Erle Stanley Gardner

Erle Stanley Gardner (July 17, 1889 – March 11, 1970) was an American lawyer and author. He is best known for the Perry Mason series of detective stories, but he wrote numerous other novels and shorter pieces and also a series of nonfiction books, mostly narrations of his travels through Baja California and other regions in Mexico.

The best-selling American author of the 20th century at the time of his death, Gardner also published under numerous pseudonyms, including A.A. Fair, Kyle Corning, Charles M. Green, Carleton Kendrake, Charles J. Kenny, Les Tillray and Robert Parr.

Erle Stanley Gardner
Erle Stanley Gardner in 1966
Erle Stanley Gardner in 1966
BornJuly 17, 1889
Malden, Massachusetts, U.S.[1]
DiedMarch 11, 1970 (aged 80)
Temecula, California, U.S.
Pen nameKyle Corning, A.A. Fair, Charles M. Green, Carleton Kendrake, Charles J. Kenny, Robert Parr, Les Tillray
OccupationLawyer, writer
GenreDetective fiction, true crime, travel writing
Notable works
Notable awards
  • Natalie Frances Talbert
    (married 1912–1968)
  • Agnes Jean Bethell
    (married 1968–1970)

Autograph signature of erle stanley gardner

Life and work

First National Bank Building Ventura
The First National Bank Building in Ventura, where Gardner wrote drafts for first Perry Mason novels

Born in Malden, Massachusetts, Erle Stanley Gardner graduated from Palo Alto High School in California in 1909 and enrolled at Valparaiso University School of Law in Indiana. He was suspended after approximately one month when his interest in boxing became a distraction. He returned to California, pursued his legal education on his own, and passed the state bar exam in 1911.

In 1912, Gardner wed Natalie Frances Talbert; they had a daughter, Grace.[2] He opened his first law office in Merced in 1917, but closed it after accepting a position at a sales agency. In 1921, he returned to law as a member of the Ventura firm Sheridan, Orr, Drapeau, and Gardner,[3] where he remained until 1933.[4]

Gardner enjoyed litigation and the development of trial strategy but was otherwise bored by legal practice. In his spare time, he began writing for pulp magazines; his first story was published in 1923. He created many series characters for the pulps, including the ingenious Lester Leith, a parody of the "gentleman thief" in the tradition of A. J. Raffles; and Ken Corning, crusading lawyer, crime sleuth, and archetype for his most successful creation, Perry Mason. While the Perry Mason novels did not delve into their characters' lives very much, the novels were rich in plot detail which was reality-based and drawn from his own experience.[5] In his early years writing for the pulp magazine market, Gardner set himself a quota of 1,200,000 words a year.[6]:13 When asked why his heroes always defeated villains with the last bullet in their guns, Gardner answered, "At three cents a word, every time I say ‘Bang’ in the story I get three cents. If you think I'm going to finish the gun battle while my hero still has fifteen cents worth of unexploded ammunition in his gun, you're nuts".[7] Early on, he typed his stories himself, using two fingers, but later he dictated them to a team of secretaries.

Under the pen name A. A. Fair, Gardner wrote a series of novels about the private detective firm of Cool and Lam. In another series, District Attorney Doug Selby litigated against attorney Alphonse Baker Carr in an inversion of the Perry Mason scenario. Prosecutor Selby is portrayed as a courageous and imaginative crime solver; his antagonist A. B. Carr is a wily shyster whose clients are invariably "as guilty as hell".

Gardner remained with Sheridan, Orr, Drapeau, and Gardner until 1933, when The Case of the Velvet Claws was published. Much of that story is set at the historic Pierpont Inn, just down the road from his law office.[4] In 1937, Gardner moved to Temecula, California, where he lived for the rest of his life.

With the success of the Mason series, which eventually ran to over 80 novels, Gardner gradually reduced his contributions to the pulp magazines until the medium itself died in the 1950s. Thereafter, he published a few short stories in the "glossies", such as Collier's, Sports Afield, and Look,[8] but most of his postwar magazine contributions were nonfiction articles on travel, Western history, and forensic science. Gardner's readership was a broad and international one, including the English novelist Evelyn Waugh, who in 1949 called Gardner the best living American writer.[9][10]

Perry Mason executive producer Gail Patrick Jackson and Erle Stanley Gardner speak with Hollywood columnist Norma Lee Browning during filming of the last episode, "The Case of the Final Fade-Out" (1966)

