Wed | Aug 16, 2017

Book sales expected to spike following Man Booker Prize win

Published:Saturday | October 17, 2015 | 10:00 AMShereita Grizzle
Marlon James, winner of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2015, makes a speech after he was announced as the winner at an award ceremony at the Guildhall in London.
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On Tuesday night, Jamaica-born author Marlon James created literary history by becoming the first Jamaican to cop the prestigious Man Booker Prize for his novel A Brief History of Seven Killings, which examines the 1976 assassination attempt on the life of the late reggae legend Bob Marley.

Set across three decades, the novel uses the true story of the attempt on the life of Bob Marley to explore the world of Jamaican politics. Following the book's latest achievements, many are expecting a boost in sales. According to Nielsen Book Research, after the novel was revealed to be on the shortlist last month, sales tripled to more than 1,000 copies a week. Due to the win, that number is expected to rise again significantly.

This is only the second year that the prize was available to anyone writing in English and publishing in the United Kingdom (UK). Previously, nominees had been limited to those from the UK, the Commonwealth, Ireland, and Zimbabwe.

The announcement was made at a ceremony held at London's Guildhall. Along with the coveted title, James also won a cash prize of £50,000 and was presented with his prize by the Duchess of Cornwall. Following the announcement, Michael Wood, chair of the judges, described James' novel as the "most exciting" book on the shortlist, which also featured two authors from the UK, two from the United States, and one from Nigeria. While noting that the other books on the shortlist were worthy contenders, Wood said James' novel won because it kept surprising the judges. "It (the novel) was very exciting, very violent, full of swearing. It was a book we didn't actually have any difficulty deciding on. It was a unanimous decision. There are many, many voices in the book, and it just kept on coming. It kept on doing what it was doing."

While admitting that some of the book's content may be too much for some readers, Wood encouraged people to take the chance on it. "One of the pleasures of reading it is that you turn the page and you're not quite sure who the next narrator will be," he said. "There is an excitement right from the beginning of this book. A lot of it is very, very funny; a lot of it very human."

When accepting the award, James said he had not prepared a speech because he was not expecting to win. "I was so convinced I wasn't going to win, I didn't write a speech," he said. "The Man Booker prize is that award you hear about that suddenly increases your library by 13 books. It's that thing you hear about that shapes your writing and your thinking." He dedicated the award to his late father, who he said was responsible for shaping his "literary sensibilities".

Jamaicans proud

Among the many local organisations offering congratulations to James on his achievement was the Institute of Jamaica (IOJ). In a statement sent to The Gleaner, the executive director of the IOJ, Anne-Marie Bonner, emphasised that the 44-year-old author had exhibited great literary skills in crafting A Brief History of Seven Killings.

"Marlon James is an example of the literary talent that abounds in Jamaicans and the tremendous effort they make to produce outstanding works," the statement read. "The IOJ continues to give public recognition and honour through the annual Musgrave Awards in the fields of literature, science, and art". James received the Silver Musgrave in 2013. He was recognised as an emerging unique voice in Jamaican literature.

shereita.grizzle@gleanerjm.com