It’s comforting to read old mystery novels from time to time


book review

By Derryll White

Prather, Richard S. (1951). Find this woman.

Richard S. Prather (1921-2007) was a crime novelist who broke away from his job as Chief Surplus Property Clerk to become a full-time writer. He has published over three dozen Shell Scott mysteries. Himself a quiet, erudite-looking man, with glasses and a pencil-thin mustache, Prather’s central character was a muscular, armed stallion.

It’s comforting to read from one of the old mystery writers once in a while. There’s not a lot of social commentary or self-examination. The scenes are different from what we see today. Instead – babies, booze and bullets! Prather doesn’t disappoint with this Shell Scott mystery written early in his career (he published his first in 1950).

The bad guys are clear – they’re coming with saps and guns. Shell is so busy being seduced by all the beautiful women in Los Vegas that he barely makes it out alive. But he’s got enough dreams for a lifetime, and he’s got the girl.

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Excerpts from the novel:

LAS VEGAS — It was a blaze of lights, colors and neon: gambling halls crowded together on both sides of Fremont, from Second to Main, for two solid blocks. Dwarfing everything else was the large sign above the Golden Nugget on the left, and beyond it the huge mechanical cowboy pointed the way to the Pioneer Club with his animated hand and thumb. And the Las Vegas Club, the Monte Carlo, the Frontier Club and all the rest.

LOSERS – Most people had fun, but a few times at the shitty tables I saw faces that were gone, blank, washed out and empty. Someone who was done having fun when the fever hit him and he couldn’t stop, couldn’t let go, and it got brutal and the main part of him dried up and withered inside of him and he pushed him there into Mammon’s gaping mouth until there was no more. It’s also part of Vegas…

Derryll White once wrote books, but now chooses to read and write about them. When he’s not reading, he’s writing history for the web at www.basininstitute.org.


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