Kingston-born novelist Marlon James’ Black Leopard, Red Wolf is among ten contenders on the long list for the 2019 National Book Awards in the Fiction category. The list includes five début works. Only one nominee, African American writer Colson Whitehead, has been a previous winner in 2016.
The heavyweight novel (over 600 pages) is the first part of a planned trilogy, named Dark Star. Published by Riverhead Books/Penguin Random House, it describes a complex, detailed and often violent African fantasy world. It has been called “the African Game of Thrones.”
A former music writer for the Jamaica Observer, the 48-year-old Wolmer’s High School and University of the West Indies alumnus grew up in Portmore. His parents were both in the Jamaica Constabulary Force. He received 70 rejections for his first novel, John Crow’s Devil, which was eventually published in 2005. His second novel in 2009, The Book of Night Women, is about the plight of a slave woman on a Jamaican plantation.
James’ most successful novel to date, A Brief History of Seven Killings (2014), explores the attempted assassination of Bob Marley. It won the prestigious Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 2015; James was the second Caribbean writer and the first Jamaican to be shortlisted.
James has mentioned many influences on his work, including Caribbean writers Earl Lovelace and Olive Senior, as well as literary giants Toni Morrison and Salman Rushdie – and a number of musicians, too.
Since 2007, James has been teaching English and Creative Writing at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. He has a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from Wilkes University in Pennsylvania.
Now you know about the author and the book – go out and buy yourself a copy. And settle down for a long, hard read!