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Richard S. Prather

Richard S. Prather

Richard S. Prather, 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, died on Feb. 14, 2007 at his home in Sedona, Arizona due to complications of a respiratory disease. He was 85.

Richard S. Prather is best known for his three dozen novels featuring the 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. If Prather’s work had a unifying theme, it was the human body — or, more precisely, the human body with nothing between it and the mild air of Southern California, where most of the books were set.

From 1942 to 1945 Prather served in the merchant marine. After the war, he worked as a clerk at March Air Force Base, near Riverside, before quitting his job to write full time. His first Shell Scott novel, “Case of the Vanishing Beauty,” was published in 1950. Prather also wrote under the pseudonyms David Knight and Douglas Ring. In 1986 Prather received a Life Achievement Award from the Private Eye Writers of America.

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