Emily Raboteau

  • The Jamaican Book of the Dead

    Marlon James’s epic and dizzying third novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings, is anything but brief and describes far more than seven killings. The book’s two main backdrops are Kingston, Jamaica, during the political warfare of the late 1970s and New York City during the crack epidemic of the mid-’80s. Both of these settings allow the author to display his exquisite talent for penning death scenes, which appear with a frequency that brings to mind the Iliad. Where James’s previous novel, The Book of Night Women, described the desire for freedom and power in a matriarchal community, his

  • Roots Rock Reggae

    Colin Grant knows how to hook a reader with a compelling set piece. Grant, a BBC radio producer and independent historian, opens his study of the golden age of Jamaican reggae, The Natural Mystics, with a vignette from a 1990 concert at the National Stadium in Kingston. The concert was billed as “The Greatest One-Night Reggae Show on Earth,” but when Bunny Wailer, the last survivor of the most influential reggae band of all time, took to the stage, something disgraceful happened. He was booed off by the young crowd, a hail of bottles smashing around his head.

    Twenty years earlier, he would’ve