“Richard S. Prather, Author of Naked Mysteries, Dies at 85.“
That headline tops a very funny obituary in today’s New York Times (registration required). In what must be its most entertaining obituary of the year so far, the Times describes Prather as a “hugely popular mystery writer of the 1950s and ’60s whose novels were known for their swift violence, loopy humor and astonishing number of characters with no clothes on.”
Prather wrote three dozen novels starring rugged private eye Shell Scott, “a 6-foot-2 ex-marine with a broken nose, a bristling white buzz cut and an ear ravaged by a bullet he took in the Pacific theater.” Prather sold 40 million copies in the Shell Scott series, an astonishing number considering how little-known he is today. (Even more remarkable: a quick search of the Internet Movie Database shows no Shell Scott movies and no writing credits for Prather. How did this guy not make it in the movies?)
Among the great titles in the Shell Scott series: The Wailing Frail (1956), Three’s a Shroud (1957), The Cockeyed Corpse (1964) and The Trojan Hearse (1964).
The Mystery File blog has some nice comments on Prather. They link to this fabulously garrulous interview, which includes a Prather shout-out to the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and makes Prather sound even more eccentric than the Times manages to do in its obit.