Lie Down, Killer by Richard S. Prather. Lion Books (1952), 158 pp.
Steve Bennett, co-owner of a Laguna Beach sporting goods store, rises early after a passionate night in a neighboring town with voluptuous singer Margo Whitney, his former high school girlfriend. She drops him at a diner, where he runs into pretty reporter Chris Lawton, whom he first met the evening before at a night club and gambling casino run by the corrupt but well-connected Oscar Gross. The two were introduced by Steve’s business partner, Jim “Cotton” Clay, a political crusader hoping to get the goods on Gross. Almost as soon as Steve discovers that Cotton has gone missing, the police arrive and arrest Steve for his murder. After protests prove futile, Steve concludes that he’s the victim of an elaborate frame-up.
This is Prather’s first (and, perhaps understandably, only) attempt to concoct an ordinary-guy-gets-into-trouble novel. His writing is snappy and he moves the story along swiftly. But too much of the plot just doesn’t hang together. Steve and Cotton have no business gambling at their target’s casino. Chris is far too ready to jeopardize her career to help a guy she just met. The police behave at first as though they were part of Gross’s conspiracy, then they unaccountably gain objectivity. Steve never develops a serious plan to clear his name, so he spends a lot of time chasing around to no purpose. And when the final confrontation arrives, it turns out to be all talk and no action. So the book disappoints because Prather never figures out a sensible way to tell his story. He soon did much better with his gangster tale for Lion, The Peddler, then focused on his popular Shell Scott detective novels.