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Book: Mystical Speed

Author: Hubert Guscott

Publisher: Outskirts Press, Inc. 2013

What is likely to happen when five young men: Long-Pants, Joe, White-Shoes, Trini and Leroy embark on a trip to Jamaica to find the elixir of sprinting? What makes Jamaican runners so competitive? What ingredient produces world champions time and time again? Hard work, determination and grit, for sure. Or is it? What about their food, their language or even their dance moves?

To these American lads it is a phenomenon, an encryption that could only be decoded through careful study and even dreams. Not overly satisfied with their coach, they spy on other Jamaican coaches keenly looking for that formula. In one hilarious scene, White-Pants records an exchange between a coach and his athletes. The verbal interaction is incomprehensible, gibberish. “Morning missa buddy buddy. Mi nuh buddy fi you. Who ben tell you. Ten ten a sah. Sah, Sah bye yah. Yah bye yah see. See a go. Go go Falls. Falla, falla ma. Ma ma, jiggy. Jiggy. Jiggy. Flash”

The boys jump up and down. “This is definitely a code.”

Author Hubert Guscott shrouds the simple truths of industry and faith with esotericism, the occult and folklore. Yes, it borders on the bizarre at intervals, but meaningfulness always seeps through. The result is a piece of story-telling – buoyant, jocular and captivating. In a work peppered with Jamaican argot that at times befuddles the American aspirants; the reader is taken on a literary joyride that is memorably flippant and equally instructive.

It is paradox that works for Guscott. He fuses reality with the phantasmagoric, honouring the title to the hilt. Why the supernatural? One can only speculate. Maybe the boys’ encounter with the spirit world increases their faith, unearthing supreme courage to succeed? Maybe, unrivalled accomplishment in this world is driven by an unseen force, a daemon or muse who guides us. Mystical Speed supports such theories and more.

Little in the way for character development

Admittedly, there is little in the way for character development except for the womanising Long-Pants and the swindling Brother Anancy. Then again, there is little need for extraneity in such a work. Barring a rendezvous and an aborted conquest turned chaotic with a girl that Long-Pants hardly knows, the script stays on course as these five young men comb Jamaica, even falling prey to the duplicitous Brother Anancy as they obsess over becoming the world’s fastest athletes. Mystical Speed is a rare candidate for adaptation – a panoramic look at Caribbean culture – electric, laissez-faire, unpretentious but deeply philosophical, authentic and aphorismic.

Hubert Guscott

Hubert Guscott

The lessons learned transcend sports and culture. They are immutable and pedagogical in all endeavours.

The boys are gullible, naive and trusting but are simple and genuine. In one dizzying scenario, the boys are convinced that Jamaican speedsters are wired by an electrical impulse. Observing ace sprinter Marcus descending the hills with bag in hand singing, “Bagga wire and hold them Marcus,” White-Shoes shouts, “That is the secret, the wires are in the bag.”And in a far more perilous episode, they are protected by the ghosts of Cudjoe and the Maroons against the sheer terror of rolling calves and the ghosts of plantation owners. It is a scene in the mountains where they had sought the magic of Jamaican yams courtesy of the wiles of Brother Anancy. In the climactic battle where biblical invocations resound and Psalm 91 is recited over and over, an apocalyptic battle between good and evil ensues. The boys emerge victorious but shaken.


Their faith and confidence strengthen after the encounter. They attend a religious service before returning to America where they handsomely win at the renowned County championship. But for all their theories and enquiries, they eventually realise that the Holy Grail or the Philosopher’s Stone lies within, waiting to be discovered. That our ability to conjure superhuman will isn’t alien. That, maybe with some assistance from our “guardians,” it is indeed very possible,

“Oh, what an eclectic group of good young men determined to humble the competition. More importantly, though, is their obedience to their mothers. In turn, their parents lovingly acquiesce to their wish to travel in Jamaica. Here, I too am moved to cite scripture: “I was once young but now I am old but never have I seen the righteous forsaken or their seeds begging bread.” (Psalm 37:25.)

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