The new book by 2015 Man Booker Prize winner Marlon James has been listed by the BBC in the United Kingdom as one of the must-read books for 2019. Due for release in February, James’s “Black Leopard, Red Wolf” from publisher Hamish Hamilton was called “an astonishing novel” by BBC reviewers, who already tipped it as a prize-winner for the year. Characterized as “an African ‘Game of Throne,’” there is speculation that television executives are preparing for its TV adaptation. The book comprises a fantasy trilogy that was described as “phantasmagorical” and features a mercenary called Tracker, who has a highly developed sense of smell and “a lot to learn.” Tracker’s mission is to find a missing boy, and over a period of nine years, his experiences link him with the Leopard, a shape-shifting hunter named Nyka, a skin-shedding mercenary. He also meets the Samgoma, a visionary healer, the Moon Witch who is centuries old, griots, and many more fascinating characters. Tracker faces threats from insane kings, knights, and necromancers, roof walkers called Omoluzu, shape-shifting hyena avengers, and the blood-drinking Ipundulu. The Ipundulu may have been the kidnappers of the boy Tracker is looking for. Early in the story, James presents a clue to its underlying theme: “Truth changes shape just as the crocodile eats away the moon.”
Marlon James was born in Kingston, Jamaica, on November 24, 1970. He graduated from the University of the West Indies in 1991 where he studied Language and Literature. Both of his parents were members of the Jamaican police: his mother became a detective and his father a lawyer. His mother encouraged his love of literature by giving him his first prose book, a collection of O. Henry’s short stories, and his father’s love of Shakespeare and Coleridge was a major influence on the future writer. James left Jamaica to escape poor economic conditions and an atmosphere of homophobic violence, saying “Whether it was in a plane or a coffin, I knew I had to get out of Jamaica”. He attained a master’s degree in creative writing from Wilkes University in 2006.
During his career, James has taught English and creative writing at Minnesota’s Macalester College. “John Crow’s Devil,” his first novel, was rejected 70 times before being published. It tells the story of a spiritual struggle in a remote Jamaican village. His second book, “The Book of Night Women,” is about the revolt of a slave woman on an early 19th-century Jamaican plantation. His “A Brief History of Seven Killings” explores decades of Jamaica’s history and political strife and won the UK’s Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 2015.