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Jamaican author Marlon James wins Man Booker Prize

Jamaican author Marlon James has won the Man Booker Prize for best novel for 'A Brief History of Seven Killings.' His work was inspired by a murder attempt on reggae star Bob Marley in 1976.

Marlon James was awarded the 50,000 pound (67,000 euro, $76,200) prize for his reggae- and drug-infused novel during a black-tie dinner at London's medieval Guildhall. "A Brief History of Seven Killings" is the third novel from the writer, who lives in Minneapolis.

The 44-year-old is the first Jamaican to win the prestigious annual literary prize in its 47-year history.

The 686-page novel, which uses Jamaican dialect, Harlem slang, and liberal doses of scatological language, tells the story of a gang of cocaine-fuelled ghetto kids armed with automatic weapons, who tried but failed to kill Marley in the Jamaican capital Kingston before he gave a peace concert.

Critics have compared "'A Brief History of Seven Killings" to the stream-of-consciousness novels of William Faulkner and the hyper-violent movies of Quentin Tarantino, while James himself has cited Charles Dickens as an influence on his multi-character depiction of society.

Unanimous choicer among judges

A Brief History of Seven Killings

Marlon James says he can understand that his book could be seen as controversial on account of its explicit content.

Author and academic Michael Wood, chair of the five-person panel of judges, said that the book was "startling in its range of voices and registers, running from the patois of the street posse to The Book of Revelation."

"It is a representation of political times and places, from the CIA intervention in Jamaica to the early years of crack gangs in New York and Miami," he told reporters. He added that the book had been the unanimous choice of the five judges and said that it was poised to become "a classic of our times."

The panel selected the third novel by James, 44, who now lives in Minneapolis and teaches writing, from a shortlist of six titles.

Career-changing consequences

James

beat five other authors

, including two Americans: Pulitzer Prize winner Anne Tyler, for the multi-generational family saga "A Spool of Blue Thread," and Hawaiian writer Hanya Yanagihara for "A Little Life," the story of four male friends, including a survivor of horrific child abuse.

The prize, which in its 47-year history previously has gone to Salman Rushdie, Hilary Mantel, Margaret Atwood and J.M. Coetzee, can be a huge boost for book sales.

Last year's winner, Australian writer

Richard Flanagan's "The Narrow Road to the Deep North"

, has sold 800,000 copies worldwide, a statement announcing the prize results said.

The Man Booker Prize was previously open only to fiction written in English by authors from Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth of former British colonies, but this is the second year it has been open to all nationalities.

ss/jr (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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