I just received an email from Linda Pendleton, widow of crime fiction writer Don Pendleton, telling me about an interview she did late last year with Richard S. Prather, now 85 and most well-known as the creator of private eye Shell Scott, whose wacky capers in the 1950s, mostly for Gold Medal, kept kids (teen-agers) like me turning the pages as quickly as they could.

The interview is online as part of her own website. It’s a long one, and it goes deeply into both Prather’s writing techniques and his philosophy of writing as well as his views on life itself.

What I’ll do is tease you with some of the questions. You’ll have to read the interview to learn what Prather’s answers were.


Linda: The first Shell Scott novel, Case of the Vanishing Beauty was published in 1950 and your long career was off and running. Was that your first publication or sale of your work? Did you have an agent for your first sale?

Linda: You have had a number of short stories published almost from the beginning of your career. Have you enjoyed writing short stories as much as novels?

Linda: Let’s talk about the creation of your Shell Scott character. Obviously, with the number of books you have written in the Shell Scott series, and the huge success you achieved, there must be special qualities about him as a protagonist that stay with your readers. Many fans have found your stories to be full of humor and some fans even refer to them as hilarious. As the creator of Shell Scott, what do you consider to be the essence of Shell Scott? What qualities did you give him as a character that made him outstanding and appealing to readers? I assume he “grew” during the years of writing the series. In other words, how did his world view evolve from his “younger” days?

Linda: You’ve been one of the lucky authors who was able to have a solid career and write full time. And I know you had the support of your beautiful wife, Tina, throughout those years. Having lost Don, I personally know how difficult it has to be for you since Tina’s death two years ago, and after 58 years of marriage. You very well may hold the record for the longevity of marriage for a writer! I understand Tina helped you with your work, such as suggesting that good book title you just mentioned—and typed, and I would imagine gave you some critical appraisal of manuscripts from time to time. Writing can be such a lonely endeavor as we are sequestered with our fictional characters, sometimes for long periods of time. How important was it to you, and to your relationship, that she was so supportive throughout the years?

Linda: Don had Executioner cover art by artist/illustrator, Gil Cohen on many of his books, who captured the essence of Mack Bolan. You mentioned many of your Gold Medal editions cover art was done by well-known illustrator, Robert McGinnis, and he just did the cover for your recent reissue release of The Peddler — and, by the way, the cover looks very nice. Obviously, McGinnis’ illustrations of beautiful sexy women on the covers of your books may have caught the attention of book buyers. I understand you wrote an Introduction to The Paperback Covers of Robert McGinnis by Art Scott, published in 2001. You covered some of this already, but again, how important do you feel cover art is for the sale of a book? Did you have any influence on cover design on your novels?


Linda: Richard, here it is at the end of 2006 and you are now eighty-five years of age. What are your thoughts on the technological and scientific advances you’ve seen in your lifetime?

Linda: I understand you have a Shell Scott unpublished manuscript, The Death Gods, of 1,000 pages. What are your plans for this novel?

Richard: Ah, yes. The Death Gods. You’re right, Linda, I do have that 1,000-page manuscript here. It’s …

Richard S. Prather – Bibliography

Don Pendleton – Bibliography