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Music for the Off-Key: Twelve Macabre Short Stories

Written by David Floyd for Morning Star on no date provided

In his first full-length book since his 2002 detective novel Snakeskin, Courttia Newland continues to take his writing in unexpected directions, taking contemporary black British fiction along with him. 

While Music for the Off-Key is subtitled ""twelve macabre short stories,"" the collection as a whole can be more accurately described as ""bleak,"" but, fortunately for the reader, Newland has the ability to make the darkest scenarios engaging, while also offering some hint of hope or resolution. 

Several of these stories are genuinely macabre, bringing literal and mental gore and the dark morality of Roald Dahl's short fiction to the streets and estates of Newland's native west London. 

Others are self-contained snapshots of west London life that recall his excellent Society Within. 

Newland's great success with Music is in using some of the conventions of short fiction to illustrate the challenges and concerns for black people in west London, while also using the characters and his understanding of their experiences to provide a fresher, sharper approach to the conventions of short fiction. Highly recommended.

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

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