LitBirthdays Rudolph Fisher

Happy Birthday Rudolph Fisher!

Rudolph Fisher (born May 9, 1897) (One source says birthdate was May 6, 1897) – African-American writer, musical arranger, physician

Read about Rudolph Fisher here and here

The Brown University Library collection of Rudolph Fisher papers:

“The Conjure-Man Dies, published in 1932, also received strong reviews, hailing Fisher as the first black mystery writer.”

Read the LA Review of Books about The Conjure Man Dies:!

It would not be until 1932, however, during the Harlem Renaissance, that the first full-fledged, non-serialized detective novel by an African American would be published. This was Rudolph Fisher’s The Conjure-Man Dies: A Mystery Tale of Dark Harlem. Fisher, a physician by trade, would die two years later, at age 37, but the one mystery novel he left behind is a remarkable work.

As in an English country house mystery, a large portion of the novel takes place at the crime scene, with the investigators questioning people, including a small circle of suspects. But Fisher’s book is no mere copy of a then popular form. Fisher writes an engrossing mystery complete with clues, red herrings, and surprising plot twists, and adapts it to his own concerns as a Harlem Renaissance novelist.

Fisher uses his mystery novel to concentrate on black life only. There are no white characters in The Conjure-Man Dies. But what Fisher does is use his mystery plot and his characters as a way to examine the social layers, language differences, and belief systems of a community. It’s a community that had not then been explored much by those living outside it.

Read an excerpt of The Conjure Man Dies.


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