Mais was perhaps the most important writer to emerge from the nationalist movement which began with the labour rebellion of 1938. His play of that year, George William Gordon, which focused on the Morant Bay Rebellion of 1865, played an important role in the rehabilitation of the eponymous character, who was in conventional colonial history described as a rebel and traitor, and who would be proclaimed, on the centenary of the rebellion, a National Hero.
Mais became a writer for the weekly newspaper, Public Opinion, which was associated with the People's National Party. A column he wrote for the newspaper, entitled "Now We Know", critical of British colonial policy resulted in his imprisonment for sedition.
This period of imprisonment was instrumental in the development of his first novel, The Hills Were Joyful Together, a work focused on working-class life in the Kingston of the 1940s. Mais's second novel, Brother Man, was a sympathetic exploration of the emergent Rastafari movement.
While Mais's first two novels had urban settings, his third novel, Black Lightning centred on an artist living in the countryside.
Mais was also known as a poet, and showed a fine command of lyricism, and a short-story writer. His short stories were collected in a volume entitled Listen, The Wind, thirty-two years after his death.
Mais's novels have been republished posthumously several times, an indication of his continuing importance to Caribbean literary history. He also had an influence on younger writers of the pre-independence period, notably John Hearne.
Beautiful Place. Amazing People.
See you in Jamaica.