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Richard S. Prather Dies

Friday, February 16, 2007
Richard S. Prather, creator of L.A. private eye Shell Scott, has died at his home in Arizona. Although he's not a household name today (outside of certain circles of fans), Prather sold over 40 million books, and Shell remains one of the genre's most unique individuals.

Sheldon Scott was an ex-Marine who stood 6'2" with crew-cut hair so blond it was white. Perpetually in his early 30s, Scott made his debut in 1950's Case of the Vanishing Beauty and went on to appear in 39 more novels or collections. My first introduction was "Dead Giveaway" (collected in the superb Mammoth Book of Private Eye Stories), and it's still one of my favorites.

There was plenty of sex in those books, but in contrast to today's angst-ridden couplings, Shell and the numerous (VERY numerous) ladies who succombed to his charms generally had a great time. Prather made it seem like good clean fun, not sick or twisted.

But Prather could also write hard core when he wanted to. I recently read his novel The Peddlar, reprinted by Hard Case Crime, and I was very surprised by the frank language he used in describing a prostitution ring.

Christa Faust wrote a fan letter to Prather a while back, and I thought, "Damn, I should do that too". But I never did and now it's too late.

Jeff Pierce has a nice roundup that links to many other tributes to Prather. Be sure to check it out.

posted by Graham Powell at 6:06 PM