Re: RARA-AVIS: The Chandler / Hammett Ellroy-inspired debate

From: Patrick King (
Date: 22 Jun 2010

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    I am not surprised. Gardner was hugely successful (also very prolific). But even Chandler's earliest stories have a tightness and a pace that are not typical of Gardner. I love his stories, they are sometimes jewels of camp, but the other day, while reading one of his Ed Jenkins stories, the thought was: boy, was this guy crude! Chandler didn't crank out stories like that. In some of Gardner's stories you can actually see what happened: a third through it, Gardner realizes that the plotline is a dud and then proceeds to have a few coincidences to fix it. Great stuff, if you're in the mood for a good laugh and innocent fun.


    No question about it! I admit a guilty pleasure in reading Perry Mason mysteries, but some of them don't even end and none of them make any sense. The characters tend to be stereotypes and Mason has an incredibly easy time catching taxis. You could drive a truck through Gardner's plot holes. That said, I spent last Saturday night enthralled in THE CASE OF THE BEAUTIFUL BEGGAR. Gardner hauls you into the story exactly as he hauls Mason into it, by immediately getting the reader to identify with this young woman who is obviously being underestimated by con men. The murder is absurd, the resolution ridiculous, the ending a fairy tale but over all I enjoyed the book immensely. Who wants to tell Uncle Erle they don't believe he killed a bear with a knife? You just want him to go on with the story.

    Chandler is a vastly better writer than Erle Stanley Gardner, but it's interesting that it was Gardner, by Chandler's own letter, who acted at a template for his early stories. Maybe Chandler made the same observations we do and thought, "Hell, if this guy can do it, I can." But, as you say, Mario, in a crude way Gardner is very effective.

    Patrick King


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