RICHARD S. PRATHER – Over Her Dear Body. Shell Scott #10. Gold Medal #s887, June 1959. Cover art by Barye Phillips. Many later printings.

   I grew up reading the Shell Scott books, all the way through high school, but if I read this one, it was a long time ago, and no memories of it this past week came back at all. The Shell Scott books, as I remember them, were wacky adventures of a Hollywood-based PI, filled with the three B’s: babes, booze and bullets, but I’ll tell you this up front. I found this one sorely disappointing.

   In reverse order, lots of bullets, a moderate amount of booze, and barely any babes. Pun intended. On a yacht filled with party-goers where he is to meet a client, female, Shell does cross paths another lady, one with no clothes on and swimming off the stern and without a ladder to come up off the water. He is more than happy to provide one, but while whimsically amusing, in essence that’s as far as that goes.

   But while looking for the ladder for the lady, he butts into a stateroom in which a secretive conference is going on, with one of the several guys in attendance ending up dead the next day. Not too surprisingly, the dead man is Shell’s client’s brother. From there the story’s as straight as a string. No surprises, no twists, no fun.

   I think Prather, whether he realized or not, was coasting with this one. He’s fine, even better than fine, in descriptive passages, but the dialogue he puts into Shell Scott’s mouth completely belies the latter’s reputation as being a tough hardboiled detective. He’s whiny, and he’s always trying to come up with excuses for his actions. He’s 180 degrees the opposite of Sam Spade, for one big example, whose thoughts you are never even close to being sure of, ever.

   Once again, I’ll rate this one D for Disappointing, and on my trademarked H/B (hardboiled) scale, a 3.3 maybe, tops. Out of ten.