I heartily recommend #TheAwkwardBlackMan by Walter Mosley and though I was given an ARC by #NetGalley as described below, I intend to buy a paper copy for my bookshelf.

Have you ever seen a piano setting out on the street unattended? Little girls run up to it, giggling and do their scales, maybe some boys chase them off and hit a few dark chords. Then a guy sits down and runs some riffs and everyone stops–they just heard a bit of magic on the air; but the guy was only testing the piano, only warming up his fingers. Then he shoots some notes out to the left to see if the air will hold them, then he sends some down by the sidewalk where the pigeons strut, and he sends a few more notes to circle through the air. He’s just playing–testing–but he’s drawn a crowd because even his warm-ups, his titles, his first lines, are hypnotic delights. I imagine inevitably he picks one out of the air, a composition, a characterization–a string of words that sings to him, the voice he was looking for, and perhaps an Easy Rawlins is born.

These seventeen short stories comprise a masterclass in characterization as Mosley writes his so-called awkward Black men into various realities. I delighted in reading cases of stolen and/or mistaken identity, a western and a couple of science fiction stories, along with tales of genius and extraordinary intelligence, office workers and professors–and the too often unused college education.

Mosley’s magic was in full force by the time I hit Breath, a nightmare that is at times teetering on the border of Poe’s premature burial. Breath is followed quickly by Reply to a Dead Man, the story of a company that will deliver your letters a specified period of time after your death, which is great for those things you’re afraid to tell someone while you’re still alive–perhaps for fear they might kill you? Or for fear of something worse?

Another one of my favorites was Haunted–there’s a rumor that authors never tire of rejected-author revenge stories–could that be true?

The Sin of Dreams explores the location of the soul and precisely what the feeling is that makes us believe we have a soul.

An Unlikely Series of Conversations is the final story. You’ll have to read this for yourself to understand why a bank teller would turn down a VP position at a Wall Street investment firm. Warning, once you wade in it may be deeper than you expected.

Thanks to Grove Press, #NetGalley, and the author of #TheAwkwardBlackMan for the ARC in exchange for my honest feedback, this is it!