#151: Harper Collins’ The Detective Club Republishing The Conjure-Man Dies (1932) by Rudolph Fisher!

conjure-man-dies

Well, well, well, more good news: following the emergence of Erle Stanley Gardner’s missing Cool and Lam novel, it transpires that another classic — and one I’ve personally been trying to find for a while now — is also due back into circulation.

The Conjure-Man Dies by Rudolph Fisher, widely understood to be the first detective novel published by an African-American author, and containing the seemingly-impossible disappearance and reappearance of the body in question, is being reprinted by Harper Collins’ resurrected Detective Club imprint at the start of next year.

When the body of N’Gana Frimbo, the African conjure-man, is discovered in his consultation room, Perry Dart, one of Harlem’s ten black police detectives, is called in to investigate. Together with Dr Archer, a physician from across the street, Dart is determined to solve the baffling mystery, helped and hindered by Bubber Brown and Jinx Jenkins, local boys keen to clear themselves of suspicion of murder and undertake their own investigations.

The Conjure-Man Dies (1932) was the very first detective novel written by an African-American. A distinguished doctor and accomplished musician and dramatist, Rudolph Fisher was one of the principal writers of the Harlem Renaissance, but died in 1934 aged only 37. With a complex and gripping plot, vividly drawn characters and unique cultural elements, Fisher’s witty novel is a genuine crime classic from one of the most exciting eras in the history of black fiction.

THIS DETECTIVE STORY CLUB CLASSIC includes an archival introduction by New York crime writer Stanley Ellin, plus Fisher’s last published story, John Archer’s Nose’, in which Perry Dart and Dr Archer return to solve the case of a young man murdered in his own bed.

As I say, this has been much sought-after in my house for a little while now (other printings exist, but they’re a touch outside my pay grade), and the re-emergence of yet another classic-era puzzle — and am impossible crime, to boot — is always going to go over well in my neck of the woods.

Roll on January 2017!

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14 thoughts on “#151: Harper Collins’ The Detective Club Republishing The Conjure-Man Dies (1932) by Rudolph Fisher!

  1. I didn’t realise the book was so hard to get a hold of. I must have been lucky when I got my copy a few years ago. Fairly sure I enjoyed reading it, though hadn’t logged it as a locked room/impossible crime one. One which needs to join my ever high mental list of books I need to re-read. Glad it is getting reprinted.

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    • It’s not rocking-horse-faeces rare, but typically I’ve found it going for £25-ish and am reluctant to part with that for pretty much any book…I lack the commitment of Puzzle Doctor or Noah!

      But I do love how frequently someone in this community goes “Gah! Have been looking for this for aaaaages!” only for someone else to chip in with “Oh, really? Wow, I’ve had that for years and, yeah, I guess it’s kinda okay”. Dammit, we’re such a bunch of bloody nerds…

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      • Oh I got mine for under a fiver. It is a reprint from the 1990s by The X Press. I’ll be interested to see what you make of it as it isn’t a puzzle focused book as far as I can remember, which may or may not affect your locked room/impossible crime element. Then again I can’t remember the solution – which is probably a good thing if I plan on re-reading it.

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        • If the book is a locked room, it escaped the attention of Adey. It’s not listed in his Locked Room Mysteries. Premise sounds interesting, but I think I’ll await reviews from you and others on this one before making a decision.

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        • Yeah, I’m especially curious now because I distinctly got the impression it has a hefty puzzle element (which Kate seems to refute) and an impossible dis- and re-appearance (which Adey seems to refute). Ha, knowing my luck it’ll be a retelling of Chesterton’s ‘The Invisible Man’ where the postman is an orang-utan and the narrator lies about two-third of the events that he relates in orderto hide his own involvement. Frankly, it’s no less than I deserve after getting my hopes up so much…

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        • Didn’t mean to burst your bubble, it’s just that if it did have a ‘hefty puzzle element’ I’m just not remembering it. I wouldn’t despair just yet, my memory could be at fault. Your welcome to borrow my copy if you don’t want to take a risk buying a full price copy.

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        • Appreciate the offer, many thanks! Let’s see — if I haven’t got round to it before BFtL 2017 then I may take you up on it…!

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        • See, this is why I shouldn’t hanker after unavailable books, and just be happy with what I can find…unrealistic expectations (and possibly a slight distorting in my own mind over time…)!

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    • I have a copy, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to get to it any time soon 🙂 Seem to remember Kate reviewing it if you want to now whether it sounds like your ind of thing…

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    • Dunno if you’ll see this, Jonathan, but I’ll likely be reading this book next when I’m done with the Rawson I’m currently on. Anything I may or may not write about it depends on the contents of the book, but I’ll definitely be getting to it in the next week or less (probably less…).

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  2. Pingback: #212: The Conjure-Man Dies (1932) by Rudolph Fisher | The Invisible Event

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