Mason to the Rescue

 Erle Stanley Gardner, Kirkus, Perry Mason  Comments Off on Mason to the Rescue
Apr 012015

At a guess, I’d say I now own 50 percent more books than I have shelves on which to showcase them. Those that don’t fit wind up neatly packed into boxes in my perpetually toasty furnace room. They include my numerous Erle Stanley Gardner novels, about half of which are Perry Mason tales (he did, after all, pen 82 of those!), with the rest coming from his other significant two series–one about Los Angeles gumshoes Bertha Cool and Donald Lam (The Bigger They Come), which he wrote under the nom de plume A.A. Fair, the other starring small-town district attorney Douglas Selby (The D.A. Calls It Murder). Oh, and I have a few of Gardner’s standalones (such as The Clue of the Forgotten Murder) and one of his Terry McClane mysteries (Murder Up My Sleeve).

I appreciate Gardner’s complex plotting and propulsive storytelling style, so I often dip into those boxes of his work for my reading material. This practice proved recently to be a damn smart one. I had boarded a train bound south from Seattle to Portland, Oregon, with three books in my bags. The first two were new or forthcoming novels, about which I thought to write for either The Rap Sheet or Kirkus Reviews. The third was Gardner’s 1941 Mason outing, The Case of the Haunted Husband. It was a four-hour train ride, so I settled down initially with one of the new works, figuring to polish off at least most of it before arriving in the Beaver State. However, after reading 100 pages, I’d had quite enough, and turned to the second new novel … which was a product of the same publishing imprint … and which I also decided wasn’t worth my time. (I won’t say what the imprint was, but may have to be more wary of it in the future.)

Finally, I picked up The Case of the Haunted Husband. And the next thing I knew, I’d reached my destination, oblivious to the miles passed and cozily wrapped in the world of attorney Mason, his ever-protective secretary, Della Street, and their private-eye colleague, Paul Drake. The Case of the Haunted Husband, Gardner’s 18th Mason novel, was one I hadn’t read before, and I enjoyed it immensely–enough so, that I made it the focus of my new Kirkus Reviews column.

By the way, this is the latest entry in my all-too-occasional “rediscovered reads” series for Kirkus.

Introducing Perry Mason

 Anniversaries 2015, Erle Stanley Gardner, Perry Mason  Comments Off on Introducing Perry Mason
Mar 012015

A good reminder, from Today in Mystery History:

March 1, 1933. On this date The Case of the Velvet Claws was published. Erle Stanley Gardner had been writing stories and novellas at an amazing rate, mostly for Black Mask Magazine, trying to earn enough money to drop being a lawyer and go full-time as an author. It took another lawyer to help him out: the fictional but wildly successful Perry Mason, who premiered in this book. 75 novels and a hit TV show followed.

READ MORE:The Best TV Crime Drama Openers, #9: Perry Mason,” by J. Kingston Pierce (The Rap Sheet).

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: All Detective Magazine, February 1934

 Erle Stanley Gardner, Hugh B. Cave, Lester Dent, mystery fiction, Norman A. Daniels, pulps  Comments Off on Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: All Detective Magazine, February 1934
Mar 012015

An early Norman Saunders cover that’s certainly striking, plus stories by Lester Dent (a Foster Fade yarn), Erle Stanley Gardner, Hugh B. Cave, and Norman A. Daniels. That strikes me as a pretty darned good detective pulp.

Paperback 861: The Case of the Cautious Coquette / Erle Stanley Gardner (Pocket Books 4527)

 1963, Bathtub, bouffant, Crime Fiction, Erle Stanley Gardner, GWG, Nudity, Perry Mason, Pink, Robert McGinnis, shower, tire marks  Comments Off on Paperback 861: The Case of the Cautious Coquette / Erle Stanley Gardner (Pocket Books 4527)
Feb 202015

Paperback 861: Pocket Books 4527 (8th ptg, 1963)

Title: The Case of the Cautious Coquette
Author: Erle Stanley Gardner
Cover artist: [Robert McGinnis]

Yours for: $10-12


Best things about this cover:
  • Here’s the thing about McGinnis women: dead eyes. They freak me out a level at the face level. At a certain other level (Not Pictured), I find them delightful. So, in short, this cover does little for me from a Great Girl Art perspective.
  • From a Holy Crap Pink perspective, it’s quite arresting.
  • Also, from a hair perspective.
  • Also, with the exception of a small tear on the back cover, this book is in like-new condition. Shiny and crisp. The pink is a pure ’50s variety rarely seen in the wilds of today.
  • Also, a “Girls With Guns” cover is a “Girls With Guns Cover”—I’ll take it. Check out these other covers of the same title:
[Whoa!!! Winner]

And now today’s back cover:


Best things about this back cover:

  • Tire tracks! That’s a pretty damned good design element, especially as a way of introducing the idea of a “hit-and-run.”
  • This is the last time in U.S. history that “$100.00!!” was presented as a compelling figure.
  • Della goes next-level with her wordplay banter (from metaphorical “angles” to literal “curves”). And then the cover copy brings the imagery full circle back to the tire tracks. Well done, everyone.

Page 123~

“Della, run out and scout the corridor. Let me know if it’s clear.”

In case you were wondering who the badass was in this little relationship.


