The B&N Podcast: Marlon James on a Hero’s Journey

Every author has a story beyond the one that they put down on paper. The Barnes & Noble Podcast goes between the lines with today’s most interesting writers, exploring what inspires them, what confounds them, and what they were thinking when they wrote the books we’re talking about.

When the Jamaican writer Marlon James announced his intention to follow his Man Booker Prize-winning novel A Brief History of Seven Killings with — in his words — an “African Game of thrones” the excitement in the book world was nothing short of electric. Now the first volume in a planned series has arrived, and what James has produced is nothing short of a brave new world of fantasy. Black Leopard, Red Wolf  is an exuberantly original recasting of African myth and magic in which a band of questionable characters are brought together on a mission that will take them across a landscape littered with foes, monsters, seduction and shattering discovery. It’s an adventure that’s magical not just in the details of sorcery and shapeshifting, but in the wildly original world, both timeless and particular, in which Marlon James sets his characters loose. He joined Bill Tipper in the studio to talk about daylight vampires, ancient sexuality, and what he had to learn to create a fantasy world with African roots.


The epic novel, an African Game of Thrones, from the Man Booker Prize-winning author of A Brief History of Seven Killings

In the stunning first novel in Marlon James’s Dark Star trilogy, myth, fantasy, and history come together to explore what happens when a mercenary is hired to find a missing child.

Tracker is known far and wide for his skills as a hunter: “He has a nose,” people say. Engaged to track down a mysterious boy who disappeared three years earlier, Tracker breaks his own rule of always working alone when he finds himself part of a group that comes together to search for the boy. The band is a hodgepodge, full of unusual characters with secrets of their own, including a shape-shifting man-animal known as Leopard.

As Tracker follows the boy’s scent—from one ancient city to another; into dense forests and across deep rivers—he and the band are set upon by creatures intent on destroying them. As he struggles to survive, Tracker starts to wonder: Who, really, is this boy? Why has he been missing for so long? Why do so many people want to keep Tracker from finding him? And perhaps the most important questions of all: Who is telling the truth, and who is lying?

Drawing from African history and mythology and his own rich imagination, Marlon James has written a novel unlike anything that’s come before it: a saga of breathtaking adventure that’s also an ambitious, involving read. Defying categorization and full of unforgettable characters, Black Leopard, Red Wolf is both surprising and profound as it explores the fundamentals of truth, the limits of power, and our need to understand them both.

To see all of Marlon James’s books, click here.

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Author photo of Marlon James (c) Mark Seliger.