The Booker prize-winning novelist on growing up gay in 80s Jamaica, his African fantasy trilogy – and how his mother’s job as a detective has influenced his writing

“I heard you are writing an African version of my book,” George RR Martin emailed Marlon James, after the Booker prize-winning novelist told a magazine that he was going to “geek the fuck out” and write an African Game of Thrones. “George was a great sport about it,” James says.

A mashup of mythology, Middle-earth and Marvel comics, James’s Dark Star trilogy – which began with bestseller Black Leopard, Red Wolf and is now joined by Moon Witch, Spider King – is a slippery beast to summarise. Even for its author: “Damn it, if I could I wouldn’t have written such a long book,” he jokes on a video call from his home in Brooklyn. Each novel in the trilogy will tell the same story from a different perspective: Black Leopard was narrated by the mercenary Tracker; and its readers will recognise many of the characters in the new novel, including the eponymous Moon Witch, otherwise known as Sogolon. There is an evil royal host, a love story and a dizzying array of mythical characters, not to mention enough sex and gore to satisfy GoT fans. “I think writing a book should be something like reading a book, meaning I should have fun,” he says. “And it was great fun to write.”

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