The Next Chapter

Ron Hawkins on the true story behind the novel he's reading now

Singer-songwriter Ron Hawkins talks about reading Marlon James' Man Booker Prize–winning novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings.
Singer-songwriter Ron Hawkins is currently reading A Brief History of Seven Killings. Hawkins' latest album is Spit Sputter and Sparkle. (

Canadian singer-songwriter Ron Hawkins is currently reading Marlon James' Man Booker Prize–winning novel A Brief History of Seven Killings. In his own words, he explains what drew him in about the book.

A Brief History of Seven Killings is based around an episode in December of '76, when Bob Marley was going to do what was called the Smile Jamaica Concert. There was a general election in Jamaica that year, and all the gangs in Kingston were involved in which side they were going to back. It even extended as far as the CIA, because one of the sides was considered democratic socialist.

Bob Marley wanted to bring representatives of both parties together at this concert — have them hold hands and try to get some kind of peace during this general election. Two days before that was supposed to happen, some gunmen broke into his house and shot Bob Marley, Rita Marley and their manager. Nobody died, but everybody was wounded. The concert went on as planned.The novel sort of fictionalizes the accounts and creates character sketches of all the people who might have been involved. It grabs me because I'm kind of preoccupied with that in my songwriting — where does the public persona begin and where does the private individual begin? Where is that line? What are your obligations as a citizen of the world?

Ron Hawkins' comments have been edited and condensed.