RICHARD S. PRATHER – Kill Me Tomorrow. Shell Scott #34. Pocket, paperback original; 1st printing, October 1969; 2nd printing, 1972.

   Richard Prather and his once extremely well-known PI creation Shell Scott changed publishers in the middle of 1964, but I was off to grad school at the time, and I barely noticed. Back when Gold Medal was responsible for putting them out, I gobbled them down as soon as they reached the spinner rack at the supermarket where I stopped every day on my way home from school.

   I don’t know for sure, but this may be the first of the Pocket editions I ever picked up to actually read. I don’t know whether it was me, or the book itself, but I was sadly disappointed. I tried and I tried but I could not finish it.

   And even I though I didn’t, I’ll tell you about it anyway, and maybe you can tell me what you think. Part of the problem may be that Scott is a long way from his usual Hollywood stomping grounds. He’s off on vacation in Arizona in this one, helping the senior citizens in a retirement community fend off a horde of gangsters who have infiltrated their midst, some of them as geriatric as they are. Strike one?

   With a word count of well over 200 pages of small print, Prather is awfully lead-footed and wordy in this one. Padded, I’d say. Strike two. The only time the prose perks up is when Scott is describing the bountiful charms of one of the female characters, at which point he goes positively lyrical. Problem is, there are only two such characters, the first being a luscious movie star whose father is a member of said retirement community, and for far too many pages, all they do is shake hands. Strike three.

   Nothing else was remotely interesting. Dull as dishwater. Nothing like those light-hearted if not out-and-out wacky old Gold Medal adventures I grew up with. Or perhaps, is it me? Should I not go back and read one of those either?