Friday, November 16, 2012
Forgotten Books: 42 Days For Murder by Roger Torrey
The good news is that that ONE, 42 Days for Murder, is available for free electronic download (that’s HERE), and a fine collection of shorter works, Bodyguard and Other Crime Dramas, is available from Black Dog Books (that’s HERE).
My first impression of Roger Torrey, based on some of his many stories for the Trojan magazine line (Spicy, Speed, Hollywood, Private and Super-Detective) was that he was one of the more successful emulators of Dashiell Hammett.
But I read 42 Days for Murder sandwiched in between a fistful of Continental Op stories and discovered that’s not the case. Torrey was his own man, with his own style, and it comes through strong in this novel.
Our hero is Shean Connell, a nightclub piano player turned private dick - and yeah, he does play piano, in a nightclub, in this book. The friend of a friend is having wife trouble (she’s leaving him and won’t say why), drawing Connell into a mess that pits him against mobsters, dope runners, white slavers and the bought-and-paid-for police force of Reno, Nevada. The 42 days of the title represents the six weeks it will take the friend-of-a-friend’s wife to get a divorce, so Connell has only that long to solve the case.
Torrey populates the book with vivid characters - a rich kid determined to learn the gumshoe business, a lousy sax-player, an unruly client and a line-up of dames ranging from dizzy to dangerous. It’s a smooth read, with just the right blend of violence and humor.
The novel was first published in 1938, and reprinted in this paperback edition sometime in the '40s.
The Black Dog book Bodyguard, meanwhile, features eleven stories, plus a great bibliography. The bibliography showed me that Torrey was a far more prolific pulp writer than I realized. He made over fifty appearances in Black Mask alone, another twenty in Detective Fiction Weekly and many more in various other mags, in addition to the hundred and thirty or so stories he wrote for the Trojan line.
I recommend you give this guy a try. In addition to these two books, you’ll find sample stories in The Hard-boiled Omnibus and The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps.
And you’ll find more Forgotten Books at pattinase.