The Dead Yard: A Story of Modern Jamaica

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PublicAffairs, Mar 29, 2011 - Social Science - 384 pages
Named the Dolman Travel Book of the Year, The Dead Yard paints an unforgettable portrait of modern Jamaica. Since independence, Jamaica has gradually become associated with twin images--a resort-style travel Eden for foreigners and a new kind of hell for Jamaicans, a society where gangs control the areas where most Jamaicans live and drug lords like Christopher Coke rule elites and the poor alike.

Ian Thomson's brave book explores a country of lost promise, where America's hunger for drugs fuels a dependent economy and shadowy politics. The lauded birthplace of reggae and Bob Marley, Jamaica is now sunk in corruption and hopelessness. A synthesis of vital history and unflinching reportage, The Dead Yard is "a fascinating account of a beautiful, treacherous country" (Irish Times).


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THE DEAD YARD: A Story of Modern Jamaica

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A British journalist takes a probing, critical look at economic and moral decline in post-independence Jamaica.With a similar literary travelogue under his belt about the troubled island of Haiti ... Read full review

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Ian Thomson's response to a member discussing book on open forum:
Subiect: The Dead Yard
From: lanThomson(
Date: Monday, 11 June 2012,21:16
Dear J
... Your message regarding'The Deat Yard', the book I wrote on Jarnaica, was forwarded to me today by my agent Jim Gill. Thank you for writing, and for your kind words about that book.I must say first of all that I am not on Facebook and am unlikely everto be on it now. I am of course aware of the adverse effect that my book has had on some Jamaicans. In my naivety (if I may call it that), I never imagined that my words would ruffle so many feathers. Owing to its alleged "sensitive content", the book has never been distributed in Jamaica, though it seems to me
absurd,and for that matter mfair, that people outside Jamaica can read it, while Jamaicans cannot. I was in Jamaica a couple of weeks BBoo as it happens, and I must say I enjoyed myself very much. Ihad been invited to take part in the Calabash literary fpstival there and help launch a collection of short stories, 'KingstonNoif, edited by Colin Chatries In front the festival-going public I took the opportunity to apologise for any distress my book may have caused. Someone afterwards told me that I should have been wearing a bullet-proofjacket. I am not sure if tlrey were joking I would hate to think that my book might have put you offthe idea of retunring to Jamaica one day. If I had to re-write'The Dead Yard' I would certainly aim to inject more levity into the narrative (though I think there is some humour there.) The book is very far from perfect. Anyway, thank you again for writing, and all good wishes ,
Yours sincerely,
Ian Thomson
----and -----
• Dear
Your words are very much appreciated as I have not until now had a chance to open up any kind of dialogue with anybody about the book.
As regards the "inaccuracies", I have scant idea what these could be - but I do wish I had had the opportunity to correct them for subsequent editions. (It is too late to do so now.) I do remember meeting the Faceys and feel bad about sending them a...s caricatures rather than as fully rounded personalities. Obviously it is good to learn from one's mistakes, though I stand by most of what I wrote.
Yes, Jamaica is incredibly beautiful (I think I said as much in the book) but I really did find a nation beset by problems (which nation is not?). Jamaicans living in Jamaica repeatedly told me of their levels of despair. In retrospect I think I paid to much mind to the 'dark side' of island life and not enough to the glories. I suppose I was kicking against the travel brochure image of a paradise.
Sadly I won't be able to see the Facebook site (that may be a good thing!) but I am pleased that the book has served as a springboard for debate. That must be a good thing.
Very best wishes,


Introduction A History of Paradise
1 Black Man in Hammersmith Palais
2 Trench Town Mix Up
3 Strictly Come Dancehall
4 Slaving
5 Massa Day Done?
6 Ive Got to Go Back Home
7 Forward Unto Zion
16 Nanny Knew Best
17 The Killing of a Chinese Shopkeeper
18 007 Shanty Town
19 Sitting in Limbo
20 Police and Thieves
21 Night Nurse
22 Scotland Yard
23 Herbsman Hustle

8 Maximum Black
9 Stranded on Death Row
10 The Negotiator
11 Blood and Fire
12 Revival Time
13 Dont Call Us Immigrants
14 English Upbringing Background Caribbean
15 Everything Crash
24 Investors in People Cargo
25 Lord Creator
26 Life of Contradiction
Epilogue Take Down the Union Jack
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About the author (2011)

Ian Thomson is the author of Primo Levi, which won the Royal Society of Literature's W. H. Heinemann Award in 2003. He lives in London.

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