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View from Mount Diablo

A crime-novel in verse, View from Mount Diablo explores the transformation of Jamaica from a sleepy colonial society to a post-colonial nation where political corruption, drug wars, and avenging authorities have made life hell.

£12.99

Author(s)
Ralph Thompson
ISBN
9781845231446
Pages
160
Price
£12.99
Classification
Poetry
Setting
Jamaica
Date published
28 Feb 2003

A crime-novel in verse, View from Mount Diablo explores the transformation of Jamaica from a sleepy colonial society to a post-colonial nation where political corruption, drug wars, and avenging authorities have made life hell. The resentments class and racial privilege provoke underscore both the turmoil in society and the relationships at the heart of the narrative, between Adam Cole, a dreamy white boy driven by personal tragedy to crusading journalism, squint-eyed Nellie Simpson, once a servant, then a political enforcer, and stuttering Nathan, gardener and groom turned cocaine baron. Beyond this trio is a dazzling array of real and fictitious characters including Bustamante, coke-trade middleman Tony Blake, the informer Blaka, who finds religion, a corrupt plantation owner, and a murderous police officer. 

In a time when ‘Blood / cheaper than drugs’, View from Mount Diablo asserts the power of art to tell the truth, to use form and selection of incident to shape unmanageable circumstance into 
meaningful narrative, and touch the heart to stir the citizen to action. Rich with religious implication, this is a prophetic work of exasperated love, abandoning the softening light of ‘an old romantic view’ for a ‘harsh, uncompromising glare’ and blending lyrical narrative with wrenching tragedy.

This 2009 annotated edition, edited by John Lennard, offers a full introduction situating Thompson’s verse-novel in its formal, Caribbean, and global contexts, and provides detailed notes explicating background history, real events transposed into fiction, and the skilled foreshortening that maps an individual life onto a national calamity.

View from Mount Diablo: An Annotated Edition / ISBN 9781845231446 / £12.99 / 160pp

View from Mount Diablo won the 2001 Jamaican National Literary Award.

Louis Simpson, the Jamaican-American Pulitzer Prize-winning poet writes: ‘View from Mount Diablo is a remarkable achievement. Its knowledge of the island, the entwining of private lives and politics, lifts Jamaican poetry to a level that has not been attempted before. The poetry is strong, imaginative, fascinating in detail. It describes terrible things with understatement, yet with compassion. I don’t think anything could be more harrowing than the rape of Chantal, or the boy begging Alexander to spare his life... This is narrative poetry at its best. Not only Jamaicans, but I think readers in England and the USA, will appreciate this book. It is something new.’

View from Mount Diablo won the 2001 Jamaican National Literary Award.

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Ralph Thompson

Ralph Thompson was born in America in 1928. His family on his mother’s side goes back three generations in Jamaica, a mixture of crypto Jewish (Isaacs) and Irish stock (Fielding). It was staunchly Catholic and claimed to be white. His mother’s marriage lasted only three years and she returned to Jamaica and brought up her two children aided and abetted by a household of intellectually brilliant but poor and highly eccentric aunts and uncles.

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