John Crow's Devil (Paperback)

John Crow's Devil By Marlon James Cover Image

Summer 2019 Reading Group Indie Next List

“Marlon James’ debut novel is the first sign of the literary genius the Booker judges would later recognize in A Brief History of Seven Killings. James summons into being the Jamaican village of Gibbeah, a community scourged by the conflict between two rival preachers. With its rich language and biblical cadence, John Crow’s Devil is a Miltonic epic of unrelenting spiritual darkness, but, with James’ ear for dialogue and knack for earthy humor, it flashes with light on a human level.”
— James Crossley, Phinney Books, Seattle, WA


The long-awaited paperback reissue of Booker–Prize Winner Marlon James's debut novel.

—Marlon James won the 2015 Man Booker Prize for his third novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings.

—Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize

“A powerful first novel . . . Writing with assurance and control, James uses his small-town drama to suggest the larger anguish of a postcolonial society struggling for its own identity.” —New York Times, Editors’ Choice

“Elements coalesce in a Jamaican stew spicier than jerk chicken. First novelist James moves effortlessly between lyrical patois and trenchant observations . . . It’s 150-proof literary rum guaranteed to intoxicate and enchant. Highly recommended.” —Library Journal, Starred Review

This stunning debut novel tells the story of a biblical struggle in a remote Jamaican village in 1957. With language as taut as classic works by Cormac McCarthy, and a richness reminiscent of early Toni Morrison, Marlon James reveals his unique narrative command that will firmly establish his place as one of today’s freshest, most talented young writers.

In the village of Gibbeah—where certain women fly and certain men protect secrets with their lives—magic coexists with religion, and good and evil are never as they seem. In this town, a battle is fought between two men of God. The story begins when a drunkard named Hector Bligh (the “Rum Preacher”) is dragged from his pulpit by a man calling himself “Apostle” York. Handsome and brash, York demands a fire-and-brimstone church, but sets in motion a phenomenal and deadly struggle for the soul of Gibbeah itself. John Crow’s Devil is a novel about religious mania, redemption, sexual obsession, and the eternal struggle inside all of us between the righteous and the wicked.

About the Author

MARLON JAMES was born in Jamaica in 1970. He is the author of the New York Times-bestseller Black Leopard, Red Wolf, which was a finalist for the National Book Award for fiction in 2019. His novel A Brief History of Seven Killings won the 2015 Man Booker Prize. It was also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and won the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature for fiction, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for fiction, and the Minnesota Book Award. It was also a New York Times Notable Book. James is also the author of The Book of Night Women, which won the 2010 Dayton Literary Peace Prize and the Minnesota Book Award, and was a finalist for the 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award in fiction and an NAACP Image Award. His first novel, John Crow’s Devil, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for first fiction and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and was a New York Times Editors’ Choice. James divides his time between Minnesota and New York.

Praise For…

"Marlon James spins his magical web in this novel and we willingly suspend disbelief, rewarded by the window he opens to Jamaica (and a world) rarely portrayed in fiction."

--Elizabeth Nunez, author of Bruised Hibiscus, winner of the American Book Award

"Pile them up, a Marlon James character says repeatedly and Marlon does just that. Pile them up: language, imagery, technique, imagination. All fresh, all exciting. This is a good book and a writer to watch out for."

--Chris Abani, author of GraceLand, winner of the Hemingway/PEN Award

"John Crow's Devil is the finest and most important first novel I've read in years. Marlon James's writing brings to mind early Toni Morrison, Jessica Hagedorn, and Gabriel García Márquez."

--Kaylie Jones, author of A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries

"Marlon James is a writer to watch. John Crow's Devil is the kind of stylistically mature first novel that often comes at the beginning of an enduring career."

--Colin Channer, author of Waiting in Vain and Passing Through

A Brief History of Seven Killings might have won the Booker, and Black Leopard, Red Wolf might be the next Game of Thrones, but if you’re looking for an entry point into the much-lauded, highly raucous mind of Marlon James, his 2005 debut could actually be the place to start: it’s just as powerful and intricately written as James’s later works, but it’s quite a bit shorter, and easier to carry around with you everywhere you go, something you will surely want to do.

— Literary Hub

Elements coalesce in a Jamaican stew spicier than jerk chicken. First novelist James moves effortlessly between lyrical patois and trenchant observations . . . It’s 150-proof literary rum guaranteed to intoxicate and enchant. Highly recommended.
— Library Journal, Starred Review

Set in James’s native Jamaica, this dynamic, vernacular debut sings of the fierce battle between two flawed preachers . . . an exciting read.
— Publishers Weekly

A mesmerizing treatise on the nature of good and evil, faith and madness, guilt and forgiveness, eloquently captured in a microcosm of society.
— Booklist

John Crow’s Devil engages the political legacy of Frantz Fanon without sacrificing the power of fiction . . . There’s a temptation to compare John Crow’s Devil to novels by Toni Morrison or Earl Lovelace, among others, and there are certainly similarities to those works in this one. There is even an echo of Faulkner in the meticulous, multi-vocal rendering of conflicts entrenched in village life. But more important than any comparison is that James’ debut is very much its own book, and stands as tall on its own as it would with any other volume beside it.

— Small Spiral Notebook
Product Details
ISBN: 9781936070107
ISBN-10: 1936070103
Publisher: Akashic Books, Ltd.
Publication Date: August 1st, 2010
Pages: 232
Language: English