entire year, and it’s not been easy. At times I wanted to pull my hair out and scream, at times I wanted to throw the thing at the wall and be done with it, but I persisted. I made myself get to the end, and whilst I can say that I didn’t entirely enjoy the experience, I do appreciate James’ narrative style.

His deft manipulation of language is clearly the success of his storytelling. The way he writes reflects his characters. This may sound like a simple idea,
Feb 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: recs, 2020
Cinematic and epic in scope, A Brief History of Seven Killings takes a kaleidoscopic look at a country caught in crisis. Alternating rapidly between disparate perspectives, the novel centers on the attempted assassination of Bob Marley, referred to here only as the Singer, on the eve of his ‘76 national concert in Jamaica. In stream-of-consciousness prose James fully renders the inner lives of mercenaries, gangsters, intelligence officials, reporters, and civilians as they become ensnared in the ...more
Nov 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, my-reviews
A Brief History of Seven Killings should not be evaluated based on its supposed brevity, nor on the amount of killings featured in the book. The title could be the source of misguided expectations in this regard, as it is being overly modest on both counts. But if you're expecting a clever, fast, insightful, colourful and authentic novel, you won't be disappointed.

My first instinct when I see a book that has won a prize (in this case the Man Booker) is to have zero expectations of it. Even less.
Elyse  Walters
May 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Audiobook.....and physical book....

The story begins before the election the 1976 election. Thankfully Paul, my husband, listened to the first half of this book 'with' me. It was supportive to have conversations

Fact-based story/Jamaica/Kingston
Crime, politics, graphic violence, ( including rape), graphic sex, hard core criminals,
Gangbangers, CIA agent, Rolling Stones, Teen- boy with his first gun, drug trafficking, more violence, more killing from 1991.

Characters we get to k
Nov 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Rating this book is a little difficult. I think I’m going to go with five stars, because it is quite amazing. There are a few small problems with the book, but they are the kind of problems that come from trying to be too ambitious, so it’s not perfect but it is great. An ambition is a good thing to have.

Karen mentioned this in her review, and an unnamed person from Goodreads disagreed with her in person, but I think he’s wrong. A Brief History of Seven Killings is a historical novel right out o
Meh still alive, y'hear? ...
Dem try an' try hard teh bus' me up, eh. Rahtid Papa-lo, Pavarotti, Weeper, an' Josey Wales wit him gang, what him say it name, Storm Posse? shadow dancin' on meh like dem is Duppy Conqueror or somet'ing. Nasty political JLP and PNP crammin' dey rassclat dicks up meh pom pom an' use me hard like some cokehead prostitute dey plant at de street corner, even dey bloodclat corrupt police make papapapapapa! across meh heart wit what you call it? dam AK-47 shit dey ship out
Jan 10, 2015 rated it did not like it
I remember school days painfully toiling over my Latin translations ...
and it all came back to haunt me with this!

Crikey, chinas! Thought I'd need the ambo! I was a cot case. At first I thought, she'll be apples. I'll give it a burl!! But then I realised my noggin was cactus! I was cheesed off and about to do my lolly. Fair crack of the whip! I had buckleys of sussing out the lingo! Thought I was a drongo! A no-hoper! But stone the crows!!! This was a stinker for me as a reader! A write off!

Ahmad Sharabiani
A Brief History of Seven Killings, Marlon James

Marlon James (born 24 November 1970) is a Jamaican writer. He is the author of four novels: John Crow's Devil (2005), The Book of Night Women (2009), A Brief History of Seven Killings (2014), winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize, and Black Leopard, Red Wolf (2019).

A Brief History of Seven Killings is the third novel by Jamaican author Marlon James. It was published in 2014 by Riverhead Books. The novel spans several decades and explores the attempted
Sep 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: aere-perennius, 2016
"God puts earth far away from heaven because even he can't stand the smell of dead flesh. Death is not a soul catcher or a spirit, it's a wind with no warmth, a crawling sickness."
-- Marlon James, A Brief History of Seven Killings


First, it is hard to push all that is into this novel into a bottle. So, I'll just say it felt like some weird hybrid of (here is my brief history of seven fathers/mothers): James Ellroy (think Jamaican Tabloid), Don DeLillo (think Libra), Zadie Smith (think Shiny Teet
Oct 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Absorbing, Brutal, Brilliant Novel about Jamaican Drug Gangs and Bob Marley

Marlon James, born in Kingston, Jamaica, is a very gifted writer. And obviously, he can write about Jamaica with authority, as well as about Jamaicans in New York City.

So this is a pretty amazing book. It's really well written and packed with action and surprises.

But be forewarned. It's not for the faint of heart.

There's a lot of violence, which escalates in brutality towards the end. (I was able to deal with it, because
Matthew Quann
I’d taken off on the odd run over the years, but it wasn’t until this January that I started to take it seriously. A friend mentioned a 10km race along the water in early May. It’s funny how a simple deadline is enough to inspire, but with a race on the horizon, I began my training program. One thing I’d never quite wrapped my head around was the driving force behind those humans that ran extremely long distances. Surely no razor-tooth beast chased them. How did they motivate themselves through ...more
Apr 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Historians, Rastafarians, and Marathoners
PHEW! My brain is as tired and sore as if it has just been through the equivalent of three back-to-back ironman competitions, in blistering hellfire heat. It's taken me over two months to finish (26 hours of audio, plus all the times I had to go back and re-listen to ensure I understood what was going on). I feel relieved that this anything-but-brief historical fiction has come to an end, and a tiny bit proud too, having made it.

It's a challenging book, which is something I knew, going in, and w
Sep 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Me Bredren, a Lectrifyin' Novel 'bout Jamaican Mob
Hell wid ja, bombaclot

A riveting novel, the best novel I can recall focused on organized crime, and maybe the best ever mob-centered novel in terms of literary structure and scope. It's destined to make all the lists for best books of this decade, already garnering author Marlon James the 2015 Man Booker Prize.

