The HSW Literary Agency



Martin Mordecai

Martin Mordecai has led many lives: civil servant, diplomat, journalist, radio and television director, publisher, book distributor, and, through it all, husband and father. While acting out these various incarnations he has scribbled: diaries, stories, occasional poems, magazine articles and two novels, of which the young adult novel Blue Mountain Trouble is the first to be completed. It began life as a bedtime story to a child who is now in his thirties. During the writing of Blue Mountain Trouble, Mordecai received juried grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council and the Toronto Arts Council.  In 2000, Culture and Customs of Jamaica, a reference work co-written with his wife Pamela Mordecai, was published by Greenwood Press. Blue Mountain Trouble is published by Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic), New York.

Works on Offer:


Free chronicles life in Bellefield, a small Jamaican slave community that is connected to Atlantic shipping routes, over three months in 1831 and 1832. In 1831, the edifice of chattel slavery is crumbling, both from its internal weaknesses—economic, social, spiritual—and from external pressures, but those living in Bellefield are hedged round by the racial protocols of a slave society. But while the hierarchies of power in Bellefield may appear to be obvious, they in fact are not.

Born a slave, Jason Pollard now finds himself in charge of a slave plantation. Adebeh Cameron was raised in Nova Scotia, Canada, only to return to Jamaica on a family mission that automatically makes him a fugitive. Elorine Livingstone, a free-born independent businesswoman, tries to keep a low profile, but she finds herself drawn into public and private upheavals involving both Jason and Adebeh.

Rumours and talk of abolitionism rumble through the town. What begins as a sit-down strike on a few plantations quickly becomes the largest slave rebellion in the British Empire’s history, violently changing Jason, Adebeh, and Elorine through blood, love, and madness.

Free explores the subtleties and complexities of the relationships within, as well as between, slaves and masters, treating the two groups not as separate communities, but as a single organism distorted by the monster of slavery, where even the greatest intimacy revolves around power.

Manuscript forthcoming
Rights: World

Blue Mountain Trouble

Mordecai’s lyrical prose truly evokes a sense of the landscape and its inhabitants….”

-- Kirkus Supplements, Vol. 5, No. 10 – The Best Children’s Books of 2009

Jackson and Pollyread (so called because she talks and reads a lot) are twins, living in Top Valley, a village high up in the Blue Mountains of an unnamed island that is probably identifiable as Jamaica if you know the place or the way the people speak. They are the children of Royston (Poppa) and Maisie (Mama) Gilmore, small farmers and market vendors (as is most of the small community) just managing to make ends meet. Blue Mountain Trouble began life as a bedtime story to a child who is now in his thirties, and blossomed into what Kirkus has called one of the Best Children’s Books of 2009!

Manuscript available
Rights: Contact Arthur A. Levine Books

Praise for Blue Mountain Trouble by Martin Mordecai:

“Most delicious of all in this plum pudding of a book is the language…. Mordecai, without resorting to explanations or a glossary, teaches us how to hear and understand…. We might well reach the end of the book, a lovely quiet conversational coda about the souls of the dead and the unborn, without ever exactly knowing what a ‘duppy’ or an ‘obeah’ is, but Mordecai pays us the compliment of respecting that readers have more than one way of understanding a word and a concept. When human relationships are honest and precisely observed, as they are in this novel, everything else falls into place as newly familiar.”

-- Quill & Quire, starred review

“Mordecai’s balance of the ordinary and the supernatural is Virginia Hamilton–esque in its delicacy. Jackson and Pollyread emerge as distinct and entirely likable individuals, their mutual affection and love for their parents both endearing and believable…. A gorgeous snapshot of a locale and culture not seen enough in children’s books.”

-- Kirkus, starred review

“[Rich] in characterization with a beautifully realized setting. The elements of magic and mystery are intriguing, too, but best of all is the author’s use of wonderfully idiosyncratic, powerfully expressive, and downright musical Jamaican English.”

-- Booklist

“Through colorful narrative punctuated with regional colloquialisms and poetic language…the author captures the rhythm of the children’s daily life and effectively conveys their hopes, fears and family love as they look toward the future and learn secrets about the past.”

-- Publishers Weekly