Perry Mason: novels #31 and #32
Perry Mason. Della Street. Paul Drake. Hamilton Burger. Lt. Tragg. And the author of those immortal characters, Erle Stanley Gardner. Gardner was a pulp author who went on to write probably the most famous fictional lawyer ever created. Hey, Gardner was a lawyer himself, which couldn’t hurt. He passed the bar in 1911 and started writing for the pulp magazines in 1923.
Black Mask, Argosy, Clues, Dime Detective and Double Detective… those were but a few of the magazines for which he wrote. It was in 1933 that he wrote his first Perry Mason courtroom drama. Not for the pulps. It was published in hardback. And the Perry Mason novels just kept coming. When Gardner died in 1970, he had 86 Perry Mason books under his belt. The pulp magazines produced some notable authors, and Erle Stanley Gardner was one of the brightest among the stars.
‘The Case of the Lonely Heiress’
The Case of the Lonely Heiress (February 1948) is the 31st Perry Mason mystery that Erle Stanley Gardner wrote, and everybody except District Attorney Hamilton Burger is here. Perry, Della, and Paul are naturally front and center. Telephone operator Gertie shows up, and even law-clerk Jackson sticks his head in. Lt. Tragg plays the good cop and Sgt. Holcomb gets to be bad cop, as usual. But James Hanover, Deputy District Attorney, takes over for Hamilton Burger.
Perry Mason gets into the lovelorn business. He’s approached by Robert Caddo, publisher of Lonely Hearts Are Calling, who wants to find one of the lovelorn who has advertised in his magazine. One Marilyn Marlow. She describes herself as an heiress… a lonely heiress. Well, Perry finds her, all right. But the inheritance all hinges on the testimony of a nurse, and wouldn’t you know it… the nurse is murdered. And Marilyn Marlow is the only one who could have done it!
As usual, Perry gets dragged into the case against his better will. And he pulls some sneaky shenanigans, putting his license to practice into jeopardy. But he pulls it out of the fire, as he always does, in some pretty spectacular courtroom fireworks. I really liked this tale, although there was one flaw. At the end, when Perry was explaining how everything happened, he never explained how the bloody murder weapon was found in his client’s car. Some slopping writing, there, but the story is still worthwhile.
Raymond Burr was TV’s famous Perry Mason. He is the picture that I see in my mind when I read a Perry Mason story. And the TV series did its own version of “The Case of the Lonely Heiress” on Feb. 1, 1958. It was the 20th episode of season one.
In the TV cast was Richard Crane and Betty Lou Gerson. Crane was TV’s Rocky Jones, Space Ranger. He was also recognized from many serial and TV appearances. Gerson was a regular on many old radio shows such as The Whistler, I Love Adventure, Escape, Yours Truly Johnny Dollar and Lux Radio Theater.
‘The Case of the Vagabond Virgin’
Law-clerk Jackson doesn’t show up in The Case of the Vagabond Virgin (July 1948), but everybody else does. Perry, Della and Paul carry the action as usual. Gertie is at the telephones. Sgt. Holcomb is his usual belligerent self, and Lt. Tragg his usual suave, intelligent self. And D.A. Hamilton Burger is at his blustering best.
Department store owner John Addison comes to Perry Mason with a problem. He’s being blackmailed because of his kindly acts toward a stunning female hitchhiker. He only offered this innocent young thing a ride, and arranged for a hotel room… and a job in his store. Now, he’s being blackmailed over the incident and he wants Perry to put an end to it. But before long, Addison’s partner in the store is dead and Addison is accused of his murder. And the virgin with the wanderlust? She’s the prosecution’s key witness against him!
Everything makes sense in this one. No hanging threads or unexplained mysteries. No sir, the final solution is a clear and logical one. So why couldn’t I see it earlier? As usual Perry Mason gets into court and twists around the statutes until he has unmasked the true identity of the murderer. This 32nd Perry Mason novel is another winner!
This story was also adapted for the television series, twice. The first time they altered the title to “The Case of the Vagabond Vixen” to placate the network censor. It was broadcast Nov. 16, 1957, as the ninth episode of season one. Then in season nine, on Dec. 19, 1965, they redid the story, this time titled “The Case of the Golden Girls.” They must have really liked the story!
You’ve seen the TV series… who hasn’t! But if you have been putting off reading one of the original stories upon which the television series was based, you are really missing out on a real treat. Pick up one of these two books at your local library. You can even find them in ebook format, for those of you who like to read on your mobile device. But read one, you must. Just one. After that, I know you’ll be hooked, and you’ll want more. Yes, they are that good!