The Leeds-based publishing house, Peepal Tree Books, has made a genuinely pioneering contribution to Caribbean literature in the books it has published, both in their outstanding quality and the sheer quantity of their output. These books are beautiful artifacts in themselves, with evocative and imaginatively designed covers, always finished in a way which dignifies the creative works even more and gives them a ‘feel’ and look of real distinction which matches their content. And all this at a price which is below the mass-published price of contemporary novels - emphasising Peepal Tree’s all-round publishing achievement. From Guyana on the South American mainland to Jamaica, Peepal Tree’s writers come and there is a seminal sense of Caribbean unity about the publisher’s list.
...Finally there are Hazel D. Campbell’s uniquely magical stories in Singerman. In the first, title story, another evangelist with US and South African links has his Jamaican crusade overthrown by the local singer-hero’s stage intervention, and his singing of a Caribbean song of love and struggle for the Haitian people, with the goatskin drum ‘sobbing and the sitar wailing for Haiti and all the oppressed people everywhere.’
It is a magnificent story with Singerman accepting his commitment to ‘sing till man stop kill off man and everywhere the children have enough food to eat and can feel like they is people too.’ There is more than an element of the Colombian writer across the Caribbean waters, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, in the writing of Campbell. Yet the poetry of her stories is concretely and lovingly Jamaican, as she describes a shamed husband’s ‘soul curling up like a snail strewn with salt’.
The genius of Caribbean creative culture is expressed within these three books, and it is Peepal Tree that has made them available to us, a truth that merits both our admiration and custom.