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HAVE GAT-WILL TRAVEL was published in 1957 and gathered together six short stories from the early fifties. This was Shell Scott at the beginning of his career, literally, in both the stories and the character’s profession. One story mentions early jobs and the fact that he’d been a PI for only a few years.shell 1

The Shell Scott series was the second bestselling PI of the fifties, after Mike Hammer of course. A different sort of character though. The books had a slightly humorous edge, some more so than others. He always had an eye for the ladies, and there were plenty of them, and these stories were the first time I ever heard them referred to as tomatoes. Here’s a typical way some of the women were described:

“She was closer to twenty-five and she looked a if she’d started life with a beautiful face that had grown easier to look at every year.
And the body. The body had tagged right along.”

In these stories, Shell investigates a variety of cases: the eighteen year old who had been raped and beaten to death, a writer friend doing an expose of the Communist party is murdered and the manuscript is missing, he takes a bookie for a client that has lost a lot of money in Mexico and suspects the horse races were fixed, he’s framed for murder during a poker game and has to dodge the police until he can clear his name, a cowboy movie star is found drunk and unconscious beside a woman’s body, and a client offers him $5,000 to find a blackmailer just before he’s shot between the eyes from the window over Shell’s shoulder.shell 2

Shell Scott was an early favorite of mine. What’s not to like? The books were full of scantily clad women who always seemed willing to give Shell their all, though there was really no sex. It was all implied. But the young male I was could fill in the details.

Make no mistake though. These stories were fun and engrossing. I came to them late in the series and have read a few of the earliest and a number near the end. There is a large chunk in the middle I hope to catch up on some day.

Who knows? I may actually read them all. That’s the intent anyway.