Friday, October 26, 2018

30. The Meandering Corpse - A Shell Scott Novel by Richard S. Prather

This is the first Shell Scott novel I have read, though I have been vaguely aware of the series for a while.  The Meandering Corpse is roughly mid-point in the series so I guess it is pretty indicative.   It starts out with Scott going to a bar to watch a torch singer and scout out some new thugs in town.  We get a brief flashback where we learn that the daughter of LA's current top mob boss had come to his apartment and threatened to claim he raped her unless he took on a job for her.  The job was to take down this new mob that had already killed her father's bodyguard.  Kind of a decent opening and I was ready to get into it.

What I didn't know is that these books are goofy as hell.  There is a lot of editorializing in between the action.  So much that maybe the author should be named Richard S. Blather.  Parts of it were funny but I just didn't really care much about what was going on because it took so much time to get from point a to point b.  Every time Shell Scott does something (or gets ready to do something), we have to follow many paragraphs and even in some cases several pages of verbose, jargon-filled reflection.  This also happens with scenes of dialogue.  If Richard Stark had written this book it would probably be 40 pages long.  A lot of this read like the kind of dialogue that you would get in a rat pack movie, but way more of it.  I can see the appeal of these books in their day to some degree, but everything just took so long!

And the events in the book get fairly wild as well.  Scott is saved from execution by two lions and a bear.  He breaks up a funeral to drag the body out of the chapel because it's potbelly is filled with dynamite.   At a police raid, he is responsible for signalling the go order to start the charge but forgets to press the button on the walkie-talkie and ends up running in alone (the whole lead up to the button-pressing takes multiple pages).  The funeral scene was actually fairly clever and could have been fun if the whole thing hadn't been padded with so much internal monologue.

So glad I read it and the cover is pretty great, but that's probably the end of the road for me and Shell Scott.

Here is a very good overview and appreciation of the series.

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