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.