|Pocket Books - 1967|
Here in The Kubla Kahn Caper, Shell is hired, initially, to locate a missing beauty contestant, Jeanne Jax, for the grand opening of a desert resort named The Kubla Khan. Shell's cover is to act as a judge for the beauty contest, a job he considers himself more than qualified for. His client is Ormand Monaco, the managing director of the Kubla Khan. Monaco is adamant that Shell Scott carry out his investigation for the missing girl with the utmost discreetness, as any adverse publicity could damage what is intended to be a lavish grand opening, full of all the celebrities and dignitaries appropriate to such an event. Shell Scott is no more than an hour or so into the investigation when the missing Jeanne Jax turns up dead, gunned down in her sports car on the side of a desert road that leads from Monaco's home. Also dead is the reclusive millionaire owner of the Kubla Khan, Ephraim Sardis. It turns out that Jeanne Jax was intent on getting in touch with Ephraim Sardis about something, only someone put a stop to it by putting them both on ice. The same someone who's taken a couple wild shots at Shell Scott when he arrives on the scene in his robin's-egg blue Cadillac. Now what had been a missing person case is a murder. Monaco is promptly arrested for the killing of Jeanne Jax and insists that Shell Scott find the true murderer before the grand opening beauty pageant takes place in 24 hours. Scott's got his hands full, what with interrogating a slew of kooky contestants, a shifty hotel manager, and various assorted heavy types including a jealous-minded green giant of a man named Bull Harper.
Along the way we've got fights, make-out sessions, a two-page rant against girdles(?!), a nude foot-chase, mucho cocktail guzzling, plenty of eye candy and babes, dames, dishes, tomatoes...you get the picture.
Up close she was all velvet and fire, skin like silken umber, the eyes still dark and almost brown, but with lots of green in them, the color of wet moss, or the sea, or emeralds in shadow. They were big and round and that look of constant surprise in them gave her an air of virginal innocence--when you looked at her eyes. But a breath below was where the virgin died and a bawd was born.
I think these novels are a blast. Certainly they're dated and so goofy that you can't believe you're reading them, but they're also way too much fun to put one down once you start it. Most of them are now available on e-reader format, which is a good thing. More fun though is seeking out the vintage paperbacks, which are still relatively easy to come buy. Happy hunting!