Some Saturday Potpourri: Pre-Christmas Edition

Gradeapalooza is complete, Mrs. M finished with her kids yesterday, and the Spawn is getting in touch with old friends back for the holidays. What better time for some potpourri?


Christmas got here a little early — today, to be exact — as I learned that dozens of Richard S. Prather‘s Shell Scott mysteries are available for free on Kindle, for what I assume is a very limited time. I discovered these when I was in my late teens or early twenties, and I devoured them like potato chips. The novels are goofy, sexist in a 1950s-and-early-60s kind of way (although typically staying at a PG-13 level — these weren’t Nightstand Press “read with one hand” editions), not terribly deep (and when they try for depth, they generally drag a bit), but I can generally count on at least one laugh-out-loud moment per novel, and a lot of snickering along the way.

As an aside, Prather’s writing process defied all logic. He would write “outlines” that ran to about 200,000 words, looking at characters, scenes, and the like in excruciating detail before eventually editing them down to the 60,000-word souffles that found their way to the spinner racks. By rights, the books should have been leaden (and in fact, his posthumous The Death Gods is much longer and sadly, not very good, which seems to prove the overall point.), but in fact, they’re delightfully frothy in their bachelor-pad hi-jinks. And at the end of the day, a lot of folks agreed with me, as the adventures of the “happy-go-looky” P.I. sold millions of copies.

And today, you can get most of them for free. Check it out.

UPDATE/CORRECTION: Lawrence Block offers the straight scoop as regards Mr. Prather’s writing process:

I knew him a little, met him a couple of times, initially in Sedona, where he lived. His method was a bit different than you’ve described it. I’d very early on read an artticle he wrote about it, for I think Writers Digest in I think 1957-8, and when I met him about 18 years later I asked him, and he confirmed that he’d stayed with that method all the way. (I think I cited it in one or another of my writing books.)

Here’s how it worked: He would write a brief outline of the book, and then he would expand that into a chapter outline. And then he would write each chapter at about half the length it would ultimately have, summarizing dialogue, encapsulating action, until he wound up with a draft running perhaps 30K words. And then he’d expand that into a 60K word book.

That’s not quite as harebrained as the process you describe, though it’s still remarkable that it came out bubbly and buoyant rather than flat and mechanical.

Thanks, LB!


In other writing news, I’m pleased to announce that I signed a contract for another short story in an anthology that should come out late next year. Doubtless I’ll have more to say (and I hope, to do) about it in the coming months, but in the meantime, here’s the inspiration:



In Berries news, we have shows scheduled in January at Greenville’s Radio Room and in February at our familiar Art Bar stomping grounds. We’re hoping to do some recording this coming summer, and the shows will both add to the recording budget and give us a chance to try some new material out on the audiences.


The perils of life with medievalists: The Spawn just dashed downstairs to tell me that she was reading something online that said Benedict Cumberbatch is so British, he wasn’t born, but was spawned from the Thames like Venus on the half-shell. She said, “It took me a minute to realize they meant it in a complimentary way, because I’m so used to reading and hearing about when the Thames was basically an open sewer.”

“I’m pretty sure they’ve cleaned it up a bit in the last century or so,” I said, but now I can’t help thinking of the stretch of the Ohio River that divides Cincinnati from the Kentucky burbs where I lived, and the running joke my family had, that only the oncologists knew what was in that water.


Another of my favorite prog rockers checked out over the week, as Greg Lake died after a long illness. Blogger J.A. Bartlett offers a remembrance that I wish I had written, and in many ways, could have. Bartlett gets it. And given Lake’s departure and the current season, I guess I have to close with this one, but that’s OK, because I’ve always liked the song anyway.

See you soon!

About profmondo

Dad, husband, mostly free individual, medievalist, writer, and drummer. "Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche."
This entry was posted in Culture, Family, Literature, Music, Pixel-stained Wretchery. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Some Saturday Potpourri: Pre-Christmas Edition

  1. jb says:

    Thanks for reposting my Greg Lake piece, and for the kind words. Merry/happy to you and yours.

  2. nightfly says:

    The cleanup of the Thames in particular (and the construction of the London sewer system in general) is fascinating stuff. They knighted the fellow who undertook the task, an engineer by the name of Joseph Bazalgette, who made them of such a capacity that many of the original lines are still in use today (albeit in need of repair in places).

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