Blog: Writing about all things pulplish

Perry Mason: novels #5 and #6

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, February 19, 2016 in Movies, Old TV Shows
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Erle Stanley Gardner, author of Perry Mason.

Erle Stanley Gardner, author of Perry Mason.

Perry Mason. Loved the TV series. Really loved the series of books. Erle Stanley Gardner. Now there was an author. He wrote 86 Perry Mason novels, and still had time to pen over 1,000 pulp magazine stories and full-length novels. Of all the book series that I’ve read — and it adds up to quite a few — the Perry Mason series is by far my favorite.

I have been lucky to have read all 86 Perry Mason books, and have been doubly lucky to be able to read them in chronological order. And that’s important, to see the growth of the character over the years. And spanning the years from 1933 to 1973, I was able to note changes in scientific procedures of crime detection as well as changes in criminal law. It’s surprising how things changed during those forty years.

I took a few notes after reading each courtroom drama, so I can refer back to them now after some years. Let’s start off with Perry Mason #5.

The Case of the Curious Bride book cover.

The Case of the Curious Bride book cover.

The Case of the Curious Bride

In The Case Of The Curious Bride, Perry Mason once again enters the courtroom and pulls one of his most questionable tricks. The story was published in November 1934 and was the fifth of the Perry Mason Mysteries. It features Perry, Della Street, and Paul Drake. Mason’s courtroom adversary is John Lucas, a wily deputy district attorney. Hamilton Burger still hasn’t shown up, but this is the last story without him. He’ll appear in the sixth and next story.

At all starts when Rhoda Montaine visits Perry Mason’s office, seeking legal advice for “a friend.” Perry’s no dummy. He knows what she’s up to. Seven years ago, she was married to Gregory Moxley, a con man and rotter of the worst sort. He disappeared and she’s ready to have him declared legally dead. She’s just recently married wealthy Carl W. Montaine, and is now horrified to find that her first husband, Gregory Moxley, is still alive. Not only that, but he’s seeking blackmail money to keep quiet and out of sight.

Movie poster for The Case of the Curious Bride.

Movie poster for The Case of the Curious Bride.

Seems like a setup for a certain murder. And that’s just what happens. Rhoda’s supposed to sneak out of the house at 2 a.m. to meet with Moxley and pay him off. She shows up at his apartment a few minutes late, and is right in the middle of his murder. It’s an open-and-shut case; she evens admits she hit him with the fireplace poker.

So how’s Perry gonna pull this one out of the fire? He does, of course. It makes for a great story that’s hard to put down. But about that doorbell…

This story was filmed in 1935 as the second in the Warner Bros. series of Perry Mason movies, with William Warren as Perry. Clair Dodd played Della Street, her first time in the role. This murder mystery was also presented on the television series starring Raymond Burr, early in season two.

The Case of the Counterfeit Eye

Next in the long line of Perry Mason mysteries, was The Case of the Counterfeit Eye. A most intriguing title if I ever read one. With this tale, we finally meet district attorney Hamilton Burger. This is the sixth mystery in the series; it was published in April of 1935. It features our threesome, Perry Mason, Della Street, and Paul Drake.

The Case of the Counterfeit Eye hardback book.

The Case of the Counterfeit Eye hardback book.

When Peter Brunold shows up at Perry Mason’s office, claiming one of his glass eyes has been stolen and a counterfeit substituted in its place, who could guess that it would lead to murder? But before you know it, the real authentic glass eye is found. Found in the hand of a dead man. And Brunold has an excellent motive for wanting him dead! He’s in love with the dead man’s wife.

Was it suicide? Well, a gun is found on the floor of the room. But then a second gun is found under a blanket. Wait! There’s a third gun in the dead man’s shoulder holster. What’s with all the guns? And that typed suicide note is starting to look suspicious. Yup, it’s gotta be murder. And Peter Brunold is the one that all the evidence is pointing to.

District attorney Hamilton Burger as played by William Talman.

District attorney Hamilton Burger as played by William Talman.

Can Perry Mason prove his innocence and at the same time point the finger at the guilty party? And can he do it, all the while confounding the new D.A.? You betcha! But why did he just go out and order six custom-made glass eyes?

This story was not part of the Warner Bros. film series. It was produced for the Raymond Burr television series, but was rewritten and retitled The Case of the Treacherous Toupee. It aired at the beginning of the 1960 TV season. A glass eye was considered too gruesome for TV back then, so the glass eye became a toupee. My, now times have changed!

Both of the Perry Mason stories reviewed here are top-notch entertainment. And the second one has the benefit of being the debut of District Attorney Hamilton Burger. (boo… hiss…) You should read one or the other… or both. You won’t go wrong!