A Brief History of Seven Killings

A Brief History of Seven Killings

by

Marlon James

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Alex is a white American journalist who at the beginning of the novel is on assignment for Rolling Stone magazine, writing an article about Mick Jagger’s exploits in Jamaica. However, Alex quickly becomes convinced that there is a more interesting story to be told in the cultural and political shifts occurring in Jamaica at the time, as shown through the lens of the Singer’s success. Alex is swiftly fired from Rolling Stone and has trouble gaining access to the Singer, which leaves him demoralized. He is fixated on the idea that he is not just a tourist and that he knows “the real Jamaica.” By chance, he ends up standing outside the Singer’s house just before the shooting, though he walks away just as Josey Wales and his crew arrive––a fact that speaks to his lack of journalistic instinct during this time. However, as time passes Alex becomes more competent and even manages to interview the Singer, alongside Kingston dons like Papa-Lo, Shotta Sherrif, and Josey. Alex compares information from his interviews with the Singer and Josey and realizes that it was Josey who personally shot the Singer, and his knowledge of this fact––while again demonstrating his increased skill as a journalist––puts his life in danger. Josey sends Tony Pavarotti to kill Alex, but acting in self-defense Alex stabs Tony with a letter opener and accidentally kills him. By the end of the novel, Alex’s writing about Jamaica––compiled into an essay series entitled “A Brief History of Seven Killings”––is being published in The New Yorker. His obsession with Jamaica has come at the expense of his personal life, although it has been a major boost to his career. At his home in Harlem, he is attacked by Eubie and his crew, who force Alex to make edits to the essays at gunpoint.

Alex Pierce Quotes in A Brief History of Seven Killings

The A Brief History of Seven Killings quotes below are all either spoken by Alex Pierce or refer to Alex Pierce. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Riverhead edition of A Brief History of Seven Killings published in 2014.
Part 2, Chapter 11 Quotes

In Jamaica people have a way of saying that if shit didn't go down a certain way, then the truth is probably not far from it. If it no go so it go near so.

Related Characters: Alex Pierce (speaker)
Page Number: 187
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2, Chapter 15 Quotes

I can’t figure out if I just got a sudden case of the chickenshits or if I am slowly realizing that even though the Singer is the center of the story that it really isn't his story. Like there's a version of this story that's not really about him, but about the people around him, the ones who come and go that might actually provide a bigger picture than me asking him why he smokes ganja. Damn if I’m not fooling myself I’m Gay Talese again.

Related Characters: Alex Pierce (speaker), The Singer
Page Number: 221
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 3, Chapter 4 Quotes

The second you say peace this and peace that, and let's talk about peace, is the second gunman put down their guns. But guess what, white boy. As soon as you put down your gun the policeman pull out his gun. Dangerous thing, peace. Peace make you stupid. You forget that not everybody sign peace treaty. Good times bad for somebody.

Related Characters: Josey Wales (speaker), Alex Pierce
Page Number: 387
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 4, Chapter 3 Quotes

Even my Rasta brethren laugh 'bout it, saying when the Black Star Liner finally come to take us to Africa, they going have to chop me in half. Man, what you know about the Jamaica runnings? Sometimes I think being a half coolie worse than being a battyman. This brown skin girl look 'pon me one time and say how it sad that after all God go through to give me pretty hair him curse me with that skin. The bitch say to me all my dark skin do is remind her that me forefather was a slave. So me say me have pity for you too. Because all your light skin do is remind me that your great-great-grandmother get rape.

Related Characters: Tristan Phillips (speaker), Alex Pierce
Page Number: 453
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 4, Chapter 20 Quotes

Me don’t see Copenhagen City since '79 but me hear 'bout it. Brethren, is like them communist country you see 'pon the news. Poster and mural and painting of Papa-Lo and Josey all over the community. Woman naming them pickney Josey One and Josey Two, even though he not fucking nobody but him wife, no, they not married for real. In him own way, you could call him a classy brother. But still, you want to get Josey you have to mow down the entire Copenhagen City first, and even then. You also have to tear down this government too. What you mean, government? Come, man, Alex Pierce, who you think give this party the 1980 election?