Gardner also created characters for various radio programs, including Christopher London (1950), starring Glenn Ford, and A Life in Your Hands (1949–1952).[11]:10, 157 He created Perry Mason as a recurring character in a series of Hollywood films of the 1930s, and then for the radio program Perry Mason, which ran from 1943 to 1955. In 1954, CBS proposed transforming Perry Mason into a television soap opera. When Gardner opposed the idea, CBS created The Edge of Night, featuring John Larkin—who voiced Mason on the radio show—as a thinly veiled imitation of the Mason character.[11]:199–201

In 1957, Perry Mason became a long-running CBS-TV series, starring Raymond Burr in the title role. Burr had auditioned for the role of the district attorney Hamilton Burger, but Gardner reportedly declared he was the embodiment of Perry Mason.[12] Gardner made an uncredited appearance as a judge in "The Case of the Final Fade-Out" (1966), the last episode of the series.[13][14]:24

Gardner and his first wife had separated in the early 1930s, and after her death in 1968, Gardner married Agnes Jean Bethell[15] (1902–2002), his secretary since 1930. The character of Della Street was a composite of Jean and her two sisters, Peggy and Ruth, who also worked as secretaries for Gardner.

He held a lifelong fascination with Baja California and wrote a series of nonfiction travel accounts describing his extensive explorations of the peninsula by boat, truck, airplane, and helicopter.

The Court of Last Resort (1952) earned Gardner his only Edgar Award, in the Best Fact Crime category.

Gardner devoted thousands of hours to "The Court of Last Resort", in collaboration with his many friends in the forensic, legal, and investigative communities. The project sought to review, and when appropriate, reverse miscarriages of justice against criminal defendants who had been convicted because of poor legal representation, abuse, misinterpretation of forensic evidence, or careless or malicious actions of police or prosecutors. The resulting 1952 book earned Gardner his only Edgar Award, in the Best Fact Crime category,[16] and was later made into a TV series, The Court of Last Resort.

Death and legacy

Gardner died on March 11, 1970, at his ranch in Temecula[2][17]—the best-selling American writer of the 20th century at the time of his death.[2] He was cremated and his ashes scattered over his beloved Baja California peninsula.[6]:305 The ranch, known as Rancho del Paisano at the time, was sold after his death, then resold in 2001 to the Pechanga Indians, renamed Great Oak Ranch, and eventually absorbed into the Pechanga reservation.

The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin holds Gardner's manuscripts, art collection, and personal effects. From 1972 to 2010, the Ransom Center featured a full-scale reproduction of Gardner's study that displayed original furnishings, personal memorabilia, and artifacts.[18] The space and a companion exhibition were dismantled, but a panoramic view of the study is available online.[19]

In 2003, a new school in the Temecula Valley Unified School District was named Erle Stanley Gardner Middle School.[20][21]

In December 2016, Hard Case Crime published The Knife Slipped, a Bertha Cool–Donald Lam mystery, which had been lost for 75 years. Written in 1939 as the second entry in the Cool and Lam series, the book was rejected at the time by Gardner's publisher.[22] Published for the first time in 2016, as a trade paperback and ebook, the work garnered respectful reviews.[23][24] Hard Case Crime followed publication of The Knife Slipped with a reissued edition of Turn On the Heat, the book Gardner wrote to replace The Knife Slipped, in 2017 and has announced a new edition of The Count of Nine to appear in October 2018.[25]

Cultural references

An unspecified article Gardner wrote for True magazine is referenced by William S. Burroughs in his 1959 novel, Naked Lunch.[26]

Gardner's name is well known among avid crossword puzzle solvers, because his first name contains an unusual series of common letters, and because few other famous people have that name. As of January 2012, he is noted for having the highest ratio (5.31) of mentions in the New York Times crossword puzzle to mentions in the rest of the newspaper among all other people since 1993.[27]

In 2001, Huell Howser Productions, in association with KCET, Los Angeles, featured Gardner's Temecula Rancho del Paisano in California's Gold. The 30-minute program is available as a VHS videorecording.[28]


