M is for Murder – Book Review

M is for Murder – by Roger Torrey

There are times I consider leaving Twitter, but then I am introduced to the face of an amazing dog, or a dazzling piece of graphic art, or a brand new author.

When M is for Murder popped up in an advertisement for a new book offered by the Pulp Fiction Book Store it caught my attention. I did some research on the author, and found that Roger Torrey was a pulp writer of note. A student of the hard-boiled crime and detective school, he would have a brief, but explosive career. From his first story in 1933 until his death in 1946, he pounded out over two hundred short stories, novellas, and one novel. His cast of characters was wide, and featured private dicks, bodyguards, cops, and U.S. Agents.

This eBook features two shorts, and one novella. Torrey’s writing is crisp and smooth, making each adventure move along without any dead space. Some of the phrases and crimes are dated but it doesn’t slow any of the text down. Everyone is tough in these tales of men who live each day in violent worlds. Surprisingly the stories feature very few female characters, unlike Spillane’s take on the same genre twenty years later.

In Justice Borrows Bullets, we follow an FBI agent as he tries to unravel the clues behind a milk racket (mentioned often in the old Untouchables TV series) that turned his partner into a cripple. It’s an interesting tale that uses forensic science to solve the crime rather than blackjacks or guns.

Detective O’Malley investigates a murder that leads him down a few wrong pathways until he sets a Gun-Trap for a Money-Killer, the second tale featured.

In the title novella, M is for Murder, we meet nice-guy Private Eye Joe Shannon. When Joe agrees to cover the shift of a sick friend at a warehouse used for storing military supplies, he finds himself involved in a murder and more.

            The man beside him moved so that I couldn’t see both his hands and I shoved the gun out a little farther at Leany.

            “He moves and you take it through the gut,” I said

            Leany gasped: “Sam, Sam!”

            He didn’t tell Sam what he wanted, but Sam knew. Sam came back in sight with both his hands up at shoulder height.

Shannon weaves his way through a bed of clues to undercover the killers and save the day for the military. There is gunplay,  a couple of dames who spell danger for our hero, and fist fights along the away. Our crooks don’t play fair and neither does our hero.

None of the stories in this book is a classic mystery. Also since I’m new to Torrey’s work these might not even been some of his best. They are, however, brisk enjoyable reads from a prolific, but little known writer from the glory days of magazines such as Black Mask, Detective Fiction Weekly, and Ten Detective Aces.

Pulp Fiction Book Store also features a couple of other Torrey collections: Black Murder – Three Stories by Roger Torrey, and Death Has An Escort – Two Stories by Roger Torrey

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