Perry Mason: novels #29 and #30
Perry Mason was the brain child of author Erle Stanley Gardner. Gardner got his start in the pulps, where he was regularly published in Black Mask among many others. But after 12 years, he produced the first Perry Mason mystery and the rest, as they say, is history. He continued writing for the pulps and eventually the slicks, and he created other series such as the Cool and Lam books and the Doug Selby series. But when I hear the name Erle Stanley Gardner, the first thing that pops into my mind is Perry Mason.
Every month or so, I jot down my thoughts on two of the Perry Mason books. Going in order of publication, we are now up to numbers 29 and 30. We start off with The Case of the Fan Dancer’s Horse from 1947.
‘The Case of the Fan Dancer’s Horse’
Another winner from Erle Stanley Gardner. Did he ever produce a dud? If so, I have yet to find it. No sign of Lieutenant Tragg, here, although his name is mentioned. But Hamilton Burger, Perry, Della, and Paul are all here. And telephone operator Gertie, too. Law-clerk Jackson is a no-show.
This murder mystery is mostly about the fan dancer, not her horse. In fact, the whole horse angle is played up big at first and then fizzles out. But since you really want to know, here it is. Someone rode into John Callender’s spread on horseback in the middle of the night, to pilfer his safe. The mystery person was discovered, and the watchman took a shot at him… or her… as the rider took off on horseback. The bullet grazed the flank of the horse and lodged in the saddle. And what does all that have to do with this murder? Not much, really.
The mystery is really about a fan dancer who has an impersonator. Yes, someone else is using her name and her act. But when the fan dancer’s husband is murdered, the question becomes who is the guilty party? The fan dancer wife? The uncanny duplicate? Or someone else. Perry Mason finally unravels the truth in a terrific courtroom climax. Yes, another excellent novel.
When Perry Mason was brought to television in 1957, this story was dramatized on Dec. 28 of that year. Yes, it was the 15th episode of season 1. And as was often the case, this episode was filled with well-established character actors. One that caught my eye was Dennis Moore, who played in more B-movies and serials that I can count.
Sergeant Holcomb, a regular character from the earlier Mason mysteries, was eventually supplanted by Lieutenant Tragg. But he appears in the TV adaptation, which I though was interesting. Sergeant Holcomb only appeared on the TV series twice. This was his second and final appearance.
‘The Case of the Lazy Lover’
Later in 1947 a second Perry Mason story was published, The Case of the Lazy Lover. Erle Stanley Gardner celebrated his 30th Perry Mason mystery with another winner. Perry, Della, and Paul are all there, of course; what would a Perry Mason novel be without them. Too bad District Attorney Hamilton Burger doesn’t show up, but at least Lieutenant Tragg gets a nice juicy part. And best of all, telephone operator Gertie gets out of the office and gets a chance to help Perry with his case.
The “Lazy Lover” of the title isn’t really lazy at all. And, as it turns out, he’s not a lover, either. Robert Fleetwood gives the appearance of a lazy lover, but in reality he’s a confused amnesiac. Or is he faking? When his boss, Bertrand C. Allred, turns up dead, Perry gets stuck defending the wife, Lola. He’s not sure she’s telling him the truth, but then clients so rarely do tell the truth, anyway. She sends Perry a retainer check. Then another one. And one of the two checks is a forgery. Hey, just what’s going on, here? That’s what Perry Mason must find out. And we get to come along for the ride.
The story was turned in a season 1 episode, airing May 31, 1958. Among the cast were Neil Hamilton who in about nine years would become Commissioner Gordon on Batman, and Yvonne Craig who would be Batgirl in the same series. Also in the cast was Nancy Kulp, of Beverly Hillbillies fame.
So here you have two more great Perry Mason novels. I haven’t found a dud, yet. And these two didn’t let me down, either. Plenty of puzzles, which seem so mysterious, but then all become clear by story’s end. How does he do it!
If you haven’t started reading these courtroom dramas, you have a real treat in store for yourself. Don’t wait. Pick one up today!