FFB: Everybody Had A Gun by Richard S. Prather

Everybody Had A Gun by Richard S. Prather © 1951, my copy Gold Medal 1954 paperback, mystery – hardboiled, 3rd in Shell Scott series

Everybody Had A Gun

I’ve read more than a few of Prather’s Shell Scott books, and enjoyed them, some more than others, but all of them at least for the entertainment they give. Not all of the plots are solid, some have a lot of humor in them, others not so much. That seems to depend on where the book is in the series, the early books – such as this one – have more violence and less laughs, but that’s fine.

The covers got better not too long after this one, too, as a matter of fact, this is probably my least favorite cover of the Prather books I have. But I wanted to read one early in the series, and I hadn’t gotten around to this one yet, so here it is.

Shell Scott is a private investigator. He spent time in the Marines during World War II, he’s tough, he knows his business. He has a “sorta friend” in L.A. Homicide, so he can get away with quite a bit, and in this novel he does, and more. Because in this novel, the title says it all: everybody does have a gun. Oh, one thing about the cover: that’s not Shell Scott beating up on the girl. The bad guy is doing it to make Scott talk.

everybody had a gun

The book opens with Scott shot at. He doesn’t know who’s shooting or why, but he ducks around a corner, pulls out his gun and peeks out. A woman  sees him and shrieks. Someone else shouts “He’s got a gun!” The shooter is long gone.

Thinking about it later, he concludes one of the two crime bosses in the city – the established one and the newer guy trying to take over a patch – may have a grudge against him. That suspicion is confirmed when he’s grabbed and shoved into a car, taken to “see the boss”, Marty Sader, who thinks Scott is working for his enemy, Breen. It’s not true, but once someone believes something it’s awfully hard to convince them otherwise.

While all that was happening, Scott had also gotten slightly mixed up with Iris Gordon, who had come to him for help, then fled when she saw one of Sader’s men. Iris works at Sader’s club, The Pit. She doesn’t want him to know she visited Scott’s office.

everybody had a gun

If this sounds screwy so far, it gets worse, or better, depending on your opinion. There’s a turf war in Los Angeles, and Scott, and Iris, are in the middle of it, and everybody has a gun. They use them. Shooting on the first page, shooting just three pages from the end, and a lot of it in between. If it’s gunplay you like in your hard-boiled PI novels, then gunplay you’ve got in this one.

There’s not as much humor, gags and light wordplay in this one as you’ll find later in the series, and there are some pretty long scenes of the “Gimme the info”, “I don’t have it” variety, but at 157 pages it goes right along. Is there sex in the book? No. Is there Fifties-style innuendo? Absolutely, but not a lot and not over the top. I had enough fun reading this that I’ll pull another off the shelf in a month or two.

About Rick Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
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14 Responses to FFB: Everybody Had A Gun by Richard S. Prather

  1. Todd Mason says:

    In re: that earliest cover…Gold Medal felt they knew what sold. Not that those subsequent covers are any improvement in composition, if less pandering to the base…

  2. This is one of the first three or four Shell Scott novels I read when I discovered the series in the mid-Sixties. I had the edition with the pink cover. It didn’t take me long to come to the same conclusion you did about how the series got jokier as it went along, although there are still some pretty rough ones, like THE TROJAN HEARSE, even in the Pocket Books era.

    • Richard says:

      I don’t mind the wise cracks, but in some there is too much of the joking around. I’ll check to see if I have THE TROJAN HEARSE and also JOKER IN THE DECK. I check and I have them both.

  3. I read an early Shell Scott for today’s FFB, too. As you pointed out, the later books grew lighter and more humorous. Todd is right about Gold Medal knowing its audience and providing the cover art work that alerted them that THIS BOOK IS FOR YOU!

  4. I have heard of Shell Scott but don’t think I’ve read any

  5. tracybham says:

    The book I read for Patti’s FFB this week (Darling, It’s Death) was my first foray into Prather’s books. It was a bit later than this one but set in Acapulco. I think this one would be a good one for me to try because it is set in LA. I love the vintage covers. The only other full-length novel I have is Joker in the Deck.

    • Richard says:

      Tracy, JOKER IN THE DECK is one I have and plan to read soon, too. At the beginning of the one I read there was a little too much coincidence for my taste, but then things got rolling and just carried me along.

  6. Jeff Meyerson says:

    It’s been a long time since I read one of these – I was sick all week so never even got around to trying – but when I was in my early teens (early 1960s for you whippersnappers) I liked them, especially the more jokey ones, quite a bit.

    • Richard says:

      I wondered why you didn’t have a review on Patti’s blog or make comments, but I’ve seen your email and understand now. You should still take one to FLA just for the hell of it.

  7. Jeff Meyerson says:

    I think I will get that short story collection that Bill reviewed.

  8. Matt Paust says:

    The pink cover’s composition reminds me of Donald Hamilton’s Matt Helm series I loved at a certain age.

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