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Erle Stanley Gardner and Perry Mason, a Combination That Entertains

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The author is an air warrior, military historian and writer on warfare and military history



Erle Stanley Gardner was born in the 19th century in 1889 and died in 1970. I first came across this book while going through the catalog of Goodreads and I was surprised to see that nearly 100 books were listed there.

I had been carrying out a study of mystery and suspense writers and that is how I had read the name of Gardner. I recollect that the first book I read by this famous writer was 'The case of the Lazy lover'.That was my introduction to Perry Mason a character created by Earle Stanley Gardner.

Who is Perry Mason? He is a character in the genre of Sherlock Holmes and Father Brown. The character was conceived by Gardiner and there are reports that it was modeled on his personal life. Gardner was a famous lawyer and he used his experience as a lawyer to help solve hundreds of cases with acumen. After the success of his books, Gardner gave up his practice and concentrated on writing books. I think he has written more than 80 bucks with the central character Perry Mason.

He created a host of other characters including the secretary of Mason, Della Street. I have a lurking feeling that she also is in the image of his personal secretary Agnes Jean Bethell, who he married in 1968 after the death of his first wife Natalie Frances Talbert. Mason is a detective and a lawyer and solves hundreds of cases with acumen. Gardner used his experience as a lawyer in writing his novels. Gardner deserves a higher place than the one he's accorded in the field of American literature and it will not be out of place to mention that his books sold over 1 million copies.

Gardner was a typical American. His father was a mining engineer. Due to the nature of the job of his father he traveled extensively during his childhood days. Later he settled in California and in 1911 was admitted to the bar. He was a man who believed in righteousness;it is something like the Hindu belief in dharma and he started his career by defending poor Chinese and Mexicans who were friendless and unjustly accused. This was a lifelong crusade for him and he is responsible for founding the Court of Last Resort in 1940, an organization dedicated to helping men who had been unjustly imprisoned.


Mystery writer-par excellence

English literature has created many characters who were detectives and they imprinted their psyche on the people. One can think of Sherlock Holmes( Conon Doyle), Hercule Poiret( Agatha Christie), and Father Brown ( GK Chesterton). In a similar vein, he created the character, Perry Mason.

He started his writing career by writing for pulp magazines which were very popular. At that time he continued his practice but within a short time by 1932, he was writing more than 200,000 words a month and then decided to give up his law practice.

This was after the successful publication of the first Perry Mason detective stories, The Case of the Velvet Claws (1933) and The Case of the Sulky Girl (1933). There was no looking back now and 80 Perry Mason novels hit the decks. With the circulation running into hundreds of thousands of books Gardner became one of the most popular writers of his era. His books were also adapted for the radio and television and many Hollywood films were made. Stanley Gardner also created an endearing colleague of Mason in the form of Lieutenant Tragg of the Homicide department of the Los Angles Police.

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A reading of the novels of Stanley Gardner will show that most of them touched upon important aspects of the law. He brought his knowledge is a lawyer into full play in his books and that sets them apart from other mystery writers.

The stories by Gardner are racy and unravel mysteries as well. He is in my opinion the peer of Agatha Christie. Every writer has an alter ego and Gardiner created Perry Mason in his own image. He left behind a character that has outlived him. It is a character that is real and someone that is human. He is not a Superman and the reader can identify with the hero. This is the beauty of Gardner's books.

The character Perry Mason created by Gardner is suave. polished and intelligent. He looks real and human and solves hundreds of criminal cases and mysteries. Gardner had a unique way of writing; he kept a dozen secretaries all around him and dictated the stories to them. Later he edited all the stories and thus was able to publish close to 200 books.



Gardner died in 1970 but most of his books are still available on Amazon and other sites and I am told they have a wonderful market. That makes him a timeless writer. He was a prolific writer and that is a tribute to his genius. There are not many writers in the English language who have been so prolific. If at all a writer comes close to his style of writing then I would place James Hadley Chase along with him.

Gardner had separated from his first wife in the 30s but he did not divorce and married only a second time after she died in 1968.

Two books of Gardner The Knife Slipped and The Count of Nine which had been lost for 75 years were published in 2016 and 18 and were well received.

Gardner died of cancer and he was cremated and his ashes strewn all over the area he loved-Baja California.

© 2022 MG Singh

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