Mosley (Trouble Is What I Do) delivers a vibrant collection of 17 luminous stories, many with a focus on downtrodden and troubled protagonists. In “The Good News Is,” a man plagued by weight issues starts losing weight. While his new confidence and appearance boost his love life, a diagnosis of abdominal cancer, the cause of his weight loss, puts a wrench in things. Almost as desperate is the Black mail room worker in “Pet Fly,” who decides to branch outside his comfort zone and romance the “white girl” at work, with disastrous results. Albert, the loser alcoholic hero of “Almost Alyce,” winds up on top after partnering with a shoplifter by distracting security. Frank, the doting husband in “Leading from the Affair,” is so unhinged and damaged from the betrayal of his unfaithful wife that he commissions two therapists to untangle his misery. A fresh commentary on diversity and racial equality comes courtesy of the serpentine closing tale, “An Unlikely Series of Conversations,” in which a bank teller aches for a new job, but decides that the one he has comes with perks he was unaware of. Each entry is a testament to Mosley’s enduring literary power. (Sept.)
Praise for The Awkward Black Man:
“The tough-minded and tenderly observant Mosley style remains constant throughout these stories even as they display varied approaches from the gothic to the surreal. The range and virtuosity of these stories make this Mosley’s most adventurous and, maybe, best book.”Kirkus Reviews
“Mosley delivers a vibrant collection of 17 luminous stories, many with a focus on downtrodden and troubled protagonists…Each entry is a testament to Mosley’s enduring literary power.”Publishers Weekly
“These 17 old and more recent stories...feature distinctive characters, plus Mosley's jazzy prose and extraordinary insights. It's a tender, sad and gripping collection.”AARP
“Fifty-plus books into his career, Mosley hasn't run out of inspired plots, and his interest in social issues remains acute, although he editorializes with the lightest of touches; The Awkward Black Man teems with sharp, quippy dialogue and not a sentence suffers the indignity of a frill…This primo story collection by an author best known for his crime fiction reaffirms his place in the literary pantheon.”Shelf Awareness
“Master storyteller Mosley has created a beautiful collection about Black men who are, indeed, awkward in their poignant humanity…Mosley's is an essential American voice and his portraits of Black men will have profound resonance.”Booklist, starred review
Praise for Walter Mosley:
“When reviewing a book by Walter Mosley, it’s hard not to simply quote all the great lines. There are so many of them. You want to share the pleasures of Mosley’s jazz-inflected dialogue and the moody, descriptive passages reminiscent of Raymond Chandler at his best.”―Washington Post, on Down the River Unto the Sea
“A daring, beautifully wrought story that incorporates elements of allegory, meditative reflection and the lilt of lyric tragedy. ”―Los Angeles Times, on The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey
“With Mosley, there’s always the surprise factor―a cutting image or a bracing line of dialogue.”―New York Times Book Review, on And Sometimes I Wonder About You
“Mosley’s invigorating, staccato prose and understanding of racial, moral and social subtleties are in full force.”―Seattle Times, on Known to Evil
“Mosley is the Gogol of the African-American working class―the chronicler par excellence of the tragic and the absurd.”―Vibe
“[Mosley] has a special talent for touching upon these sticky questions of evil and responsibility without getting stuck in them.”―New Yorker
This volume gathers 17 stories by Mosley, some never before published, others having appeared in venues like The New Yorker, all providing portraits of remarkable black characters embedded in life's complications. Note that Mosley is not just a Mystery Writers of America Grand Master but an O. Henry Award winner whose literary tour de force, John Woman, was long-listed for the 2019 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction.
A grandmaster of the hard-boiled crime genre shifts gears to spin bittersweet and, at times, bizarre tales about bruised, sensitive souls in love and trouble.
In one of the 17 stories that make up this collection, a supporting character says: “People are so afraid of dying that they don’t even live the little bit of life they have.” She casually drops this gnomic observation as a way of breaking down a lead character’s resistance to smoking a cigarette. But her aphorism could apply to almost all the eponymous awkward Black men examined with dry wit and deep empathy by the versatile and prolific Mosley, who takes one of his occasional departures from detective fiction to illuminate the many ways Black men confound society’s expectations and even perplex themselves. There is, for instance, Rufus Coombs, the mailroom messenger in “Pet Fly,” who connects more easily with household pests than he does with the women who work in his building. Or Albert Roundhouse, of “Almost Alyce,” who loses the love of his life and falls into a welter of alcohol, vagrancy, and, ultimately, enlightenment. Perhaps most alienated of all is Michael Trey in “Between Storms,” who locks himself in his New York City apartment after being traumatized by a major storm and finds himself taken by the outside world as a prophet—not of doom, but, maybe, peace? Not all these awkward types are hapless or benign: The short, shy surgeon in “Cut, Cut, Cut” turns out to be something like a mad scientist out of H.G. Wells while “Showdown on the Hudson” is a saga about an authentic Black cowboy from Texas who’s not exactly a perfect fit for New York City but is soon compelled to do the right thing, Western-style. The tough-minded and tenderly observant Mosley style remains constant throughout these stories even as they display varied approaches from the gothic to the surreal.
The range and virtuosity of these stories make this Mosley’s most adventurous and, maybe, best book.