THE HARDER THEY COME by Michael Thelwell


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Thelwell takes pains, in his preface, to differentiate this from a ""novelization"" of the Perry Henzell-Jimmy Cliff movie of the same name. And he makes good his intentions by what follows--a book that until its last quarter, when pure melodrama takes over, stays dimensional, knowledgeable, and, most of all, beautifully voiced. Ivanhoe Martin, nicknamed ""Rhygin"" for his eagerness, is a hill country boy living with his grandmother; and he's as respectful as you'd expect him to be growing up in such a state of natural paradise. When grandma dies, though, he makes his way to Kingston and the problems inexorably mount. First there's scratchwork for a mad preacher. And then, when a song that Ivan records for a reggae emperor becomes a hit, Ivan makes the mistake of asking for more than a piddling percentage--and is promptly blacklisted. Finally a meager living in the ganja trade is all that's open to him, and corrupt public officials (plus the generally manipulated social fabric) send him up to one brief moment of folkloric hero-dom. . . followed by an equally mythic fall. True, the story--country mouse, city mouse--is old, but Thelwell is able to provide such a pouring of rich Jamaican talk (""How me fe let go? Ah dead first. An'--watch me--supposin' it rush down into dis road an' lickup a big man car? Is jail sufferah sleep tonight, ya' know"") that the specific place and sounds and life come through clearly. Whether or not you've seen the movie--a rich slice of another world.

Pub Date: April 30th, 1980
Publisher: Grove Press--dist. by Random House