A hip and sprawlingly brilliant Jamaica-bred novelist who teaches literature at Macalester College, Marlon James was an underdog in the Man Booker Prize finals. Hanya Yanagihara’s “A Little Life” was the bookies’ favorite. (Yes, they bet on literary awards in England.)
But when Prince Charles’ wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, stepped up to bestow one of the world’s most esteemed literary prizes, it was James who was the winner. His third novel, “A Brief History of Seven Killings” — a heavyweight tome whose multiple narrators and varied plot lines radiate from a 1976 assassination attempt on reggae superstar Bob Marley — bested Yanagihara, Anne Tyler’s “A Spool of Blue Thread” and other notable titles.
The judges were unanimous in their choice, with chairman Michael Wood calling “A Brief History” “startling in its range of voices and registers. … It moves at a terrific pace and will come to be seen as a classic of our times.”
Catapulted to international acclaim, James has since been hopping across the globe, and the media landscape, too: showing his fashion sense in Vogue, making the London-based Financial Times’ best dressed list and cracking wise on “Late Night With Seth Meyers.”
Meanwhile, he continues to work. He has written an adaptation for HBO, which optioned “A Brief History of Seven Killings” for a series, and is preparing another book, a sci-fi work he describes as “an African ‘Game of Thrones.’ ” Expect even bigger things ahead.