Here are some of my favorite lines from Richard S. Prather’s immensely entertaining Shell Scott novels, the bestselling detective series from the 1960s… which are all but forgotten today, even though, at one point, there were over 10 million copies in print.
“He lay there with his face on the cement, in his own blood and wastes. Lesson for would be killers: Either don’t miss with your first shot, or else eat light, go to the john, take an enema, and be ready to die neat.” Kill Him Twice
“She had short mouse-brown hair, rather nice full lips and gray eyes. But they weren’t pretty eyes. Not dawn gray, slate gray or even muddy gray. They were sort of Dorian gray.” Always’s Leave’em Dying.
“This was one lovely who looked as if she could be grateful to excess. And some excesses I’m excessively fond of,” Darling, It’s Death
“Lita was a gal so female that she made most other females seem male,” Take a Murder, Darling
“It was a woman, a doll, a sensational tomato who looked as if she’d just turned twenty one, but had obviously signaled for the turn a long time ago. She was tall, and lovely all over, maybe five-seven, and she wore a V-necked white blouse as if she were the gal who’d invented cleavage just for fun. I gawked, and she smiled with plump, red lips, beautiful lips that undoubtedly had said yes much more often than no…” Always Leave’em Dying
“It was one of those rare, completely smog-free days when you can see Los Angeles from Los Angeles. Often you can’t find City Hall unless you are in it, but this was one of those mornings when you spring out of bed nearly overwhelmed by oxygen,” Always Leave’em Dying
“I think they lease Rodeo Drive by the carat rather than front foot,” Kill Him Twice
“I have looked upon death and destruction, blood and split brainboxes and disemboweled oxen. But I have seldom looked upon anything less appetizing than Aggie fluttering her bald lips at me,” Gat Heat
“When an unidentified corpse lands in the morgue, the real person is long gone to somewhere or other, and all that’s left for the police and private eyes and others to draw conclusions from is the garbage left behind, the worm food, the soil conditioner. The gift is gone, so we study the package, eye the wrappings…” Take a Murder, Darling
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On a freezing night, a lone farmer in the Adriondacks finds a starving man in his barn...what unfolds between the two men, past and present, is a brisk, gritty depiction of crime and punishment. A literary, crime fiction classic, out of print for 60 years.