HARLAN ELLISON “Find One Cuckaboo.” PI Sheckley Scodell #1. First published in The Saint Mystery Library #11, edited by Leslie Charteris; paperback original, 1st printing, February 1960. Collected in Again, Honorable Whoredom at a Penny a Word (Edgeworks Abbey, trade paperback, September 2014).

   I’m not 100 percent positive, but in all likelihood this was the first and only appearance in print of New York City based PI Sheck Scodell. In the early days of his writing career Harlan Ellison scraped out a living writing all kinds of stories, not only science fiction, but crime stories, too, mostly in the lowest level magazines, such as Guilty, Trapped, Pursuit, and so on, and I wouldn’t be surprised to be told he wrote westerns as well.

   Of these, several others were private eye tales, three with Jerry Killian and one with Big John Novak (who in reality was three foot two). You can read more of them by following the links to the Thrilling Detective website. Scodell describes himself as being a dead ringer for the man in all of these shirt advertisements: “the fellow with the slight moustache, wearing a black eye patch, smiles at a wench..”

   He also admits that he’s not always the brightest bulb on the block, and that’s probably why he was hired on this case, which if the word wacky hadn’t be invented, they’d have to in order describe this one properly.

   It seems as though one of three eccentric sisters, all in their fifties and each a  millionairess several times over, has been raped and murdered. All three of them hated each other, even though they lived together in the same house, but nonetheless the two remaining ones have taken up with guns and have vowed to kill the culprit on sight.

   Their financial advisors call on Sheck for help. His job: stop them.

   This one comes straight from the old pulp magazines, but with a somewhat distasteful twist to it that the pulps most certainly wouldn’t have allowed their writers to get anywhere near. It’s one of those tales in which all kinds of crazy things happen but they all get straightened out in the end. Ellison always had  imaginative ideas and a very readable way with words, even when he was first starting — and probably getting a fraction of a cent a word — and “Find One Cuckaboo” is no exception.