Racial tension

Ritualistic murder in 1920s America: Cahokia Jazz, by Francis Spufford, reviewed

Writers dealing with that knottiest of problems in fiction – to what extent can they describe cultures and societies not their own without appropriation, an insulting level of ignorance and/or launching a social media storm – are going about it in different ways. The latest novel by Sebastian Faulks is set in the future (where, pleasingly, everyone still needs a coat, phew). Val McDermid has gone the other way and returned to smoky, bottom-pinching years, starting with 1979. Francis Spufford’s solution to writing about race – and race in America at that – is to propose an alternate reality, invent an intensely detailed city to do it in, and extrapolate