Man Booker Prize 2015: Marlon James Becomes First Jamaican to Win Award

Jamaican author Marlon James has won the 2015 Man Booker Prize for his novel A Brief History of Seven Killings, a story based on the attempted assassination of Bob Marley in the 1970s. The chair of the judges, Michael Wood described it as the "most exciting" book on the shortlist, adding that the judges were unanimous in their decision to make James the winner. The 680-page book is, according to Wood, "full of surprises" as well as graphic violence, swearing, and humor.

James, 44, is the first Jamaican author to win the 50,000 pounds ($76,000) prize, which was announced at a ceremony at London's Guildhall on Tuesday night. After receiving the award from the Duchess of Cornwall, James said that he was inspired by "reggae singers Bob Marley and Peter Tosh [who] were the first to recognize that the voice coming out our mouths was a legitimate voice for fiction and poetry." James, who lives in Minneapolis, described his work as "a novel of exile... I needed that distance, I needed that sense of maybe there wouldn't be consequences." Calling it the riskiest novel he had ever written, both in terms of subject and form, he dedicated his achievement to his late father with whom he used to recite Shakespeare's soliloquies.

A Brief History of Seven Killings spans three decades and offers a detailed exploration of Jamaican politics and gang violence. Containing more than 75 characters, The New York Times described it as a book that "eventually takes on a mesmerizing power." Despite this, judge Wood cautioned that some of the content may be a little full on for certain readers. "Someone said to me they like to give Booker winners to their mother to read, but this might be a little difficult," he said, according to the BBC.

This year's shortlist included Hanya Yanigahara's A Little Life, Tom McCarthy's Satin Island, Sunjeev Sahota's The Year of the Runaways, Chigozie Obioma's The Fishermen, and Anne Tyler's A Spool of Blue Thread.

Favorited by bookmakers to win, Yanigahara's novel follows the life of the emotionally and physically damaged Jude St. Francis, and includes awful accounts of child abuse and self-harm. However, all the books on the shortlist featured fairly difficult subject matter—when it was first announced Wood admitted, "Frankly, they are pretty grim."

Last year's winner, Richard Flanagan's The Narrow Road to the Deep North, though described as a "love story", also revolves around the construction of the Thailand-Burma "Railway of Death" during World War II.