Pulp Fiction Book Store Roger Torrey - Hard-boiled 1

Roger Torrey is not a name most people are familiar with. Even many lovers of pulp crime fiction don’t know of him. And yet his stories were featured on the covers of magazines like Black Mask, Detective Fiction Weekly, Dime Detective and other magazines over 100 times. What is even more compelling is that Roger Torrey the man was just as hard-boiled as his characters.

Roger Torrey was born in 1901 in Michigan. His parents got divorced and his mother moved him and his younger sister to Klamath Falls, Oregon. She met and married a man who built and owned theaters. Torrey was a teen during the silent film era and played piano in his step-father’s theaters. Later he became the Music Director at one theater and afterwards led him to manage the Chiloquin Theatre.


Chiloquin in the 1920s was known as ‘little Chicago’ and Torrey was a frequent patron of the pool halls, card rooms, dance halls and bars of the town. He made himself known by playing barrel-house piano in various of the bars. He got a lot of his inspiration for his later writing career from this time, as he rubbed elbows with cops, criminals and everyone in between. And this, of course, was during Prohibition (1920-1933). His times in Chiloquin gave his future stories a sense of realism and immediacy similar to the way Dashiell Hammett’s time as a Pinkerton operative gave his stories realism.

Later in the 20s, Torrey floated up and down the West Coast working a variety of jobs. By 1932 he had already been married and divorced and looking for a new start, he moved to New York City. There he met writers such as John Caroll Daly, Lester Dent and Cornell Woolrich and he started writing. His first published work, Police Business, was published in Black Mask in the January, 1933 issue.


Also in New York, Torrey met the woman he would spend the rest of his short life with. Helen A. was herself a writer, published in the romance pulps. Roger and Helen both liked to drink. After they moved in together they made a deal: they wouldn’t drink until they had written their daily quota of pages. Roger was usually the faster writer and usually would tease Helen about being slow while sipping his favorite whiskey.

About 1938, as the crime fiction market started changing from hard-boiled to noir, Roger Torrey resisted the change, preferring to publish more stories with the Trojan/Culture line of pulps, which included Hollywood Detective, Super Detective, Private Detective and Speed Detective. This gave him better control over his own stories and he didn’t have to change his style.


In 1945, Roger and Helen left New York and moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Feeling they had endured the hard war years in a tough city, they were looking forward to the good life in the sun and surf of Florida. However, it was not to be.

On January 11, 1946, Torrey wasn’t feeling well. He asked Helen to make him a cup of tea and he lay down on the couch and drank it. According to fellow writer and long-time friend Steve Fisher, he turned to her and said: “Hold my hand, Mommy, because I’m going to die.”

Roger Torrey died from multiple organ failures caused by long term acute alcoholism. Helen held his hand until the end.

A hard-boiled ending for a hard-boiled writer.

We have some of Roger Torrey’s stories HERE.

RTorrey250 Roger Torrey   Hard boiled
Article Name
Roger Torrey - Hard-boiled
Roger Torrey is not a name most people are familiar with. And yet his stories appeared in magazines like Black Mask, Detective Fiction Weekly, Dime Detective and other magazines repeatedly. Torrey the man was just as hard-boiled as his characters.
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Pulp Fiction Book Store
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Mr. Pulp

About the author: Born a long time ago, I developed a love for Pulp Fiction as a young whipper-snapper. Whether it was riding rocket ships to Mars or tracking down the cruelest of killers, I always rooted for the hero to get the girl in the end. I found that a lot of my favorite pulp fiction stories, mysteries, sci-fi and adventure had gone out of print and also into the public domain, so like any bright young enterprising lover of cattle rustlers, robot armies and insidious villains, I decided to make the universe safe for my pulp fiction heroes of yore and republish them. I have since opened up the PulpFictionBook.Store to bring some of my old friends back to light.