RARA-AVIS: Re:Richard S. Prather Recommendations

From: JIM DOHERTY ( jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 19 Feb 2007


DOUBLE IN TROUBLE a series-crossover on which Prather collaborated with Stephen Marlowe (and Prather's LA-based PI Shell Scott collaborated with Marlowe's DC-based PI Chet Drum) is one of my all-time favorite private eye novels. It has the two dicks working at cross-purposes as they investigate the Mob-dominated Teamsters Union (referred to in this novel as the National Brotherhood of Truckers).

Except for Chandler's THE LONG GOODBYE, it was also the longest private eye novel ever published to that point.

PATTERN FOR PANIC is probably the best
"ultra-right-wing private eye takes on an army of commie spies" novels outside of Spillane's ONE LONELY NIGHT. Actually, odd as it sounds, there were a whole lot of those in the '50's.

PATTERN FOR PANIC has kind of an interesting publishing history. When he submitted it to his regular publiser, Gold Medal, they were uneasy about the up-front anti-red sentiments expressed, and turned it down. Unbowed, Prather simply turned Scott's hair from white to red, his military background from former Marine to former Army Ranger, his name from Shell Scott to Cliff Morgan, and resubmitted it.

THE TROJAN HEARSE, which has Scott getting involved in an attempt to fix a presidential election, is also a particular favorite.

Prather's own favorite was STRIP FOR MURDER, in which Scott investigates a case at a nudist colony, a situation that makes it difficult to wear a shoulder holster concealed. Prather always thought this was the book where the humorous elements that were the hallmark fo the Scott series started to really assert themselves.

When it turned out to be a huge success for another publisher, the thoroughly abashed editors at Gold Medal asked if they could publish a reprint edition with Scott restored as the hero.

If you've never read a Scott, you might want to try a few of the short stories to see if they're to your taste. Prather wrote four Scott short story collections, THREE'S A SHROUD, HAVE GAT - WILL TRAVEL, SHELL SCOTT'S SEVEN SLAUGHTERS, and THE SHELL SCOTT SAMPLER. He also left behind one uncollected short story, "The Bloodshot Eye," which you can read for free here:


If you like the short stories you'll probably like the novels.


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