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02 September, 2008

Book Review: Mr Sebastian and the Negro Magician by Daniel Wallace

Read and reviewed for Armchair Interviews

Henry Walker, the negro magician, is a weak, thin and shaky black magician. An un-coorordinated sort of person, every night he drops cards, misses his cues and fumbles his way through his act. His show, part of the attractions offered at Musgrove’s Chinese Circus, is the sort that gives those watching a feeling of well being because even if life is bad, it can’t be as bad as this guy’s. But one summer night when the circus is stopped outside a small town in rural Mississippi Henry disappears as unexpectedly as he originally appeared in Jeremiah Musgrove’s office looking for work four years earlier. Three white teenagers decide that the world needs one less black man around. What they discover about Henry Walker is that the magician is not exactly what he seems.

What follows is a tale that spans over decades. Told from the viewpoints of Henry’s fellow circus performers and others that his life has touched, the varied story takes us through the years. Back to when he first learned magic, and survived the tragic loss of his adored sister Hannah, through his troubled life. Each story of Henry’s past is told from a different viewpoint, and is just a little different from the one before, until as a reader you don’t know what to believe until the story wraps itself up. I found myself entranced with this book and found in it an enchanting story dealing with loss, identity, the limits of magic, and how a person’s actions can influence others. The story crashes over the reader, leaving them to wonder, did Henry Walker make a deal with the devil for his magic, or was he instead just a gifted magician who had been run down by time?

This was an extremely well crafted and exiting story that hooked me from its first page. I’ve had this author recommended to me over the years, but while familiar with his prior story Big Fish through the quirky film adaptation I had never read any of his books. Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician hooked my imagination, and I know I will be seeking out more of Daniel Wallace’s writing in the future.

Author's web site
Book format: paperback
Publishing date: 8 July 2008

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