From Brixton rioter to acclaimed author - Alex Wheatle at Leighton Buzzard event

A man who has transformed himself from Brixton rioter to award-winning author is the star guest at a literary event in Leighton Buzzard on Saturday.

By Richard Silverwood
Monday, 4th April 2022, 4:01 pm
Award-winning author Alex Wheatle and the cover of his latest book, 'Kemosha Of The Caribbean'.
Award-winning author Alex Wheatle and the cover of his latest book, 'Kemosha Of The Caribbean'.

Alex Wheatle will be appearing at the independent bookshop, Book Leighton Buzzard, of High Street Mews, from 10 am, signing copies of his latest novels.

Wheatle, 59, served a term in jail for his part in the infamous 1981 riots in Brixton, where he grew up.

He freely admits that, up to that point, his reading material had consisted only of comics, such as ‘Beano’, ‘Whizzer and Chips’ and ‘Scorcher’.

But while serving his sentence, he acquainted himself with work by well-known authors, including C.L.R. James and John Steinbeck, and it wasn’t long before he was releasing books of his own, mainly about his early life in Brixton.

His debut novel, ‘Brixton Rock’, landed an award and was adapted for the stage. And his career blossomed so readily that, in 2008, he received the MBE for services to literature.

Wheatle’s 2016 book, ‘Crongton Knights’. won the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, with judges hailing his writing style as “poetic, rhythmic and unique, remaking the English language with tremendous verve”.

His latest books, ‘Cane Warriors’ and ‘Kemosha Of The Caribbean’, a swashbuckling pirate adventure, have earned rave reviews.

‘Cane Warriors’, which was inspired by a real-life rebellion in British-owned slave plantations in Jamaica in 1760, has even been shortlisted for the prestigious Yoto Carnegie Medal.

Wheatle, who now lives in Leighton Buzzard, said: “I was very proud to discover I had been shortlisted. I don’t possess a traditional literary background, but my love of reading was always there.

"I wrote ‘Cane Warriors’ four years ago. I discovered my mother was raised on the same lands in the Jamaican parish where the slave revolt took place. I was compelled to write a narrative about this huge event.”

The story revolves around Moa, a 14-year-old boy who works in the cane fields and vows to fight for freedom alongside his fellow ‘cane warriors’.

"His story shows that heroes can emerge from any corner of the world,” said Wheatle.

"While writing the book, I learned about my own history and heritage. Readers have reacted and responded positively.

"In the future, I hope to write more fiction and plays, and also for TV and film.”