Octavus Roy Cohen

Octavus Roy Cohen (1891–1959) was a descendant of Portuguese Jews and author, born in South Carolina, where he received his secondary education at the Porter Military Academy, now the Porter-Gaud School. He went on to receive a college education at Clemson University. Between 1910 and 1912, he worked in the editorial departments of the Birmingham Ledger, the Charleston News and Courier, the Bayonne Times, and the Newark Morning Star. He became popular as a result of his stories printed in The Saturday Evening Post which were about African-Americans. [1] In 1913, he was admitted to the South Carolina bar and practiced law in Charleston for two years. Between 1917 and his death, he published 56 books, works that included humorous and detective novels, plays, and collections of short stories. He also composed successful Broadway plays and radio, film, and television scripts. He wrote:

  • Polished Ebony (1919)
  • Gray Dusk (1920)
  • Come Seven (1920)
  • Highly Colored (1921)
  • Midnight (1922)

Cohen wrote several novels about detective David Carroll. One of these novels, The Crimson Alibi was adapted for the stage by George Broadhurst.[2] Cohen's character of Jim Hanvey, "a sort of backwoods Nero Wolfe", "one of the earliest private eyes",[3] appeared in two films; Curtain at Eight (1933), based on his novel The Backstage Mystery, and Jim Hanvey, Detective (1937), based on his original story. "Hanvey made most of his appearances in short stories in The Saturday Evening Post, where much of ... Cohen's other work was also published. ... Cohen created a few other detectives ... one of the first black eyes, Florian Slappey, although they're more famous now for their unflattering portrayal of blacks than their historical significance."[3]

Jim Hanvey books by Cohen:[4]

  • Jim Hanvey, Detective (1923, short stories)
  • Detours (1927, short stories, one featuring Hanvey)
  • The May Day Mystery (1929)
  • The Backstage Mystery (also published as Curtain at Eight) (1930)
  • Star of Earth (1932)
  • Scrambled Yeggs (1934, short stories)

He pronounced his first name oc-tav'us, a as in have.[5]


  1. Honey, Maureen. “Images of Women in the Saturday Evening Post, 1931–1936,”.Journal of Popular Culture; Bowling Green, Ohio Vol. 10, Iss. 2, (Fall 1976): (p.352)
  2. Bordman Gerald, American Theatre: A Chronicle of Comedy and Drama 1914-1930.Oxford University Press USA, 1995 ISBN 0195090780 (p.106).
  3. http://www.thrillingdetective.com/hanvey.html
  4. Crime Fiction, 1749-1980: A Comprehensive Bibliography by Allen J. Hubin, Garland, 1984, ISBN 0-8240-9219-8
  5. Charles Earle Funk, What's the Name, Please?, Funk & Wagnalls, 1936
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