A crime-novel in verse, View from Mount Diablo
explores the transformation of Jamaica from a sleepy colonial society to a post-colonial nation where political corruption, drug wars, and avenging authorities have made life hell. The resentments class and racial privilege provoke underscore both the turmoil in society and the relationships at the heart of the narrative, between Adam Cole, a dreamy white boy driven by personal tragedy to crusading journalism, squint-eyed Nellie Simpson, once a servant, then a political enforcer, and stuttering Nathan, gardener and groom turned cocaine baron. Beyond this trio is a dazzling array of real and fictitious characters including Bustamante, coke-trade middleman Tony Blake, the informer Blaka, who finds religion, a corrupt plantation owner, and a murderous police officer.
In a time when ‘Blood / cheaper than drugs’, View from Mount Diablo
asserts the power of art to tell the truth, to use form and selection of incident to shape unmanageable circumstance into meaningful narrative, and touch the heart to stir the citizen to action. Rich with religious implication, this is a prophetic work of exasperated love, abandoning the softening light of ‘an old romantic view’ for a ‘harsh, uncompromising glare’ and blending lyrical narrative with wrenching tragedy.View from Mount Diablo
won the 2001 Jamaican National Literary Award.
Ralph Thompson is a Jamaican. He paints as seriously as he writes poetry. His work has been published in a number of journals, including the London Magazine. He was the Senior Executive of one of his country's biggest companies.