Monday, October 22, 2012

Is that a Gat in Your Pocket?

In keeping with my Halloween themed posts this month I have an old Shell Scott caper from the cool year of 1962.

Fawcett Gold Medal, 1962
Anyone who is a fan of detective fiction, especially mid-century American gumshoe variety, will enjoy Richard Prather's Shell Scott novels. Running from the 1950's and through the 1960's, they're everything Mike Hammer wasn't. Meaning fun. Scott was the kind of guy you'd like to share a bourbon with, unlike Hammer. The books are a hoot. They're sexist, violent and loaded with outrageous situations, all delivered with a cool tongue planted firmly in cheek. Kill the Clown takes place on Halloween as our hero Shell Scott attends an underworld costume party disguised as a clown, which is a good thing, since Shell Scott has probably the most distinct features in all of detective fiction: Snow-white hair that stands straight up, snow-white arched eyebrows, sun-bronzed skin, and an ear with a bullet torn chunk missing from it. Not exactly a chap who blends into the scenery. And for a ugly cuss, Shell has no shortage of action with the dames.

At the door, she kissed me again. You may not believe it, but it was even better than the first two times - yeah, I was keeping track. This was the third time that was the charm, an osculatory torch to cremate resolutions and inhibitions, a kiss that could melt fillings and make a eunich's voice change overnight...

As you can see, the novel is loaded with some set of babes. And this one one kissing Shell Scott above is his client. But that isn't all that's got him up in a lather. Here's another passage descibing a dish who is a possible accomplice to a murdering goon:

She was a criminal all right. Her eyes were at least a misdemeanor, and those wicked lips were felonious...She wore skin-tight blue Capris, nothing on her feet except red nail polish, a billowy white blouse beneath which there was nothing billowing but Lolita, and all in all she was clearly the best argument against girdles since volleyball in nudist camps...Just standing there she looked hot enough to bake potatoes, and if she started running around the room it was eight to five she'd burn the joint down.

Well, you get the idea of the kind of book you're in for. In a word: a blast. Yeah it's not all ogling the babes either for our hero. There is plenty of gat action to go around. Prather knew how to keep the pace brisk, the action popping and the humor rolling. As far as a mystery, there really isn't one as such. In this novel, Shell has to race the clock to find the evidence that would free an innocent man from the gas chamber. Which all culminates in a Halloween party to make the ones I've been to seem like a Red Hat Society meeting. The bullets fly, the dames screech, and the knuckles play teeth like xylophones. Trick or Treat indeed.

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