If you’re a fan of classic detective fiction, you’ve likely heard of Erle Stanley Gardner. Born in Malden, Massachusetts on July 17, 1889, Gardner went on to become one of the most prolific and successful crime writers of the 20th century. His most famous creation, Perry Mason, has become a cultural icon and is still enjoyed by readers and viewers today. But with so many books to choose from, where do you start? In this article, we’ll explore the life and work of Erle Stanley Gardner and help you discover the best books to read now.
Who is Erle Stanley Gardner?
Erle Stanley Gardner’s life was as fascinating as the stories he wrote. Gardner was an attorney, rancher, and prolific author, writing over 80 books during his career. He was also a private investigator and traveled extensively to research his stories. Gardner’s novels and stories have been translated into 80 languages, and his Perry Mason series alone has sold over 300 million copies worldwide. But who was the man behind the words?
A Brief Biography of the Author
Gardner’s early life was not without its struggles. At the age of 16, he left school to work as a typist for an attorney in California. Recognizing Gardner’s potential, the attorney offered to mentor him and encouraged him to become a lawyer himself. Gardner passed the bar exam in 1911 and opened his own law practice in California. But the legal profession wasn’t enough for Gardner – he was also an avid writer and was determined to make a name for himself in the literary world.
Gardner’s passion for writing led him to create some of the most memorable characters in literature, including Perry Mason, who became a household name. But Gardner’s writing career did not start off with a bang. In fact, his first novel was rejected by several publishers before finally being accepted. Despite this setback, Gardner persevered and continued to write, eventually becoming one of the most successful authors of his time.
Throughout his life, Gardner was known for his work ethic and his dedication to his craft. He wrote every day, often for hours on end, and was always looking for ways to improve his writing. He was a perfectionist and would often spend weeks, or even months, researching a single story to ensure that it was as accurate and detailed as possible.
The Creation of Perry Mason
Perry Mason is one of the most beloved and enduring characters in crime fiction. He is the epitome of a hard-boiled detective: confident, intelligent, and always one step ahead of the villain. But how did Gardner come up with the character?
According to Gardner, he was inspired by his experiences as a lawyer and private investigator. He wanted to create a hero who was tough but fair, someone who would always fight for justice, no matter the cost. Mason’s popularity only grew with each new story, cementing his place as a cultural icon.
But Gardner’s influence went beyond just his writing. He was also a champion of civil rights and social justice, often using his platform to speak out against injustice and inequality. He was a vocal advocate for the rights of minorities and was a supporter of the NAACP and other civil rights organizations.
Gardner’s legacy continues to live on today, both through his writing and his advocacy. His stories have been adapted into countless movies and television shows, and his characters have become cultural touchstones. But perhaps more importantly, his commitment to justice and equality serves as an inspiration to us all.
Top Erle Stanley Gardner Books
Erle Stanley Gardner was an American author and lawyer, best known for his detective fiction featuring the character Perry Mason. Gardner wrote over 80 Perry Mason novels, as well as numerous other works of fiction and non-fiction.
If you’re looking to dive into Gardner’s works, there are a few titles that are a must-read. Here are some of the top Erle Stanley Gardner books you should check out:
The Case of the Velvet Claws
The first Perry Mason book is a great place to start. The story follows the titular lawyer as he defends a woman accused of blackmail. The characters are richly drawn, and the plot is full of twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the very end.
One interesting fact about this book is that it was originally published in 1933 under the title “The Velvet Claws.” However, the word “case” was added to the title in later editions to fit with the naming convention of the other Perry Mason books.
The Case of the Sulky Girl
In this mystery, Mason takes on a case involving a young woman who has disappeared. The plot is intricate and complex, with plenty of red herrings to keep you guessing. The ending is a satisfying payoff that will leave you wanting more.
One of the interesting things about this book is that it was adapted into a film in 1939, starring Warren William as Perry Mason. The film was the first in a series of Perry Mason movies produced by Warner Bros. in the 1930s and 1940s.
You can find this book here.
The Case of the Lucky Legs
This book features one of Gardner’s most iconic openings: a woman walks into Mason’s office and offers him a ten-thousand-dollar retainer to find her missing fiancé. The story spirals from there, with Mason uncovering a web of deceit and corruption. The dialogue crackles, and the action is fast-paced.
Interestingly, this book was also adapted into a film in 1935, starring Warner Baxter as Perry Mason. The film was a critical and commercial success, and helped to cement Mason’s place as one of the most iconic fictional detectives of all time.
You can find this book here.
The Case of the Howling Dog
Another classic Perry Mason story, this book centers around a man who claims he’s being haunted by a barking dog. As always, Mason is there to help, but things quickly spiral out of control. The plot is intricate and engaging, and the ending is one of Gardner’s best.
One interesting fact about this book is that it was adapted into an episode of the Perry Mason TV series in 1957. The episode was one of the most popular of the series, and helped to introduce a new generation of viewers to Gardner’s work.
