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    Description

    Rudolph Fisher. The Conjure-Man Dies. A Mystery Tale of Dark Harlem. New York: Covici-Friede, [1932]. First edition, presentation copy, inscribed by the author in the year of publication on the front free endpaper: "For Giles W. Mead, / my friend, another minor / opus is hereby inscribed, / in the hope that he will / not only be entertained / but will see the answer to a / mystery other than the / one described. / Rudolph Fisher / New York / 28-VII-32." Octavo (7.5 x 5.125 inches; 190 x 130 mm.). [iv], 316 pages. Publisher's pale yellow cloth, spine lettered in black, front board with a single vertical black rule; top edge stained yellow, others rough-trimmed. In the original dust jacket. Very gentle spine lean; small bit of fraying to the front board; top corners softly bumped. Endpapers lightly darkened from binding glue; light browning of the text block. Dust jacket edges worn with chips to the crown and edges of the rear fold, occasional minor nick or closed tear; chips and tears previously mended by tape, since removed but not before causing some discoloration (two pieces along bottom edge still attached); rear panel somewhat soiled; folds and edges browned. A near fine copy in a very good jacket. A landmark book, frequently cited as the first mystery written by an African-American. The author's second novel. Rare, with no auction results listed in Rare Book Hub, and a single copy tracked down in a circa-2012 dealer catalog in a restored jacket. Rudolph Fisher was a practicing physician and associated with The Harlem Renaissance; he died at the age of 37 after an abdominal surgery, two years after this book was published. From the KoKo Collection.

    More Information:

    "Other African-American works that relied upon pulp genres were also overlooked due to either their popular form or deviance from the ethos of the Harlem Renaissance; for example, Rudolph Fisher's The Conjure Man Dies, which has been neglected except as one of the first black detective stories (it undoubtedly offers the first black urban detective). As a result, it has been written off by critics as only a detective story and beneath the considerable talents of Fisher, whom Langston Hughes called the 'whitiest of the New Negroes.' But...Fisher's aim is more apparent: to write a popular and sensation genre novel that humanizes African-Americans, hence he uses the pulp form propagandistically. The Conjure Man Dies is therefore a more sophisticated work than Harlem Renaissance critics have allowed. Maria Balshaw recently wrote that The Conjure Man Dies, despite playing 'fast and loose with tradition, urbanity, high and low culture, rationalism and primitivism,' has been long overlooked 'perhaps because there seems so little context for understanding an African American detective novel in this period; perhaps more because its 'inherent variety' of form makes it a difficult text to classify or respond to.'" (David M. Earle. Re-Covering Modernism. Pulps, Paperbacks, and the Prejudice of Form. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing, 2009, p. 124).





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