Now I know that Prather was born in 1921, in Santa Ana, California, making him about the same age as my father. He attended junior college in Riverside, California, and was in the US Merchant Marine during World War II. After the war, he worked in a civilian job at March Air Force Base in Riverside, California. This is interesting to me because my husband and I lived in Riverside for several years before we moved to Santa Barbara and got married.
There were over 40 Shell Scott books; most were novels but some were collections of short stories or novellas. The cover of The Shell Scott Sampler (1969) boasts "Over 40,000,000 SHELL SCOTT books sold!" In 1986 he was honored with the Private Eye Writers of America Lifetime Achievement Award.
This is how William L. DeAndrea describes the Shell Scott series in Encyclopedia Mysteriosa (1994):
The first ten Scott adventures were Mike Hammerish stories without the angst. The eleventh, Strip for Murder (1955), found Shell chasing a murderer in a nudist colony, and something clicked. The combination of a patriotic, unbrooding detective with an unabashed delight in the company of beautiful women, steeped in satire and slapstick, and structured round a solid PI story caught on with millions of readers. Scott's breezy, we're-all-friends-here, wisecracking first-person narration added to the fun.Darling, It's Death was published in 1952, and thus fits in the "Mike Hammerish stories without the angst" category. Scott is in Acapulco on a job for a union official who is being blackmailed. His job is to find the blackmailer and get all of the evidence he is using to blackmail Scott's client. In Acapulco, he finds that he has walked into a convention of crime syndicate bigwigs, intent on taking over the unions to gain power. The case was not an easy task in the first place; now he can see that it is part of a much bigger operation. At the same time, he takes on a smaller case of a young woman, Gloria, who wants to leave her husband but can't because he threatens to kill her.
I found the book to be fun, humorous, and I liked that Shell Scott does not take himself too seriously. The book is full of beautiful, well-endowed women, most often dressed in bathing suits or very revealing clothes. Shell cannot understand why the women all go for him. He describes himself:
I'm a shade less than six-two and weigh 206 full of tacos, but there were a number of better-looking guys around the pool. My nearly white, inch-long hair sticks up in the air like a white cowlick, and the white eyebrows like toppled L's that slant up over my gray eyes and fall down at the outer ends don't add up to Caesar Romero. The slightly bent nose doesn't enhance my beauty either.
The only warning I would give is that some readers may be bothered by the politically incorrect portrayals of women. However, Scott is not using the women or taking advantage of them. It did not bother me because of the time period it was written in, but everyone has their own level of tolerance for that type of thing.
Publisher: Fawcett, 1954. (orig. pub. 1952)
Length: 143 pages
Series: Shell Scott, #6
Setting: Acapulco, Mexico
Source: Purchased at Planned Parenthood book sale, 2008.