Set in James's native Jamaica, this dynamic, vernacular debut sings of the fierce battle between two flawed preachers. In 1957, the village of Gibbeah is a dusty remnant of the plantation era, halfheartedly ministered to by drunken Pastor Hector Bligh, aka the Rum Preacher. On a day beginning with a bad omen-black vultures, locally called John Crows, crash through the church windows-a man calling himself Apostle York "set[s] pon Pastor Bligh like when you beat a mangy dog" and takes over his church. Bligh takes refuge in the home of another village outcast, while York's commanding presence whips Gibbeah into a frenzy of repentance. Lucinda, long reviled as the town slut, sets her sights on salvation and the Apostle, while Clarence, with whom she had a dalliance, becomes one of "The Five," a group of young men eager to enforce York's decrees against sin. It isn't long before group cohesion becomes mob mentality, and punishments grow increasingly brutal and public. Bligh returns to the fray, and the resulting confrontations set the village on a path to destruction. With gruesome and sometimes gratuitous descriptions of sex and gore, this isn't a tale for the faint of heart, but those eager for fire-and-brimstone lyricism will find this an exciting read. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Dueling preachers, black magic, and speaking in tongues; animal sorcery and retribution from natural forces; an old violation sparking a series of new tragedies; alleged and actual bestiality, rape, pedophilia, and incest; violence and thuggery in the name of the Lord-these elements coalesce in a Jamaican stew spicier than jerk chicken. First novelist James moves effortlessly between lyrical patois ("After six years, false story and true story rub together so much that both start to shine") and trenchant observations ("Far below grief was lust, and like any other sin, it came with opportunity") as he relates the battle between two men of faith in the village of Gibbeah. Although set in 1957, this is a morality tale for the moment that cautions against people, movements, and nations in the throes of fundamentalism and reveals the horrors that can result; it's 150-proof literary rum guaranteed to intoxicate and enchant anyone with a strong enough spirit and stomach. Highly recommended for all public and academic libraries (but warn your patrons not to read it before bed).-Jim Dwyer, California State Univ. Lib., Chico Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.