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James is the first Jamaican to win Man Booker prize

His epic novel tells of an attempt on Bob Marley's life

CNN  — 

Marlon James, the Jamaican novelist, has won the prestigious Man Booker Prize for Fiction for “A Brief History of Seven Killings,” his fictional retelling of the 1976 attempted murder of Bob Marley.

James, 44, who now lives in Minneapolis and teaches at Macalester College, is the first Jamaican author to win the prize in the British award’s 47 years. It’s also the first for his publisher, Oneworld Publications.

Author Marlon James was named winner of The 2015 Man Booker Prize for "A Brief History of Seven Killings."

‘It is a crime novel that moves beyond the world of crime and takes us deep into a recent history we know far too little about. It moves at a terrific pace and will come to be seen as a classic of our times,” said Michael Woods, chairman of the judging committee.

James didn’t expect to wow the critics, but that’s what he did with his 686-page epic novel.

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“It’s like a Tarantino remake of ‘The Harder They Come’ but with a soundtrack by Bob Marley and a script by Oliver Stone and William Faulkner, with maybe a little creative boost from some primo ganja,” wrote Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times.

“It’s epic in every sense of that word: sweeping, mythic, over-the-top, colossal and dizzyingly complex. It’s also raw, dense, violent, scalding, darkly comic, exhilarating and exhausting – a testament to Mr. James’s vaulting ambition and prodigious talent.”

James’ other works includes two novels, “John Crow’s Devil” (2005) and “The Book of Night Women” (2009).

Last year, the prize was opened to any novel published in Britain and written in English. In previous years, winners had to come from Britain, Ireland, Zimbabwe and Commonwealth nations.