Wikipedia calls The Fortune Men a “non-fiction novel,” and the author did a pretty good job of combining the verified research of nonfiction with the imagination of fiction. I didn’t quite love it, but almost. Nadifa Mohamed’s 4th novel is a Booker Prize Short Lister for 2022.
The Fortune Men
By Nadifa Mohamed
Read by Hugh Quarshie 10h 31m
Rating 8.5 / historical fiction (true crime)
Somalia was once a colony of Great Britain and many Somalians traveled to Britain as seamen settling in the Somaliland section of Cardiff, Wales. Locals called it Tiger Bay. By WWI settlers from more than 50 countries made their homes there, working the docks and related seaport jobs. The influence of Somalis, Yemenis and Greeks is still felt today. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butetown
One night in 1952 Mahmood Hussein Mattan, a very bright but illiterate Somali immigrant, was arrested for the murder of a local Jewish woman. He was later convicted and hung as capital punishment. That conviction stood until 1998 when it was found to be in gross error. (I think it doesn’t spoil the story to know that – for me it enhanced the tale.) I believe Mattan was the last person to be receive the penalty of “death by hanging” at that prison. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahmood_Hussein_Mattan
I enjoyed the first 50 pages or so and then the whole thing got rather stale for awhile. I don’t know when it picked up, but somehow something very human entered the story and I just stayed with it becoming more and more involved.
For years I’ve read a lot of nonfiction history and true crime. This is both of those plus the very literary fiction of it. It’s not a mystery or a thriller but there is a lot of courtroom drama which I believe was taken from the records.
I doubt it will win the Booker Prize but it is worthy.
FWIW: “The shortlist includes the shortest book and oldest author ever to be nominated, three second novels, authors from five countries and four continents, three independent publishers and several titles inspired by real events. The winner will be announced at the Roundhouse in London on October 17.“