In 2015, James became the first Jamaican writer to win the Man Booker. His new novel is a hotly anticipated African fantasy epic and here he talks about loving the X-Men, coming out and writing about violence
It’s two days before the US release of Marlon James’s much-hyped fourth novel, Black Leopard, Red Wolf and the prizewinning Jamaican author has an air of baffled, exhausted ebullience about him. He’s no stranger to critical success: he won the 2015 Man Booker prize for his violent, multi-voiced epic, A Brief History of Seven Killings. But it feels like this new book will propel James into a new galaxy of literary stardom.
We’ve arranged to have lunch – on a balmy Sunday in early February – at the Commodore, a carefully shabby Williamsburg diner near his Brooklyn apartment. Brawnily broad-shouldered, his dreadlocked hair tied back in a ponytail, James has arrived before me. We’re shown to seats at the bar where low winter sun slants through the blinds on to the bar top. James tells me it feels like summer to him – he spends much of his time teaching creative writing at Macalester College in Minnesota – and as if to prove it asks the waiter for an Aperol spritz.