As an uncultured man, I used to primarily associate Jamaica with the cocktail called Jamaican Me Crazy (the ingredients of which vary wildly depending on the bartender). Never mind Jamaica’s rich and violent history. Never mind that reggae (which I loathe) inspired musicians such as The Rolling Stones. It was the cocktail with the funny name I thought of.
So a novel revolving around the attempted assassination of Bob Marley would normally pass me by. Yet A Brief History of Seven Killings won so many damn awards, including the Man Booker, that I just couldn’t ignore it.
So was it worth reading?
During the first half of the book I was sceptical. After all, if I’m going to read a book the size of War and Peace then it better be as good as … well, War and Peace. And although this book was well written enough to keep me going, the first half was also repetitive enough in places to make me want a Jamaican Me Crazy to get through it.
For me the problem was the narration. Seven Killings is written in the first person from the perspective of a range of different characters – from the ghost of a politician, CIA operatives and drug lords to teenage gang members and a Rolling Stone journalist.
Now, it’s challenging enough to evoke one convincing and consistent first person voice – but when you’re dealing with an army of them (and the cast of characters in this makes The Wire look simple), it’s easy for things to slip. For me, the novel became almost unbearable when the teenage gangsters were narrating while high on coke.
Yet as the novel progressed, I found myself increasingly engrossed – especially with the character of Josey Wales, the sociopathic gang leader whose ambition takes him from the slums of Kingston to New York. It’s easy to assume, as I did, that this novel is about Bob Marley – but if any one character is the backbone of this novel, it’s Josey.
So to answer my earlier question: yes, it was worth it – but I still need a drink.
The question is, what drink do you pair with a book like this?
Considering the violent nature of Seven Killings, a shooter seemed appropriate – especially a shooter from the 80s (the novel spans 1976 to 1991).
Furthermore, I have a bottle of Malibu (in my defence, I inherited it from my partner) that I desperately want to get rid of – which in my world means shooting in shame rather than binning.
And so here I am, drinking The Jamaican Dust: an 80s shooter.
Surprisingly, it’s not bad. It’s clean, smooth, and easy to gulp. Don’t get me wrong: I’ll never, ever drink one again – but the next time I find myself surrounded by my partner’s friends, most of whom like light, girlie drinks, I’ll certainly make it for them.
Hell, I’m not wasting good spirits on them.
So here’s the recipe, and may all serious bar people who read this please forgive me:
- One shot of clear vodka
- Half a shot of Malibu
- Half a shot of either cloudy apple juice or pineapple juice
Shake, strain and drink. I tried to be fancy by sticking a maraschino cherry in it, but this is meant to be a shot and not sipped. If you want to be as pompous as I am, you can try to add bitters to add complexity – but I’d advise against it. Embrace the 80s, and down this in one gulp while listening to your boom box. Then repent.