Friday, June 25, 2004

A good while back Richard Moore gave a big thumbs' up to Roger Torrey's 42 DAYS FOR MURDER on rara-avis. I'd heard about the book before and wanted to read it, so when it turned up on eBay, I nabbed a copy.

Torrey is one of those BLACK MASK writers like Paul Cain about whom not much is known. There's no mention of him in my editions of 20TH CENTURY CRIME AND MYSTERY WRITERS. He wrote a number of short stories for BLACK MASK, but only one novel.

The book is fast-paced, which you'd expect from a BLACK MASK GUY, and there's a bit of forced humor that might not have seemed so forced back in the day. But I didn't really see the point of the narrator's teen-aged partner. He doesn't do much to advance the story, and his "romance" didn't amuse me. The plot seems simple: a man whose wife has gone to Reno for a divorce wants the p.i. to find out why. Naturally it gets a lot more complicated, and the resolution is pretty hard to believe. That being said, I enjoyed reading the novel. Breezy narration, some interesting characters that are more complex than you might have thought at the beginning, and a brisk pace. Not a classic, maybe, but worth looking for if you like the old pulpsters. And I do.


Anonymous said...

Hi, Bill--

Just discovered your blog. Am I the only one who doesn't know what blog stands for? Perhaps so.

Anyway, on Roger Torrey. I'm a die-hard Torrey fan. For some reason I've put off reading 42 DAYS TO MURDER, I think because Torrey's weak point was sustaining a plot once he got it off the ground--might seem like a major weakness except for his notable strength: no one, I mean NO ONE, wrote tougher first-person private eye fiction that Roger Torrey in the years between Hammett and Spillane. His invariably Irish eyes are droll, hard-drinking tough guys, and his scenes of violence are compressed, sharply drawn and mean as a .45 slug in the gut. Frankly, I never cared much his BLACK MASK stories. Like Lester Dent, Torry was a unique writer who straight-jacketed his style to write like Hammett for Joe Shaw. But there are more than 100 pulp magazine novellas from, say, 1941-c. 1947 (usually for SPEED DETECTIVE and PRIVATE DETECTIVE, both low rent markets) where Torrey was a regular and popular cover-name writer. He also wrote short stories/novellas as "John Ryan." These stories are more free-wheeling and darkly humorous in a way that his MASK stories don't even approach. The best bit I've ever read about Torrey was a personal reminiscence by Steve Fisher in THE ARMCHAIR DETECTIVE, maybe 30 years ago. Fisher remembered RT as a hardnosed, down-at-heels alkie from Oregon, who claimed he was raised in a whorehouse and who drank himself to death while living with a romance pulp writer somewhere in Florida in the late '40s.

Anonymous said...


Still figuring out this blog stuff. That Torrey post was from me, and I'm Steve Mertz.