While certainly not brief, this book does contain its fair share of killings (more than 7). Chronicling the lives of various Jamaican ghetto dons from the late 60s all the way to the 90’s, it reads like The Godfather goes Caribbean. The language is rough, but it bounces with a jovial, yet often treacherous, Jamaican riddim. Fall on the wrong side of the beat, and you’re like to get a bullet in your belly.
I grew up in Jamaica during the 80’s, and the idyllic island life that plasters most people’s mental picture of the country was as far from the truth of my childhood as India is from the West Indies. Gangs ran amok. Thievery and murder were commonplace. When men began testing the bars on our windows at night looking for weak points in the house’s defense, my father asked a neighbor what he should do.
“Don’t bother calling the police, brethren,” our neighbor said. “When you call them, they tell you, ‘We’ll come by and pick up the bodies.’ No. Buy a machete, and wait by the window. When the first man comes through, chop de head off ‘im, and pull ‘im through. Then the next man. Chop ‘im head off too, and pull ‘im through. When they stop comin’, then the police show.”
This book–with fictional characters and factual events–lives, breathes, and speaks the Jamaican story: the best and the worst of it. It’s a book you get lost in. If the dialect is a little tricky to read, I suggest picking up the audiobook. It feels less like a reading and more like a stage play with some of the best voice acting I’ve heard on a book.