If my surname is any guide – and I am well aware that is an enormous assumption, and particularly so in the context of consideration of a book about slave-descended black Jamaicans in Britain – it is about 1000 years since my own forebears moved here from France with William the Conqueror's invasion force.

That is entirely irrelevant to the narrative – and what a fabulous example of storytelling this book is – of Bageye At The Wheel, but it is indicative of the way it is sure to turn your mind to thinking about your own roots.

Grant has already ploughed further back into his Jamaican heritage with a biography of Marcus Garvey and a superb and highly praised investigation of the roots of The Wailers – Bunny Livingston, Peter Tosh and Bob Marley – in last year's I & I: The Natural Mystics. This book, however, is the completion of the project that got him his start as a writer, a memoir of his own father that began life as a short story in Granta. Family is in every detail of the book. Just as Grant's picture of his dad is on the front of the jacket (standing beside a Mark 3 Cortina if I am not much mistaken, a 1970s set of wheels that may be the one that comes to sticky end inside), so the author's flyleaf portrait is the work of Grant's daughter. In fact the book ends, not long after its beginning, in 1972, with the separation of Grant's parents after the disaster of Bageye's attempt to get rich quickly. After he'd been shown the door (and an injunction to stay away), Grant's father will have had little positive press at 42 Castlecroft Road in Farley Hill, Luton, but this is still an affectionate portrait of a man whose life in the UK was less than plain sailing, often through his own poor navigation.

These pages are populated by a bunch of immigrant men who have bestowed Truman Capote-style nicknames on each other. There's the popular Summer Wear (really one Ian Dixon) with his unseasonal clothing, the fastidious Tidy Boots and the tardy Soon Come. The opening chapters are stand-alone short stories about the domestic adventures of Bageye and these "spars" and are almost reminiscent of Tom Sawyer. Some are not Jamaican, but dismissed as "smallees", from lesser Caribbean islands. One such is Jehovah's Witness Buckley Barker, for whom "it had all started to go terribly wrong when the fire and brimstone of the Old Testament was replaced by the moral slackness of the New Testament". Bageye sees himself as superior to many of his neighbours, and his son usually concurs, despite the lack of money at home and Dad's gruff and sometimes casually violent behaviour on the rare occasions he is visible after his night-shifts on the production line at Vauxhall Motors or at Mrs Knight's nearby gambling and drinking den.

The voices of the adults, and in particular Bageye and Grant's mother, Blossom, are perfectly captured in a rendition of their patois that delights in its vocabulary but is always lucid in meaning. The authorial voice might be in that fashionable nine to 11-year-old bracket, but it has the rarer psychological insight of a writer remembering himself as a child. Of course that poses a question about the accuracy of his precise recollection of exchanges some 40 years ago, but that is unlikely to bother the reader over much. In fact a chapter like The Art Of Sticking Up Ceiling Tiles cries out to be read aloud.

Even when things take a darker turn, humour is never far way. Having immersed us in the atmosphere of the Grant home, bursting at the seams with Blossom and Bageye's growing "pickney" but where certain rooms are still off-limits, as well as giving us a child's-eye view of the topography of the area, events tumble out of control when Bageye tries to finance his sons' private education by dealing in ganja. It spells the end of a young man's relationship with his dad, but those early years have now produced some fine late fruit.

Bageye at the Wheel

Colin Grant, Jonathan Cape, £16.99