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Erle Stanley Gardner, himself an attorney, helped create the hard-boiled genre in the 20's & 30's,  when, along with Dashiell Hammett and Carroll John Daly, he published his stories in the pulp magazine Black Mask.  Then in 1933 he created Perry Mason for The Case of the Velvet Claws.  Some 80 further Perry Mason adventures followed, most serialized in the Saturday Evening Post. With about 200 million copies sold in thirty languages, popular radio serials and the long running TV Series beginning in 1957, Perry Mason is one of the most popular mystery series of all time.  Gardner was made a Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America in 1962.

Gardner followed a simple, but surefire formula.  Perry's clients, mostly women, were wrongly accused, but DA Hamilton Berger was out to get them.  Perry, along with his loyal secretary Della Street and private Detective Paul Drake, was forced to cut corners to solve the cases before his clients could have a murder rap pinned on them.  Despite his willingness to play fast and loose, Perry is essentially honest, as he tells Della in the Baited Hook:

    Lots of lawyers go into court with a case founded on false testimony.  Sometimes they make it
    stick.  Sometimes they don't.  Personally, I've never dared to take the risk.  Truth is the most
    powerful weapon a man can use, and if you practice law the way we do, it's the only weapon
    powerful enough to use.

If you've never read on of the Perry Masons they are well worth your time.  You can always find old copies of them at local book sales and it appears that many of them are still in print.


Grade: (B+)


See also:

Erle Gardner Links:

    -ESSAY: THE CASE OF THE AUTOGRAPHED CORPSE: The author of the Perry Mason novels rose to the defense of an Apache shaman who was falsely convicted of killing his wife (JACK EL-HAI, Smithsonian)
    -ESSAY: PERRY MASON AND THE CASE OF THE WILDLY SUCCESSFUL, PERPETUALLY RESTLESS AUTHOR: Erle Stanley Gardner had an idea for a lawyer who liked to brawl on behalf the little guy. 170 million copies later, he had an icon. (LEE RANDALL, JUNE 18, 2020, Crime Reads)
    -ESSAY: EVELYN WAUGH LOVED PERRY MASON WITH ALL HIS HEART: He read every single one of Erle Stanley Gardner's books. But his passion didn't stop there (OLIVIA RUTIGLIANO, 12/10/20, Crime Reads)
    -ESSAY: The Case of the Bestselling Author (S.T. Karnick, February 03, 2003, Washington Examiner)

Book-related and General Links:
    -Erle Stanley Gardner Page
    -The Erle Stanley Gardner Home Page
    -Erle Stanley Gardner
    -Mystery Net: Perry Mason Page
    -The Perry Mason Pages
    -ESSAY :  SAMURAI AT LAW: THE WORLD OF ERLE STANLEY GARDNER (FRANCIS M. NEVINS, Legal Studies Forum, Volume 24, Number 1 (2000)

    -Twists, Slugs and Roscoes: A Glossary of Hardboiled Slang

If you like Perry Mason, try:

Stout, Rex
(Nero Wolfe Mysteries)