Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Just the Facts Category: When — During a special event
Cloak and Dagger Challenge #61
Date Finished: May 19, 2018
Shell Scott is called in by the sister of a man who supposedly committed suicide to prove that he did not. The brother was the right-hand man to a successful singer, who now cannot perform without him. Various hangers-on, psychologists, agents, and mobsters are investigated by Shell as everything ties turns out to be related to a candidate running for President of the United States. Despite being written in 1964, this mystery is set in the election of 1968, with everything tied into the liberal candidate, including various communist plots.
A few slapstick comedy sequences are overwhelmed by Prather’s conservative claptrap, as he has Shell rant against liberalism in all forms, as well as rants against taxes, fluoride, modern art, Freud, and much more. The “mystery” only serves as an excuse to run around and spout baloney. This is the second in the series after the switch from Fawcett to Pocket Books, and Prather, I believe, blamed Pocket for the decline in sales and popularity. It is clearly Prather’s own fault, however, as his rants are more important to him than telling a good story. He also was unable or unwilling to change his outdated formula or do anything creatively different, even as most other hardboiled private eye series were in decline amid the mid-1960s secret agent fad.