Diran Adebayo

Some Kind of Black

‘Has the rare, incandescent energy of a story that’s never been told. A classic coming-of-age tale…marks the debut of a serious talent.’

‘It is difficult to discuss the book without talking in terms of its uniqueness – and without resorting to superlatives…It deploys both merciless laughter and humane understanding to dissect the prejudices and politics of colour. This is done with a rare sublety and intellectual integrity…a tremendously rich, subtle and nuanced read.’
The Scotsman

‘A gloriously capable and confident writer…Some Kind of Black is thoughtful, witty and moving…it is refreshing to read something so extrovert and alert…I urge you to read it.’
The Times

‘Strikingly innovative…Adebayo’s novel wryly captures the essence of a tribalised society, and, in doing so, has a powerful resonance for us all, black or white, as his complex web of storylines and characters culminates in a surprising denouncement.’
Independent On Sunday

‘Sharply written and exceptional’
Daily Telegraph

‘Magnificent and seductively Nineties’
Julie Myerson

‘Dissects British race relations with a scalpel wit that leaves every stereotype begging for mercy’
The Face

‘It records experience unlike any previously seen in British Fiction.’
The Bookseller

‘An individual and thought-provoking debut… challenges his readers… to think about the issues it raises.’

‘Undeniably a writer to look out for… Adebayo’s writing is of a new breed and is a valuable insight not just into the mind of today’s black London youth but also into the concers of youth in general.’
Evening Standard

‘Reinvention of the London novel as filtered through the lens of racial identities and cultural dispossession. Adebayo makes us reassess our cosy liberalism and forces us into the recognition that difference always makes a difference.’

‘An engaging debut that stands above many similar efforts… well written… charts new territory with skill and imagination.’
Literary Review

‘Compelling, emotive and painfully truthful.’

‘Written in a combination of stylish prose and street vernacular.’
The Big Issue

‘Engaging and graphically described.’
Canberra Sunday Times

‘A marvellous read, deserving the widest possible audience.’
The Bookseller

‘I have spent the past six months reading 150 novels for the Booker. The great majority were of no quality at all. Many of the best were first novels, such as John Lanchester’s The Debt to Pleasure and Diran Adebayo’s ‘Some Kind of Black’ (They were also, like the best of VS Naipaul’s work, humorous).’
AN Wilson (Booker Judge), Evening Standard

‘The book is an important voice…Adebayo adopts paths that will touch the sensitivity of many readers, cause hackles to rise in others and provoke some fairly serious discussion in some others. His saving grace is the is the honesty he brings to each chosen path and the constant humour that had this reviewer laughing out loud on the Victoria Line.’
West Africa

My Once Upon A Time

‘In the perennial debate regarding the demise of the novel, the exciting trajectory of young black British fiction is too often ignored. Diran Adebayo, like Zadie Smith and Courttia Newland, combines patois and lit-speak in his follow-up to Some Kind of Black . Set in a near-future, racially fraught London, it follows private investigator Boy as he undertakes to find a beautiful bride for a mysterious client within a week. This chivalric challenge takes him to the badlands of south London and the sophisticated Westside, as well as into his own troubled soul, as he tests out the charms of several contenders.

London may appear like LA-by-Thames, but it’s recognisable in its subtle manipulations and gentle, convincing satires on race relations, buppies and empty materialism. Embracing Dickens, the Wu Tang Clan, and even cricket as a drama set piece, this stylish urban myth, despite stumbling at the end through fleetness of foot, nevertheless reaffirms Adebayo’s considerable and supple talent.’
David Vincent, The Observer

‘Garlanded with awards for his first book Some Kind of Black, with his second, the young English novelist Diran Adebayo confirms his promise as a writer of vibrant originality…This is a book that sings: its prose a giddy mixture of English and patois, Runyonesque flights of descriptive fantasy and the musical cadences of street-slang, is by turns rhapsodic, exhilarating and poignant. Adebayo is a real find, and My Once Upon a Time is a tale for our times.’
Mick Brown, Daily Telegraph

‘This is detective fiction with an atmosphere of fairly tale and dark echoes of the Old Testament and African myth. Adebayo’s work makes its own world while never losing the hard edges of everyday life. His language has a conversational suppleness which can accomodate pathos, bewilderment, and moments of beauty. The book keeps surprising, never easily giving up its answers or letting the reader settle… In the end you’re in another country and with the Gods.’
Time Out

‘Adebayo teases, provokes,entertains, alarms, frightens and delights.’
Literary Review

