Based on the true story of the last man executed in Cardiff, Wales, The Fortune Men tells the harrowing tale of Mahmood Mattan, a young sailor wrongfully accused of a brutal killing. Author Nadifa Mohamed blends beautiful prose with gut-wrenching reality as she lays bare the reality of this mishandled justice. This book and conversation are a must for those seeking to understand the enduring legacy of colonialism, especially within BIPOC communities.
Royal Society of Literature fellow Nadifa Mohamed joined O’Henry Prize winner Jai Chakrabarti for a gripping discussion of systemic injustice, humanity, and innocence.
The Fortune Men
By Nadifa Mohamed
Published by Knopf
In Cardiff, Wales in 1952, Mahmood Mattan, a young Somali sailor, is accused of a crime he did not commit: the brutal killing of Violet Volacki, a shopkeeper from Tiger Bay. At first, Mahmood believes he can ignore the fingers pointing his way; he may be a gambler and a petty thief, but he is no murderer. He is a father of three, secure in his innocence and his belief in British justice.
But as the trial draws closer, his prospect for freedom dwindles. Now, Mahmood must stage a terrifying fight for his life, with all the chips stacked against him: a shoddy investigation, an inhumane legal system, and, most evidently, pervasive and deep-rooted racism at every step.
Under the shadow of the hangman’s noose, Mahmood begins to realize that even the truth may not be enough to save him. A haunting tale of miscarried justice, this book offers a chilling look at the dark corners of our humanity.
Nadifa Mohamed was born in 1981 in Hargeisa, Somaliland. At the age of four she moved with her family to London. She is the author of Black Mamba Boy and The Orchard of Lost Souls. She has received both The Betty Trask Award and the Somerset Maugham Award, and in 2013, she was named as one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists. Her work appears regularly in the Guardian and the BBC. A fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, she lives in London.
Photo Credit: Sean and Seng
Jai Chakrabarti is the author of the novel A Play for the End of the World (Knopf), which won the National Jewish Book Award for debut fiction, is long-listed for the PEN/Faulkner Award and was a fall 2021 Oprah Magazine Pick. He is also the author of the forthcoming story collection A Small Sacrifice for an Enormous Happiness (Knopf, 2023). His short fiction has appeared in numerous journals and has been anthologized in The O. Henry Prize Stories, The Best American Short Stories, and awarded a Pushcart Prize and also performed on Selected Shorts by Symphony Space. His nonfiction has been published in the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Writer’s Digest, Berfrois, and LitHub. He was an Emerging Writer Fellow with A Public Space and received an MFA in Creative Writing from Brooklyn College and is a trained computer scientist. Born in Kolkata, India, he now lives in New York with his family.