ROGER TORREY “Jail Bait.” Pat McCarthy & Margie Chalmers #1. Published in Black Mask, October 1936. Not known to have been collected or reprinted.

   This is Roger Torrey’s homage to The Maltese Falcon, as you might decide to call it. I lost track after a while, but there are at least four, maybe five, passages where PI Pat McCarthy tells somebody that while he disliked his partner, now dead, he didn’t kill him and he’s obliged to find out who did do it, because … well, for two reasons. The first because it wouldn’t be good if he didn’t, and secondly because to clear his name for good, what better way to do so than to find the real killer.

   McCarthy is the kind of guy who’s left several jobs with other agencies across the country, all because he has a temper and doesn’t necessarily get along with people, especially cops, and he really would like to keep this one, which he bought into as an equal partner. This means looking into the cases that Dakin was working on. The most obvious of these was a case involving city-wide police corruption.

   Where Margie Chalmers comes in is that she was Dakin’s beautiful blonde girl friend, and she introduces herself in this one by coming for him gun in hand. McCarthy escapes a bullet by the narrowest of margins and eventually calms her down, enough so that he manages to persuade her to help in trapping Dakin’s killer. Even so, there’s no indication that the two of them are going to continue as a crime-fighting duo, but apparently it was so, as they appeared together in thirteen more tales, all for Black Mask between this one in 1936 on through to the February 1940 issue.

   All in all, though, this is no more than an average story, well padded with incidental and somewhat repetitive byplay, such as with a pair of cops who hold a grudge against him, and the feeling is mutual. It’s good enough, though, to wish that someone might read this and decide to put together a collection of all the McCarthy/Chalmers stories.