‘Transporting an American-style crime novel into an English setting, and then mixing Afro-Caribbean street patois with more conventional literary prose, Adebayo attempts to reflect the complex heterogeneity of black Britain. The result is often outstanding – full of freshness, vibrancy and intelligence… it is clear that this author’s reputation will continue to grow.’
The Observer

Adebayo arrived on the literary scene with something of a flourish, winning a sackful of awards for his semi-autobiographical first novel, Some Kind of Black. Freed from personal baggage, this time his imagination really takes flight to create a kind of urban fairy tale – a ‘once upon a time’ – which draws on influences as diverse as African Yoruba mythology, Cinderella and the hard-boiled crime tales of Raymond Chandler. It’s narrated by Boy, a cynical, down-at-heel gumshoe struggling to make a living in the urban wastelands of London. Into this brutish world of drug dealers and knife-wielding thugs comes a fairy godfather and handsome prince rolled into one – a mysterious millionaire from the country who hires Boy to find him a ‘Queen’ to share his realm. Fantastic events follow, mingling sordid street violence with the transcendental in a sprawling narrative which shouldn’t work but does – brilliantly.
Kirkus UK

‘Boasting all the vibrant wit, imagination and emotion of a true classic, My Once Upon A Timeeffortlessly blends past myth with future realism in groundbreaking-style. Adebayo has created a Pilgrim’s Progress for our times.’
Straight No Chaser

‘Gritty yet enchanting…a melting pot of voices talking in Jamaican patois, south London streetspeak and educated Englishman – are what makes this a work of art. Yet for all it’s lyrical, sometimes magical qualities, this work sings with reality. Adebayo has written an important novel. His fable tells some very real, untold stories’
Sunday Express

‘Adebayo orchestrates Boy’s encounters without the stock features of most gumshoe thrillers….My Once Upon a Time gets its kicks by flushing out the extraordinary from the ordinary. The lugubrious realities of city life – imbue the narrative with a highly distinctive flavour which is enhanced by Adebayo’s fresh, idiosyncratic language. This is a very bold work. It is, as the title suggests, a story about storytelling as well as a thriller.’
Independent on Sunday

‘My Once Upon a Time is not so much a novel subverting a tired genre as one that turns it on its head…His greatest asset, beyond his clinical observational skills, is a prose style built around the rhythms of black speech and music…Boy’s quest is engrossing, an urban fable of considerable style and impact’
The Times

New Writing 12

‘Adebayo, who both edits and contributes to this volume, is a natural storyteller who creates a recognizable, intelligent and atmospheric picture of London and the dilemmas of the people who live in it…’
Times Literary Supplement

‘The British Council’s annual trawl of famous names and feisty newcomers again hauls in a tasty anthology…’
The Independent

Some interviews

The Guardian, 22 September 2001 – “Of Wodehouse and Wood Green”
Diran Adebayo tells John Cunningham about voicing the black experience. Click here to read.

The Observer, August 13, 1995 – Diran Adebayo and Marsha Hunt “The Undiscovered Country” by Kate Kellaway

Sunday Times Magazine, August 3, 1997 – ‘Relative Values’, Diran and Dotun Adebayo

The Evening Standard, August 1997

Modiano, Marko – “An Interview with Diran Adebayo”, ModernaSprêak96.1, 2002, p35-42

Wragge-Morley, Juliet – “Diran Adebayo.” Contemporary Writers, British Council Arts, 20 June, 2007

Some books / articles about the books

‘Babylon and Golden City’ – Suzanne Cuevas (Heidelberg University Press)

‘Black British Literature: Novels of Transformation’ – Mark Stein (Ohio University Press)

‘Vice Slang’ by Tom Dalzell, Terry Victor (Routledge)

‘London at the Millennium: Imaginary Constructions of the City in Zadie Smith’s ‘White Teeth’ (2000) and Diran Adebayo’s ‘My Once Upon a Time’ (2000) – Dagmar Dreyer, in ‘(Re-)Mapping London. Visions of the Metropolis in the Contemporary Novel in English’. (Editor: Vanessa Guignery. Paris: Éditions Publibook Université)

‘Write Black Write British: From Post Colonial to Black British Literature’ (Editor: Kadija Sesay, Hansib)

‘Black London, Black Oxford: Urban Movement in Diran Adebayo’s Some Kind of Black’ American Comparative Literature Association

‘Some Kind of White, Some Kind of Black’ – Zimitri Erasmus,
in ‘Un/settled Multiculturalisms’ (Editor: Barnor Hesse)