A Brief History of Seven Killings

A Brief History of Seven Killings

by

Marlon James

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A Brief History of Seven Killings: Part 4, Chapter 20 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Tristan indicates it’s unlikely 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 forgets anything. Tristan explains that Josey and Eubie have been in the drug game together since 1979. He reflects that they are both extremely smart, and thus “too smart to trust each other.” Tristan reassures Alex that Josey won’t kill him without a reason, especially since Alex is white, meaning his death would interest the feds. However, Tristan warns Alex that if he writes anything else, “nobody can protect you.” He adds that Storm Posse will go after Alex’s family.
The intelligence of Josey, Weeper, and Eubie is often presented as the reason why they are so successful in the drug game. However, this passage suggests that such intelligence can also be a hindrance. Josey and Eubie are theoretically working together, but in actuality they are both too smart––and paranoid––to form a real allegiance. This creates a power struggle in which it seems likely that only one will emerge alive.
Themes
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Tristan emphasizes that Josey is too big to go to jail. If anyone wants to get to Josey, they 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 is impressed with Alex’s answer, which doesn’t romanticize the country.
Tristan’s opinion of Alex’s abilities as a reporter is radically different to that of Josey Wales, who claimed that people like Alex “don’t see much.” This is testament both to their different personalities and to how much Alex has improved as a writer.
Themes
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Tristan tells Alex that he is getting out in March 1986, and the first thing he will do is find somewhere in Brooklyn to eat ackee and saltfish. Leaving the Ranking Dons will not be an option. Tristan begins to reconsider his advice about not writing the book. He suggests that it might be important for Alex to write it, saying: “People need to know.” He gives permission to use his real name. However, he advises that Alex should wait until everyone is dead before he publishes it.
Throughout the novel there are small hints evoking a parallel between Alex Pierce and Marlon James. After all, both of them are writers aiming to convey some version of the “truth” of what happened in Jamaica during this era to the general public. Tristan’s advice here is especially telling, then, considering that James himself published the book only after the real equivalent of the characters were dead.
Themes
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon