RARA-AVIS: Gardner

From: Moorich2@aol.com
Date: 30 Nov 2002

The total wordage sold by Erle Stanley Gardner outside of the Perry Mason series may not exceed the words contained in the 82 novels featuring the lawyer but it would be a close call. The popularity of Mason overshadows his other creations and that's a shame in many ways. Don't get me wrong. I am a sucker for the Mason novels. I just finished THE CASE OF THE TERRIFIED TYPIST (1955) and could not stand any interruption as I neared the conclusion. Whatever his faults, Gardner is a master of pace and I find him compulsively readable.

But beyond Mason, Gardner published 29 novels about PIs Bertha Cool and Donald Lam and nine about DA Doug Selby. Before and after Mason, Gardner wrote and sold scores of stories about Ed Jenkins, Paul Pry, Hard Rock Hogan, the Patent Leather Kid, Speed Dash and more than seventy stories about Lester Leith. One of my favorite series is the "Whispering Sands" stories. He also wrote eight or nine books of non-fiction about the southwestern desert area of the U.S.

Even if Gardner had not created Perry Mason, he would be considered a giant of the Black Mask "school" of writing. In fact, I think the bland, watered down last decade of Perry Masons did considerable damage to the writer's reputation.

Richard Moore

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