I cannot remember a novel published in the past two decades that is so searing in its combination of unique voice, intriguing characters a
Violet wells
May 20, 2021 rated it really liked it
I was close to abandoning this at the 100-150 page mark. Structurally it just seemed so muddled and improvised and rambling. Like a relentless jam session that wasn't developing into a song. Milkman, another novel dealing with macho male violence and Libra, another novel dealing with a CIA conspiracy theory both possessed a fine-tuned artistry that was missing here. What kept me reading was the author's hypnotic prose - for the most part Jamaican patois - and the palpable excitement with which i ...more
Jan 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is probably not for you. I know that seems an odd way to begin a book review, especially a book that you’ve given 4 stars. But allow me to explain.

A Brief History of Seven Killings is hard work….unless you are Jamaican or a Jamaican history scholar, unless you are familiar with drug culture and the workings of the CIA. Or unless you are like me, a person who loves politics and foreign cultures, who doesn’t have delicate sensibilities and who doesn’t mind doing some research to understa
I've finally made it through my re-read! This was my first Marlon James book I read when I got an advance copy before it's release. I was a bit lukewarm on it but after it became a big award winner and I later fell in love with his writing in his other books, I decided to try this one again. Unfortunately, I had a similar experience. The book is just a little too tedious and not as compelling as his other novels. I did really appreciate the Josey Wales, Weeper, Alex, and Eubie characters m
Aug 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
First, let’s pause and pay homage to the genius of a novel well written.

Because make no mistake about it: Marlon James has infused sheer genius into this masterwork. Throughout these pages, he is, simultaneously, a lyricist, a historian, a dialect master, a craftsman, and a ventriloquist. In a series of first-person narrations, he channels gang members, informers, drug dealers, CIA agents, a Rolling Stone reporter and even a particularly insightful ghost. Lurking on the periphery is also a fine
(3.5) James, the son of Jamaican police officers, has spoken of his intention to write about violence in such a way that it is shocking every time, and he certainly succeeds here. This is an edgy, worthwhile Booker pick, but not for the faint-hearted. For the most part, James alternates patois and standard speech, but nearly every section is packed with local slang and expletives. Whether in monologue or dialogue, the many voices form a captivating chorus. One stand-out perspective is Bam-Bam’s; ...more
Liz Janet
Aug 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
As I write this review I listen to Bob Marley, ahhh reggae.

“Because every man who fight monster become a monster too ..”

What a misleading title: it is neither brief, nor are there only seven killings. It should be called “A Long-ass History of a Ton of Murders”

A novel that spans decades and characters, from 1976 and the assassination of the Singer(Bob Marley) to to crack wars in the 80′s and the politics of the 90′s. It tells the story of the assassins, drug dealers, ghosts during the unstable
Aug 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: jamaica, 2017-read, usa
"But a man can only move so far before leash pull him back. Before the master say, Enough of that shit, that's not where we going. The leash of Babylon, the leash of the police code, the leash of Gun Court, the leash of twenty-three families that run Jamaica."

Marlon James finds highly evocative ways to poetically untangle recent Jamaican history - this book is fictional, but it talks about real events. Putting the attempted assasination of Bob Marley right before a planned peace concert. At the
Anthony Vacca
Oct 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Reader Response A: Hey, waiter! What the hell gives, mac? There's a goddamned experimental novel in my crime novel! You expect me to read this shit?

Reader Response B: S'il vous plaît, monsieur? Terribly sorry to be a bother, but there must have been some confusion with my order. You see, there seems to be a crime novel in my experimental novel. I'm afraid I don't have quite the palate for such things.

Aug 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a book. Almost a year after it won the Booker and The Green Carnation Prize, which I founded, and I have finally read it. It's not been an easy read, it's not been a pleasant read but it's a fantastic read. Gritty, violent, thought provoking, confronting and a real challenge but I've come away from it feeling as enriched and shocked as I have put through the ringer. I need more time with my thoughts. ...more
This book is not brief; it has many more than seven killings; it redefines what a novel is. As a reader I was gratified to read in the Acknowledgements that James himself didn’t know this was a novel, either, until someone pointed to possible parallels for the style in Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. James drew inspiration from Roberto Bolaño, Orhan Pamuk, Salman Rushdie, and Gay Talese among others, and the work is staggering in sheer inventiveness.

The storyline is anything but simple, told from mu
Paul E. Morph
Mar 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Marlon James' third novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings, is set in a Jamaica that lies exposed like a dead badger at the roadside with all its glistening innards hanging out, being picked at by carrion birds. I mean this in a good way, you understand. James writes like he's painting the Sistine Chapel with words. I've never been to Jamaica but after reading this book the place lives and breathes inside my mind nonetheless. When the focus shifts to the US in the second half of the book, thou ...more
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Marlon James is a Jamaican-born writer. He has published three novels: John Crow's Devil (2005), The Book of Night Women (2009) and A Brief History of Seven Killings (2014), winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize. Now living in Minneapolis, James teaches literature at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota.

James was born in Kingston, Jamaica, to parents who were both in the Jamaican police: his mo

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Looking for a new book? You can't go wrong with one of February's new releases, which include a highly anticipated new fantasy from a Man Booker...
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“Killing don’t need no reason. This is ghetto. Reason is for rich people. We have madness.” 72 likes
“But in another city, another valley, another ghetto, another slum, another favela, another township, another intifada, another war, another birth, somebody is singing Redemption Song, as if the Singer wrote it for no other reason but for this sufferah to sing, shout, whisper, weep, bawl, and scream right here, right now.” 41 likes
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