  1. ^ "Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841–1910". New England Historic Genealogical Society. Archived from the original on 1 August 2010. Retrieved 4 August 2010.
  2. ^ a b c Krebs, Albin (March 12, 1970). "'The Fiction Factory': Erle Stanley Gardner, Author of the Perry Mason Mystery Novels, Is Dead at 80". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-07-28. As the best-selling American author of the century, Erle Stanley Gardner often insisted that he was 'not really a writer at all,' and to be sure, there were many critics who enthusiastically agreed with him. But millions of readers who have bought more than 170 million copies of his books in American editions alone, looked upon Mr. Gardner, creator of the redoubtable defense lawyer Perry Mason, as a master storyteller.
  3. ^ Senate, Richard. "Erle Stanley Gardner". Benton, Orr, Duval, & Buckingham. Retrieved 1 August 2013.
  4. ^ a b Current Biography 1944, pp. 224–226
  5. ^ Pierce, J. Kingston (March 31, 2015). "'I Rest My Case: Perry Mason Still Rules in the Courtroom'". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved February 18, 2018.
  6. ^ a b Hughes, Dorothy B. (1978). Erle Stanley Gardner: The Case of the Real Perry Mason. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc. ISBN 0-688-03282-6.
  7. ^ Maher, Jimmy (2014-06-05). "Perry Mason: The Case of the Mandarin Murder". The Digital Antiquarian. Retrieved 11 July 2014.
  8. ^ "Erle Stanley Gardner Bibliography". Archived from the original on 2012-10-28. Retrieved 2013-06-20.
  9. ^ Stannard, Martin (1992). Evelyn Waugh: The Later Years 1939–1966. W. W. Norton. p. 240. ISBN 0-393-03412-7
  10. ^ Borello, A. (1970). “Evelyn Waugh and Earl Stanley Gardner”. Evelyn Waugh Newsletter, vol. 4, no. 3. Archived 2013-10-20 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved October 15, 2014.
  11. ^ a b Cox, Jim (2002). Radio Crime Fighters. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. ISBN 0-7864-1390-5.
  12. ^ Podolsky, JD; Bacon, D. “The Defense Rests”. People Magazine archive. Retrieved August 11, 2014.
  13. ^ "Perry Mason, Season 9 (CBS) (1965–66)". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved 2015-05-02.
  14. ^ Kelleher, Brian; Merrill, Diana (1987). "The History of the Show". The Perry Mason TV Show Book. New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 8–27. ISBN 9780312006693. Retrieved 2015-05-02.
  15. ^ "Erle Stanley Gardner Weds". New York Times. August 9, 1968. Retrieved 2013-12-19. Erle Stanley Gardner, creator of fictional Perry Mason, married Agnes Jean Bethell, his secretary of 40 years, last night at the home of a former Nevada State Prison warden.
  16. ^ "Interesting Facts About Erle Stanley Gardner". Phantom Bookshop. Retrieved 11 July 2012.
  17. ^ "Erle Stanley Gardner, Author of Perry Mason Stories, Dies". Los Angeles Times. March 12, 1970. Erle Stanley Gardner, whose Perry Mason mysteries made him the world's best selling author, died Wednesday at his ranch home at Temecula in Riverside County.
  18. ^ "Erle Stanley Gardner Study". Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Retrieved 2016-06-26.
  19. ^ "Panoramic View, Erle Stanley Gardner Study". Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Retrieved 2016-06-26.
  20. ^ "Gardner Middle School". Temecula Valley Unified School District. Retrieved 2015-07-28.
  21. ^ Kasindorf, Martin (March 20, 2003). "Congestion Replaces Citrus in L.A. Fringe". USA Today. Retrieved 2015-07-28.
  22. ^ "Our Books". Retrieved February 17, 2017.
  23. ^ "The Knife Slipped". Publishers Weekly. October 3, 2016. Retrieved February 17, 2017.
  24. ^ "The Knife Slipped". Kirkus Reviews. October 1, 2016. Retrieved February 17, 2017.
  25. ^ "About The Count of 9". Retrieved January 15, 2018.
  26. ^ MacFadyen, Ian (2009). "Dossier Four". In Harris, Oliver; MacFayden, Ian. Naked Lunch at 50: Anniversary Essays. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. p. 164. ISBN 978-0-8093-2916-8.
  27. ^ Gaffney, Matt (2012-01-27). "The Shortz List of Crossword Celebrities". Slate. Archived from the original on 2015-08-31. Retrieved 2012-02-27.
  28. ^ OCLC 53175485

Further reading

  • Fugate, Francis L. and Roberta B. (1980). Secrets of the World's Best-Selling Writer: The Story Telling Techniques of Erle Stanley Gardner. New York: William Morrow. ISBN 0-688-03701-1.
  • Hughes, Dorothy B. (1978). Erle Stanley Gardner: The Case of the Real Perry Mason. New York: William Morrow. ISBN 0-688-03282-6.
  • Johnston, Alva (1947). The Case of Erle Stanley Gardner. New York: William Morrow.
  • Mundell, E. H. (1968). Erle Stanley Gardner: A Checklist. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press. ISBN 0873380347.
  • Senate, Richard L. Erle Stanley Gardner's Ventura: Birthplace of Perry Mason. Ventura, California: Citation Press. ISBN 0-9640065-5-3.