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Paperback 846: Bachelors Get Lonely / Erle Stanley Gardner (Pocket Books 4604)

 1963, A.A. Fair, Bed, Bertha Cool, bra, Crime Fiction, Donald Lam, Erle Stanley Gardner, Gun, GWG, Lingerie, Photo Cover, Pink, Pocket Books  Comments Off on Paperback 846: Bachelors Get Lonely / Erle Stanley Gardner (Pocket Books 4604)
Dec 312014

Paperback 846: Pocket Books 4604 (1st ptg, 1963)

Title: Bachelors Get Lonely
Author: A.A. Fair (Erle Stanley Gardner)
Cover artist: photo cover

Estimated value: $10-15


Best things about this cover:

  • I can confirm the basic premise of this title.
  • I find this cover oddly sexy, if wildly implausible.
  • Pink. I dig it. At least it’s different.


Best things about this back cover:

  • You had me at “Stripper Daffidill (sic!?) Lawson”
  • What an odd photo choice. Random stock photo, faded and blued.
  • Lam’s pretty light-hearted for someone trying to catch a murderous voyeur.
  • “Swell.”

Page 123~

“The walls are terribly thin,” she whispered. “People will know that … that I’m having a visitor.”


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Tumblr]

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Short Stories, July 25, 1936

 Erle Stanley Gardner, H. Bedford-Jones, pulps  Comments Off on Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Short Stories, July 25, 1936
Aug 242014

SHORT STORIES was a great adventure pulp, and this issue is especially noteworthy because it featured not just one but two of the authors who were dubbed “King of the Pulps” at one time or another: Erle Stanley Gardner and H. Bedford-Jones. They’re also two big favorites of mine. There’s also an installment of a Halfaday Creek serial by James B. Hendryx and stories by S. Omar Barker, Hapsburg

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Top-Notch, February 1, 1928

 Erle Stanley Gardner, pulps  Comments Off on Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Top-Notch, February 1, 1928
Jul 202014

We’ve got an actual cliffhanger cover on this issue of TOP-NOTCH, illustrating a story by Erle Stanley Gardner, the only author in this particular issue whose name I recognize. But I suspect the other stories were entertaining anyway, as I’ve read a number of stories originally published in TOP-NOTCH that were good. I haven’t read any of Gardner’s Speed Dash stories, but I ought to.

Jan 142014

I am reminded, unavoidably, of the infamous and surely invented anecdote about young George Washington cutting down the cherry tree – you remember, young George supposedly tells his father, “I cannot tell a lie.” It comes to mind, as I write about Erle Stanley Gardner’s , the very first Perry Mason mystery, written in 1933 – because Mason finds himself saddled with a client of whom the exact opposite is true: quite simply, she cannot tell the truth. Ever. At all. About anything. As you might expect, this leads to some very interesting complications. The Case of the Velvet Claws is our book today on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the complete review by clicking here.

If your idea of Perry Mason is based only on the excellent long-running television series starring Raymond Burr, you’ll find a much rougher, down-to-earth Perry Mason in The Case of the Velvet Claws as well as several other early Mason mysteries. But one thing is clear right from the outset of this first Perry Mason novel: Mason regards himself as a champion of the underdog, and he believes he owes his client his loyalty and his absolute best efforts to resolve that client’s problems with the law.

In The Case of the Velvet Claws, a woman comes to Perry Mason’s office to hire him. She wants him to prevent a story from being published in a scandal and gossip sheet that is actually the cover for a blackmailing operation. Mason quickly learns that the woman is being anything but straightforward and honest with him. And when the man who is behind that blackmailing operation is murdered, Mason finds himself on the run and suspected of murder – a murder that his client may well have committed herself. Despite the fact that his client appears to be incapable of making a true statement about anything, Mason continues to represent her and fight for her rights to the best of his ability…even as he finds himself staying one step ahead of the police, who appear to be ready to arrest him.

This earliest Perry Mason story has a great many elements which make it fit into a “noir” sub-genre; there are remarkably few people Mason (or the reader) can trust. Happy endings are pretty scarce on the ground here. And it should be noted that there are no courtroom scenes in this book – another difference from the later Perry Mason books and television dramas.

But it is a very good book indeed, and it gives the reader some excellent insight into one of America’s most popular lawyer-detectives, and his passionate defense of his clients. ALL of his clients, whether they can tell the truth or not. It’s available again now as an ebook and it’s very much worth your reading pleasure.

Paperback 725: The Case of the Lazy Lover / Erle Stanley Gardner (Pocket Books 909)

 1952, alcohol, Boobs, Clyde Ross, Couch, Crime Fiction, Erle Stanley Gardner, Pajamas, Perry Mason, Pocket Books, Sideboob  Comments Off on Paperback 725: The Case of the Lazy Lover / Erle Stanley Gardner (Pocket Books 909)
Dec 062013

Paperback 725: Pocket Books 909 (1st ptg, 1952)

Title: TCOT the Lazy Lover
Author: Erle Stanley Gardner
Cover artist: Clyde Ross

Yours for: $7


Best things about this cover:
  • That dude has my ultimate respect. That is some top-notch lazy. Superfly PJs. Highball. Slippers. Smart green couch. He knows what he’s doing.
  • That look in her eye is not lust. It’s not annoyance. It’s jealousy. Jealousy of his Red Hot Lazy.
  • I can’t stop looking at her boobs, and yet I don’t find them very interesting. What the hell?


Best things about this back cover:
  • That “Gossip … / and Murder!” heading would look great on a t-shirt.
  • Hmmm. I’m not sure we have the same definition of “crazy punchline.”
  • What does it mean to be “lazy about making love”? I’m quite sure the images in my head do not match whatever happens in this book.

Page 123~

Mason took the pass Lieutenant Tragg scribbled, and went over to the detention ward. After a ten minute wait, he was taken in to see Mrs. Allred, who had quite evidently been aroused from a sound sleep and had had no opportunity to put on her make-up.

Wow. That must’ve been really hard on Mason.


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