You can find this book here.
The Case of the Sleepwalker’s Niece
In this book, Mason takes on the case of a young woman who is being accused of murder. The plot is twisty, the characters are well-drawn, and the ending is satisfying. It’s a great introduction to Gardner’s style of detective fiction.
Interestingly, this book was also adapted into an episode of the Perry Mason TV series, but with a twist: in the TV version, the character of Perry Mason was played by a woman, played by actress Gene Barry.
Overall, Erle Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason books are must-reads for fans of detective fiction. With their intricate plots, engaging characters, and fast-paced action, they are sure to keep you guessing until the very end.
You can find this book here.
The Perry Mason Series
The Perry Mason series is what Erle Stanley Gardner is best known for, and it’s not hard to see why. The books are filled with colorful characters, intricate plots, and snappy dialogue. Here are a few things you should know about the series:
An Overview of the Series
The Perry Mason series is a collection of 82 novels and 4 short story collections. The first book, The Case of the Velvet Claws, was published in 1933, and the series continued until Gardner’s death in 1970. The books were wildly popular, making Gardner one of the best-selling authors of all time. The series follows the adventures of Perry Mason, a brilliant defense attorney, as he navigates the complex legal system to exonerate his clients. Each book is a standalone story, but the characters and themes are interconnected throughout the series.
The Evolution of Perry Mason’s Character
Over the course of the series, Perry Mason’s character underwent some changes. In the early books, he was more of a hard-boiled detective, similar to Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe. But as the series progressed, Mason became more of a superhero, always one step ahead of the villains. The dialogue became snappier, and the plots more intricate. Mason’s character was also influenced by the changing times. In the 1950s and 60s, Mason became more socially conscious, taking on cases that dealt with issues like civil rights and government corruption.
The Impact of the Perry Mason TV Show
The Perry Mason series was adapted into a hugely popular television show that ran from 1957 to 1966. Starring Raymond Burr as Mason, the show was a ratings powerhouse and helped to cement the character’s status as a cultural icon. It also introduced new fans to Gardner’s books and created a new generation of Perry Mason enthusiasts. The show was known for its high production values, intricate plots, and strong performances from its cast. It was also groundbreaking in its portrayal of the legal system, showing the inner workings of a courtroom in a way that had never been seen before on television.
One of the most interesting things about the Perry Mason series is the way it reflects the changing cultural landscape of America. The early books, set in the 1930s and 40s, are a product of their time, with Mason taking on cases that deal with issues like organized crime and political corruption. But as the series progresses into the 1950s and 60s, the books become more socially conscious, dealing with issues like civil rights and government surveillance. Gardner was not afraid to tackle controversial topics, and his books are a fascinating snapshot of American culture in the mid-twentieth century.
The Perry Mason series also has a devoted fan base, with readers all over the world who continue to be captivated by Mason’s adventures. The books have been translated into dozens of languages, and have been adapted into movies, television shows, and even a radio drama. The enduring popularity of the series is a testament to Gardner’s skill as a writer, and to the enduring appeal of Perry Mason, one of the most iconic characters in American literature.
Other Notable Works by Erle Stanley Gardner
While Perry Mason is certainly Gardner’s most famous creation, he wrote plenty of other books and stories. Here are a few of Gardner’s other notable works:
The Cool and Lam Series
The Cool and Lam series is a departure from Gardner’s usual style of detective fiction. The books center around Bertha Cool, a middle-aged private detective, and her associate, Donald Lam. The books are witty and fun, with a breezy style that will keep you turning pages.
The Doug Selby Series
The Doug Selby series follows a prosecutor in small-town California. The books are more realistic than the Perry Mason series, with a focus on courtroom drama and police procedure. The books are well-written and engaging, with plenty of twists and turns.
Standalone Novels and Short Stories
Gardner wrote plenty of standalone novels and short stories that are worth checking out. They run the gamut from hard-boiled detective stories to romance to westerns. Some notable titles include The D.A. Calls It Murder, The Case of the Curious Bride, and The Big Fix.
There’s no denying that Erle Stanley Gardner was a talented writer, and his influence on the genre cannot be overstated. Whether you’re a fan of Perry Mason or just detective fiction in general, there’s something to love about Gardner’s work. We hope this article has helped you discover some of the best Erle Stanley Gardner books to read now. So go ahead and start reading – you won’t be disappointed.
What genre do Erle Stanely Gardner’s novels belong to?
Gardner predominantly contributed to the crime and mystery genres. His most popular work, the Perry Mason series, follows a fictional criminal defense lawyer as he attempts to prove the innocence of his various clients.
How many Perry Mason books are there?
In total, there are 82 novels and 4 short stories that feature Perry Mason. They were released between 1933 and 1973.
When did Erle Stanley Gardner publish his first novel?
Gardner released his first novel, The Case of the Velvet Claws, in 1933. Prior to this, he had written short stories for various pulp magazines.