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Music for the Off-Key: Twelve Macabre Short Stories

Written by Andrea Enisuoh for New Nation on no date provided

Fantasy, desire and betrayal; just some of the themes in Courttia Newland’s intriguing debut collection of short stories, Music for the Off Key. Newland has often been lauded for his ability to portray the lives of ordinary black people in a way that shuns the stereotypical. Here we are presented with 12 distinct characters, all rooted in the Black British experience and all representing just how broad that experience can be. 
Meet Welling, the forty something artist whose penchant for relationships with vulnerable young girls pushes him into signing an irreversible life-threatening contract. Or meet Marcus Jennings, whose annoying itch magically develops into the means for his escape from his stifling inner-city environment. In ‘Gold’ Laramie the vagrant, recklessly betrays the naïve and trusting Blaine, and in doing so misses out on perhaps his last chance of love and security.
Newland’s prose has a fluidity and resonance rarely seen in writing about inner-city life. With a great ear for both dialogue and description he entices us into a world where ordinary living provides the background for extraordinary experiences. It’s a credit to Newland’s storytelling that many of the stories straddle an uncertain line between the actual and the magical, and are all the more absorbing for it. Never judgemental and certainly never apologetic, Newland skilfully challenges modern day perceptions of what it means to be black in Britain.
A long awaited collection from an outstanding storyteller, Music for the Off Key is a memorable celebration of the surreal nature of everyday life.

This is a review of Music for the Off-Key: Twelve Macabre Short Stories

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