Paint the Town Red

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Peepal Tree, 2003 - Fiction - 115 pages
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Brian Meeks's novel is a requiem for the years of an extraordinary ferment in Jamaican society, when reggae and Rastafarian dreams reached from the ghettoes to the University campus, and idealistic young men and women threw themselves into the struggle to free independent Jamaica from its colonial past. In portraying the temptations towards tribal revenge that corrupted the vision of change, Meeks's novel speaks to the present, when even now, Jamaica's political divisions erupt in killings on the streets.
As Mikey Johnson takes a minibus through Kingston on his release from eleven years in jail, what he sees and the persons he meets provoke memories of those years of virtual civil war when over eight hundred Jamaicans lost their lives. His encounters reveal that few have escaped unscathed from those years: there are the dead (in body and in spirit), the wounded, the turncoats, and those like himself who are condemned to carry the burden of those times.
Mikey's particular quest is to discover why he survived when his friend, Carl, and his lover, Rosie, were killed in a shootout with the police. It draws him to look for Caroline, the other woman he was involved with before his imprisonment. From her he discovers a bitter truth about Jamaica's unwritten code of class and its role in his survival.
One of the encounters, we learn in a postscript to the novel, is with Rohan, Rosie's brother. Rohan has suffered his sister's loss deeply, but has survived to move forward, while Mikey, with the stigma of his imprisonment, appears trapped in the past. It is Rohan who tells Mikey's story, determined that those who died should not be forgotten.

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About the author (2003)

Brian Meeks has taught political science at the University of the West Indies, Mona for many years.

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