RARA-AVIS: Early Daly and Late Torrey

From: Moorich2@aol.com
Date: 27 Jan 2004

It has been awhile since I posted here. I pulled out THE NIGHT MAYOR by Kim Newman but I just wasn't in the mood for SF, even hardboiled.

I have been roaming the byways of eBay and turned up one oddity recently. I was the only bidder on an Argosy pulp date June 16, 1923, no doubt because the issue was coverless. I bid my token bid because that issue contains a story by Carroll John Daly AND it was in the June 1923 issue of Black Mask that Daly introduced Race Williams in "Knights of the Open Palm."

So the Argosy arrived yesterday and I read Daly's "The Lexicon of Youth" and I can report that it is dreadful beyond belief. Meant to be a funny, light story, it is tediously ponderous or perhaps ponderously tedious. Whatever talent Daly had, that month in 1923 it all went into the Race Williams story.

Another purchase came in today: the digest "Detective Story Annual 1948." Similar to the Standard Magazines' pulp "Top Detective Annual" (which reprinted from the Thrilling magazines from a decade or more back) this annual contains reprints from the Street & Smith detective magazines from 1944 to 1946.

I bought this one because it contains a story by one of the lost Black Mask masters Roger Torrey. The story is "She Sang of Murder" and originally appeared in "Street & Smith's Detective Story Magazine in the March 1946 issue. That makes it very late Torrey. The big news for me was the happy surprise that this story is a long novelette featuring Shean Connell, the hardboiled PI/piano player hero of Torrey's one novel 42 DAYS FOR MURDER, which I praised so highly here some months ago. Because the only Shean Connell stories I knew of were trapped in very expensive issues of Black Mask I despaired of reading them unless I hit the lotto. Now I have one in hand at a reasonable price. I will report on it shortly but I love the opening with Shean at a nightclub piano:

"Bobby Long was doing her ten o'clock turn and I was sweating it out. She had a weird little voice and she used it in a weird little way, hanging onto every note she got within striking distance of. There weren't many of them because she had as much idea of pitch as an alley cat.

"A piano player needed a crystal ball to follow her."

Man, I do like this guy Roger Torrey, who made a few bucks pounding the ivories in clubs and tells a story with confidence and a nice touch. I'll give a report after I finish it.

Richard Moore

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