External links

Cool and Lam

Cool and Lam is a fictional American private detective firm that is the center of a series of detective novels written by Erle Stanley Gardner using the pen name of A. A. Fair.

Della Street

Della Street is the fictional secretary of Perry Mason in the long-running series of novels, short stories, films, and radio and television programs featuring the fictional defense attorney created by Erle Stanley Gardner.

Doug Selby

Doug Selby is a fictional creation of Erle Stanley Gardner. He appears in nine books, most originally serialized in magazines. He was portrayed by Jim Hutton in a 1971 television movie, They Call It Murder, loosely based on The D.A. Draws a Circle—the only film adaptation of the series.

Ed Jenkins

Ed Jenkins may refer to:

Ed Jenkins (U.S. politician) (1933–2012), Edgar Jenkins, U.S. Representative from Georgia

Ed Jenkins (American football) (born 1950), Edward Jenkins, former American football wide receiver

Ed Jenkins, fictional protagonist of a series of novelettes by Erle Stanley Gardner

Ed Jenkins (rugby union) (born 1986), Australian rugby union player

Erle Stanley Gardner bibliography

This is a bibliography of works by and about the American writer Erle Stanley Gardner.

Gold Seal Novel

Gold Seal Novels are illustrated novels covering a wide range of genres published in editions of the Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer between 1934 and 1949. They were published as a "complete illustrated novel" as a section of the newspaper's Sunday edition. Authors include John Dickson Carr, Clyde Brion Davis, Erle Stanley Gardner, Graham Greene, Fannie Hurst, Frances Parkinson Keyes, Sinclair Lewis, Philip MacDonald, Cecile Hulse Matschat, Mary O'Hara, Ellery Queen, Georges Simenon, Rex Stout and Eudora Welty. To date, 382 Gold Seal Novels have been cataloged by collectors.

List of fictional detective teams

This is a list of fictional detective teams from popular detective fiction. This list includes pairs of characters who appear in a series of novels or short stories, not characters who are teamed only for a single story.

Where two detectives work together, they are listed as A and B; where a single detective is regularly accompanied by a non-detecting sidekick or chronicler they are listed as A with B. The author who created the team appears in parentheses.

Elijah Baley and R. Daneel Olivaw - (Isaac Asimov)

Tommy and Tuppence Beresford - (Agatha Christie)

Hercule Poirot with Arthur Hastings - (Agatha Christie)

Grijpstra and de Gier - (Janwillem van de Wetering)

Frank and Joe Hardy - (Franklin W. Dixon)

Sherlock Holmes with Dr. John H. Watson - (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

Bertha Cool and Donald Lam - (Erle Stanley Gardner as A. A. Fair)

Lord Darcy and Sean O'Lochlainn - (Randall Garrett)

Hawk and Fisher - (Simon Green)

Nick and Nora Charles - (Dashiell Hammett)

Dalziel and Pascoe - (Reginald Hill)

Shawn Spencer and Burton Guster - (Steve Franks)

Solomon and Lord - (Paul Levine)

Travis McGee and Meyer - (John D. MacDonald)

Morse and Lewis - (Colin Dexter)

Hildegarde Withers with Inspector Oscar Piper - (Stuart Palmer)

Adrian Monk and Natalie Teeger - (Andy Breckman)

Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin - (Rex Stout)

Sister Fidelma with Brother Eadulf - (Peter Tremayne)

Master Li with Number Ten Ox - (Barry Hughart)

Inspector Lynley with Sergeant Havers - (Elisabeth George)

Martin Beck with Gunvald Larsson - (Sjöwall and Wahlöö)

Michael Knight and KITT - (Glen A. Larson)

Shaggy Rogers with Scooby Dooby Doo - (Hanna-Barbera)

Nick Wilde and Judy Hops - (Clark Spencer)

Phoenix Wright With Maya Fey - (Shu Takumi)

Paul Drake (character)

Paul Drake is a fictional private detective in the Perry Mason series of murder mystery novels by Erle Stanley Gardner. Drake is described as tall and slouching, nondescript (as suits his profession), and frequently wearing an expression of droll humor. He is friend and right-hand man to Mason, a highly successful criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles.