Related Characters: Tristan Phillips (speaker), Alex Pierce, Papa-Lo, Josey Wales, Winifred
Page Number: 567
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire A Brief History of Seven Killings LitChart as a printable PDF.
A Brief History of Seven Killings PDF

Alex Pierce Character Timeline in A Brief History of Seven Killings

The timeline below shows where the character Alex Pierce appears in A Brief History of Seven Killings. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 7
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
A white man pulls up and introduces himself to the guard as Alex Pierce, a writer for Rolling Stone. Alex insists that he was told by a secretary... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 9:
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Alex is puzzled by the fact that reggae is never played on the radio in Jamaica.... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
Alex is supposed to be covering the Rolling Stones, but he’s decided to chase a bigger... (full context)
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
Alex came on the same flight as Mark Lansing, a rich kid who is making a... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 12
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
Alex writes that the West Kingston ghetto is like hell, and that it can’t be put... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 5
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
Alex can’t sleep, so he asks a taxi driver to take him somewhere that’s “still jumping.”... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 11
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
A source tells Alex that the Singer was possibly involved in the horse-racing scam a few months ago. Alex... (full context)
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
Immediately after the call with Mark, Alex’s boss calls and fires him from Rolling Stone. Alex tries to explain that he’s working... (full context)
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
Mark offers to give Alex a role in his crew, thereby giving him access to the Singer. All he asks... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 15
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
Alex is in the car with Mark Lansing, who is a terrible driver. They pull up... (full context)
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
Alex waits for 45 minutes, until the gate opens and a truck full of men leave.... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 4
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
Alex is freaking out; he wonders if he is tripping, then assures himself he isn’t. He... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
There is a man sitting on the left side of the bed in Alex’s hotel room. Alex hopes that if he closes his eyes and opens them the man... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
The day before Alex went to interview Shotta Sherrif about the peace treaty, and even though by then he’d... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
Alex wanted to ask Shotta Sherrif if the peace treaty was still valid after the recent... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
The stranger on Alex’s bed moves, sitting on Alex’s foot. Alex is momentarily terrified that the man is going... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
As Alex was leaving Papa-Lo, he walked into two men, who took him to Josey Wales’ house.... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
Alex asked Josey how the Singer would “react to all this,” but Josey brushed him off,... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Alex’s foot has gone to sleep underneath the man in his bed. He sees that the... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 5
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...done being tested. After the shooting at the Singer’s house, an informer told Josey that Alex had arrived on the scene just after the attack was over. Josey recalls the Singer’s... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 3
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
Tristan is in prison, talking to Alex Pierce. He tells Alex he has been bribing the guards with smuggled crack to let... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...on a second peace concert. Tristan drifts off while talking about Shotta Sherrif, and asks Alex to stop recording. Back in 1978, Tristan realized that someone had shipped guns to Kingston... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 6
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
Alex claims to have not been in Jamaica since 1978, but seems suspiciously knowledgeable about the... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 12
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
Tristan tells Alex that the only other member of the peace council to emerge alive is a woman... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
...leave without raping or killing anyone. At the end of this story, Tristan observes that Alex jumps whenever Tristan mentions Josey Wales’ name.    (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 16
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
Tristan again questions Alex suspiciously about what he is actually writing. He tells Alex that Josey Wales is arriving... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...out out of the mysterious “School for the Americas.” Tristan laughs at the idea that Alex murdered “Jamaica’s number one killing machine.” Alex tells him that it happened in February 1979,... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 20
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...that Josey has flown to New York six years after Tony Pavarotti’s death to kill Alex himself. It’s possible that Josey’s forgotten Alex, although this is also unlikely, as Josey never... (full context)
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...will have to go through the whole of Copenhagen City first. Tristan then observes that Alex is a natural reporter, and asks what it is about Jamaica that fascinates him. Tristan... (full context)
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
Tristan tells Alex that he is getting out in March 1986, and the first thing he will do... (full context)
Part 5, Chapter 3
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...sees a man reading a copy of Rolling Stone. It’s revealed that the narrator is Alex Pierce, and he recently handed in part four a seven-part series about Jamaica and the... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
Alex finds that his front door is open, and hears that the four men are Jamaican.... (full context)
Part 5, Chapter 6
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
Eubie and Ren-Dog tease Alex about his long, scruffy hair. Alex is terrified. He hasn’t heard the name “Tony Pavarotti”... (full context)
Part 5, Chapter 9
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
Alex’s essay series is called “A Brief History of Seven Killings.” Part Three of the series... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
The men tell Alex to skip to the part where he discusses the crack house. Alex reads the description... (full context)
Part 5, Chapter 11
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
Eubie asks why there isn’t a fourth killing in Part Four, and Alex explains that at this point in the series he wanted to “expand the story” and... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
Alex asks if Eubie is going to threaten him into abandoning the story, but Eubie says... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
Eventually, Alex reveals that it was Josey who shot the Singer. Alex explains he figured it out... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
Eubie shoots Alex in the foot and Alex starts screaming. Eubie says that Josey is “the most psychotic... (full context)