RARA-AVIS: Gold Medal: Shell Scott in Case of the Vanishing Beauty

From: William Denton ( buff@pobox.com)
Date: 05 Aug 2002

Richard S. Prather's CASE OF THE VANISHING BEAUTY (1950):

| Shell Scott...the shamus who has Sherlock whirling in his grave...the
| wacky knight-errant of gorgeous gals who leaves a trail of beautiful
| bodies behind him (not all of 'em dead)...the private dick who's every
| killer's public enemy.
| This caper began when one beauty vanished from sight and another died in
| a hail of bullets. Next on the murder list was lovely Lina, who was
| hotter than a welder's torch...and Shell Scott had left his asbestos
| suit at home.

Chapter 1: Shell and his beautiful client Georgia Martin are at a Mexican restaurant. A beautiful dancer does a number and then a knife-thrower gets set to do an act with her.

Chapter 2: Flash back to that afternoon when Miss Martin hires Shell but won't say why.

Chapter 3: The beautiful dancer drapes herself all over Shell, he tells the knife-thrower to scram, and when Shell and Miss Martin leave the club someone shoots at them and kills her.

It's almost non-stop action from there, with Shell barely getting any sleep, having a knife put through his hand, getting beat up, drugged, and having the shoulder-padding shot out of a nice suit, which really cheeses him. The only breaks he gets are when he can relax with the beautiful dancer.

This is the first Shell Scott book, though my edition (T2376) is from much later. It's the one seen here:


and mentions that Prather has over 30,000,000 books in print. Seems like Scott was fully realized right from the start. This is a very enjoyable book.

Here's one of my favourite bits, where Shell is quizzing a con man for dope on a grifter named Press:

| "Press was a tear-off rat, and he should have been selling shoes.
| I worked with him myself once; that's how I know. That time we worked
| together was one too many. This mark we stung was a bald-headed pappy
| from Tucson. We gave him the point-out, then I told him the tale and
| gave him the convincer. Press had to hole up with the guy for nearly a
| week while he waited for his cush, and it must have been murder. The
| only reason the mark doesn't chill is he's such a lop-eared savage.
| Press was roper on the deal and how he ever steered even that winchell
| in I'll never understand. The mark acted like he wanted to blow his
| chunk. Press cracked out of turn and did everything wrong, but I kept
| patting the mark on the back and he blew twenty thousand. So it worked
| out O.K., but why Press didn't rumble him, I'll never know."
| I nodded my head, just as if I had more than a vague idea of what
| he'd just told me.

You can see a bunch of Shell Scott covers here:



William Denton : Toronto, Canada : http://www.miskatonic.org/ : Caveat lector.

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