Perry Mason

Perry Mason is an American fictional character, a criminal defense lawyer who is the main character in works of detective fiction written by Erle Stanley Gardner. Perry Mason is featured in more than 80 novels and short stories, most of which involve a client's murder trial. Typically, Mason establishes his client's innocence (rather than a verdict of 'not guilty') by implicating another character, who then confesses.

The character of Perry Mason was adapted for motion pictures and a long-running radio series. These were followed by its best-known adaptation, the CBS television series Perry Mason (1957–66) starring Raymond Burr. A second television series, The New Perry Mason starring Monte Markham, ran from 1973 to 1974; and 30 Perry Mason television films ran from 1985 to 1995, with Burr reprising the role of Mason in 26 of them prior to his death in 1993.The Perry Mason series ranks third in the top ten best selling book series. In 2015, the American Bar Association's publishing imprint, Ankerwycke, began reissuing Gardner's Perry Mason books, which had been out of print in the United States.

Perry Mason (miniseries)

Perry Mason is an upcoming American drama television miniseries, based on the Perry Mason series of short stories and novels written by Erle Stanley Gardner, that is set to premiere on HBO. The series is being written by Rolin Jones and Ron Fitzgerald and is set to star Matthew Rhys in the title role.

Perry Mason (radio series)

Perry Mason is a radio crime serial based on the novels of Erle Stanley Gardner. Broadcast weekdays on CBS Radio from 1943 to 1955, the series was adapted into The Edge of Night which ran on television for an additional 30 years.

Special Investigator (film)

Special Investigator is a 1936 RKO Radio Pictures American crime-drama film, starring Richard Dix and featuring Margaret Callahan, Erik Rhodes and Owen Davis, Jr. It was directed by Louis King from a screenplay by Louis Stevens, Thomas Lennon and Ferdinand Reyher, based on "Fugitive Gold", a story by Erle Stanley Gardner originally serialized in the New York Herald Tribune's This Week magazine from May 26–July 7, 1935.

The Case of the Black Cat

The Case of the Black Cat is a 1936 mystery film, based on the novel The Case of the Caretaker's Cat by Erle Stanley Gardner. The film stars Ricardo Cortez as Perry Mason, and co-stars June Travis and Jane Bryan. The film is the first in the series not to feature Warren William as Mason.

The Case of the Curious Bride

The Case of the Curious Bride is a 1935 mystery film, the second in a series starring Warren William as Perry Mason, following The Case of the Howling Dog. The script was based on the 1934 novel of the same name by Erle Stanley Gardner, published by William Morrow and Company, which proved to be one of the most popular of all the Perry Mason novels.The movie marked Errol Flynn's first appearance in a Hollywood film. He appears twice, as a corpse and in flashback towards the end.

The Case of the Stuttering Bishop

The Case of the Stuttering Bishop is a 1937 drama film directed by William Clemens. It stars Donald Woods as Perry Mason and Ann Dvorak as Della Street, his secretary. Edward McWade plays the role of stuttering Bishop William Mallory. It is the sixth and final film in the Warner Bros. Perry Mason series. It is based on the novel The Case of the Stuttering Bishop (1936) by Erle Stanley Gardner.

The Case of the Velvet Claws

The Case of the Velvet Claws is a 1936 mystery film, based on the first Perry Mason novel by Erle Stanley Gardner and featuring the fourth and final appearance of Warren William as defense attorney Mason. Mason finally marries his longtime secretary Della Street, but has to cut their honeymoon short in order to defend a woman accused of murder.

The Court of Last Resort

The Court of Last Resort is an American television dramatized court show which aired October 4, 1957 – April 11, 1958, on NBC. It was co-produced by Erle Stanley Gardner's Paisano Productions, which also brought forth the long-running hit CBS-TV law series, Perry Mason. Its approach to dealing with potential miscarriages of justice in an entirely extra-judicial format was adopted by the BBC series Rough Justice in the 1980s.

They Call It Murder

They Call It Murder is a 1971 American television film directed by Walter Grauman and starring Jim Hutton.

William Morrow and Company

William Morrow and Company is an American publishing company founded by William Morrow in 1926. The company was acquired by Scott Foresman in 1967, sold to Hearst Corporation in 1981, and sold to News Corporation (now News Corp) in 1999. The company is now an imprint of HarperCollins.

William Morrow has published many renowned fiction and non-fiction authors, including Ray Bradbury, Michael Chabon, Neil Gaiman, Erle Stanley Gardner, B. H. Liddell Hart, Elmore Leonard, Judith Rossner, and Neal Stephenson.

Francis Thayer Hobson was President and later Chairman of the Board of William Morrow and Company.

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