I have had the privilege and pleasure of reading Sheldon Brown’s first published novel Caribbean Cartels.
Sheldon is a prisoner at Northward Prison and regards himself as an ex gangster. I suspect that his reputation is known to many in Cayman and whether proven or unproven outside or inside the halls of justice it is not the subject of this letter.
What has struck me about his well written criminal/detective saga is the fictitious exploration of the social and political causes of crime in the Caribbean.
In my view the writer sees crime as a result of historical and contemporary failures of our social and economic institutions, specifically in Jamaica where society failed to provide concrete educational and social tools for the eradication or even alleviation of extreme poverty. The author shows how the actions of criminals created by this tradition of poverty and political manipulation inadvertently exposed us to an international criminal culture even though we have had until then a non-violent, non-crime, tradition.
The Caribbean Cartels is a factious tail but it does teach me many sociological lessons by contrasting fictitiously three cartels; one Caymanian, one Jamaican and one Colombian. Mr. Brown gives his reader insight into the sociological motives of the different crime families even if his intention was purely to entertain his readers. But he also seems to me more interested in the Caymanian and Jamaican crime families, which he know best.
His descriptions may not have just been done to teach us while entertaining us, but may be a form of exorcism in order to develop his own moral and philosophical perspective.
I will not here make a comparison between the conditions that created crime in Jamaica and those the author may be saying created the foundation for the present criminal environment in Cayman because I want you to read this book yourself. But with the present climate of violent crimes, I must ask myself if our criminals are now being assisted by the same hopelessness that created the Shower Posse in Jamaica and if the period of thrills, adventure and rebellion has given way to more dangerous motives.
I began this letter thinking as a sociologist because it is important that we gain understanding where we can, but I am also a writer and as a Caymanian writer I would like to big up as must as possible Sheldon Brown who may very well become one of the Caribbean best authors. I say this because Sheldon creates characters that are simple enough but whose inner personalities are as complex as any I have found in novels; yet they are believable.
I must also pay tribute to Sheldon’s sensitive handling of the few women characters that appear in such situations and his ability to handle eroticism without being crude. These are some of my first impressions and when I reread Caribbean Cartels my impressions may change, for after all it is a novel.
In January I will be teaching a course on crime at UCCI as well as starting social research for the Cayman Islands government. I invite those of you interested to register for the class because we will be asking Sheldon as well as many others who have so much to teach us for their knowledge and contributions. And it is not me but in fact it was Christ who first learned from a criminal. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year Cayman.