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Man Booker goes to stunning (and persistent) Jamaican Marlon James

12 October 2015

This week's story was to have been on the rise in support for short stories, until, that is, Marlon James had his stunning Man Booker Prize win last night.

It might have been expected that an American would win this year for the first time since the Prize was opened to novels in English from across the world. In fact the American writer Hanya Yanagihara's A Little Life was widely tipped to win this year. Instead it's been won by what the Guardian called ‘an uncompromising and exhilarating Man Booker winner'.

But behind this story of victory in the prize ring is another one which is even more extraordinary. As James himself described it: "Almost exactly 10 years ago, I had given up my writing. I had written a novel and deleted it and destroyed it." Then he met the author Kaylie Jones who, after hearing about his discarded manuscript, insisted on reading it. After much searching, he unearthed a version of the novel "on an old laptop in an Outlook Express outbox" and Jones had it published.

"I am eternally grateful to her," James said. "I sort of gave up on writing and the idea that people wanted to hear these stories. It is kind of affirming, especially because this is the riskiest novel I've ever written and not just in terms of subject matter but in terms of form. I would have been happy with two people liking it."

For Juliet Mabey at Oneworld, James had been their first fiction acquisition with his second novel, The Book of Night Women, which had at that point received 70 rejections. The amount of determination a writer must have to persist through so many rejections is phenomenal. This is an author who really has survived and kept writing against the odds and he very much deserves the success which will now be his for his great Booker-winning novel A Brief History of Seven Killings.