Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician
By Daniel Wallace
(Doubleday, Hardcover, 9780385521093, 272pp.)
Publication Date: July 3, 2007
From the author of Big Fish comes this haunting, tender story that weaves a tragic secret, a mysterious meeting with the Devil, and a family of charming circus freaks recounting the extraordinary adventures of their friend Henry Walker, the Negro Magician.
In the middle of a dusty Southern town, in the middle of the twentieth century, magician Henry Walker entertains crowds at Jeremiah Musgrove’s Chinese Circus. Though not the world-famous illusionist he once was, Henry, with his dark skin and green eyes, is still something of a novelty to the patrons who pay a dime to see his show. Most of the patrons, anyway.
As the novel begins, one May night in 1954, Henry is confronted by three menacing white teens, and soon thereafter disappears. With his fate uncertain, his friends from the circus—Jenny the Ossified Girl, Rudy the Strong Man, and JJ the Barker—piece together what they know of Henry's mysterious and extraordinary life. The result is a spellbinding adventure that begins when ten-year-old Henry meets the devil, who gives him the art of magic and then steals the one thing that means the most to him. As Henry’s friends recount the remarkable adventures and incredible heartache that result from this childhood encounter, only one thing seems certain about Henry's life: nothing is as it appears.
Brimming with surprising twists and turns, and peopled with a literal circus of memorable characters, Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician is Daniel Wallace at his finest. As in his beloved debut, Big Fish, Wallace once again conjures a wondrous tale with an emotional punch. This is a story of love and loss, identity and illusion, fate and choice; a story that will capture your heart and your imagination and not let go until the very last page.
DANIEL WALLACE is the author of Big Fish, Ray in Reverse, and The Watermelon King. His stories have been published in many magazines and anthologies, including the Yale Review, the Massachusetts Review, Shenandoah, Glimmer Train, New Stories from the South, and The Best American Short Stories. His illustrated work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times. He teaches at the University of North Carolina and lives in Chapel Hill.
“Daniel Wallace performs strange magic. Even when the trick is done and we have been invited onstage to inspect the apparatus, the story is still inexplicable, wondrous, beautiful.”
— Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler's Wife
“In his new novel, Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician, Daniel Wallace once again amazes, dazzles, and surprises, proving without a doubt that he is one of the most imaginative and original writers of our times. Bravo!”
— Fannie Flagg, author of Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven
“Daniel Wallace has given us a wholly realized novel—inventive, richly layered, witty, touching, dexterous, and engrossing from beginning to end. Here is a book that will leave its magical imprint on your heart.”
— Tim O'Brien, author of The Things They Carried
“Daniel Wallace has written a glorious novel that shimmers, thrills, and twists like carnival glass. You will be in awe of this story with turns so surprising, you'll feel like a kid at his first circus. Daniel creates a world suspended in time with a family of characters you can't forget. Dreamy. Magical. Haunting.”
Adriana Trigiani, author of the Big Stone Gap series
“A masterly novel about love and illusion, friendship and sacrifice.”
“Daniel Wallace is busy rewriting the South and race and magic and love, and I’m delighted to be along for the ride. This novel is ten times more enjoyable than Cirque du Soleil.”
— Randall Kenan, author of The Fire This Time