Michael Thelwell Jervis Anderson - Essay

Jervis Anderson

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

In Jamaica during the late 1940s, a gunman named Rhygin (born Ivanhoe Martin) made a brief and stunning appearance in the local news. When Jamaicans picked up their Gleaner one morning, they read of the first great shoot-out in the island's history…. There were to be other deaths in succeeding days and weeks, as Rhygin, eluding the best efforts of the law to capture him, sought out and gunned down selected enemies—persons he deemed to have wronged him. Though the mere idea of Rhygin was terrifying in the extreme, Jamaicans were fascinated as well, for nothing like him had yet showed up in the annals of local crime…. What a figure!, as Jamaicans said, in reflecting upon their first Hollywood-style gunslinger. What could have produced him? From what source of inspiration or grievance had he sprung? Little or nothing was known of his earlier life. In which case, it is probably natural that, as he continued to haunt local thinking, he would in time become a subject of indigenous art. It was only in the realm of imagination that answers to the questions he aroused could be found, or plausibly suggested—answers that could also be used to cast some light upon the circumstances of Jamaican life that may have influenced the emergence of such a character.

The first major effort along these lines was made a few years ago in the form of a film, The Harder They Come…. [Michael Thelwell] has now, in a novel, made the second...

(The entire section is 600 words.)