“A Thrilling Tale”: The magic and medicine of Rudolph Fisher

With his life cut short at 37, Rudolph Fisher left behind two novels, a theatrical adaptation, a host of short stories, and an X-ray practice. Langston Hughes called his friend “too brilliant and too talented to stay long on this earth.”

Sean Carlson’s feature in Motif Magazine excellently introduces this remarkable writer whose legacy remains under-celebrated to those unfamiliar with him:

2021 editions of Rudolph Fisher’s novels; image credits: HarperCollins Publishers

When, in 1932, Rudolph Fisher’s The Conjure-Man Dies was published, the journal Opportunity called the mystery “startling in its cleverness,” predicting the protagonist, a Harlem doctor with a detective’s eye, would reappear. That year, Agathie Christie spun her investigative hero, Hercule Poirot, into a seventh book and William Faulkner’s Light in August reflected the weight borne by a country whose stories were rife with racial classifications. Reissued this month by HarperCollins, Fisher’s work trod themes familiar to his contemporaries while breaking ground not only as the first known crime novel by a Black author, but also as the first to feature exclusively Black characters as they contend with a resurrected murder victim who promises, “He who knows completely the past and the present can deduce the inevitable future.” Continue reading here.

The City of Refuge: The Collected Stories of Rudolph Fisher, edited by John McCluskey, Jr., is the definitive collection of Fisher’s short stories, published by the University of Missouri Press, and on sale in celebration of Black History Month…

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