Blog: Writing about all things pulplish

Perry Mason novels: #37 and #38

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, May 19, 2017 in Old TV Shows, Perry Mason, Pulp
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Erle Stanley Gardner was a bowhunter.

Erle Stanley Gardner was a bowhunter.

In my chronological reviews of the Perry Mason books, we’re in the 1950s now. Erle Stanley Gardner had two Mason books published that year, and they are both reviewed here. And he was still writing for the pulps and the slicks at this time. He had articles published in Argosy and Collier‘s in 1951… always faithful to his roots.

You’ll remember he got his start way back in 1921 with “The Police in the House” in Breezy Stories magazine. Before long he was being published in Black Mask, Life Magazine, Mystery Magazine, Top Notch, and the list goes on. His first Perry Mason book “The Case of the Velvet Claws,” wasn’t to come along until 1933. So now, we jump forward in time to 1951 and his 37th and 38th Perry Mason murder mysteries.

‘The Case of the Fiery Fingers’

 Book cover for the Case of the Fiery Finger

Book cover for The Case of the Fiery Fingers

Now there’s an interesting title: The Case of the Fiery Fingers. You see, Nathan Bain suspects that someone is stealing his invalid wife’s jewelry. So he dusts her jewel box with a special invisible powder that glows under ultraviolet light. The powder will adhere to the fingers of anyone touching the box; the guilty party’s fingers will flame with an iridescent bluish-green light.

Perry Mason is called in to defend the nurse of Bain’s invalid wife Elizabeth. You see, Nellie Conway, the nurse, was caught with glowing fiery fingers. Perry’s involved in a simple case of theft. But then the case turns to that of murder, when the bed-ridden Elizabeth Bain dies of arsenic poisoning. And Perry must defend the only person who could have done it!

The first version on television.

The first version on television

The usual gang is all here. District Attorney Hamilton Burger, Lieutenant Tragg and Sergeant Holcomb all think they have the murderer. Perry, Della Street and Paul Drake work the other side of the case, to reveal the identity of the real murderer. And as usual, the cops are wrong… Perry’s right… and the reader can’t go wrong with another excellent murder mystery.

 The second version on television.

The second version on television

This story was adapted for television and broadcast on May 3, 1958, as the 31st episode of the first season of the new TV series starring Raymond Burr and Barbara Hale. It made for an excellent teleplay, and so scriptwriters reused the story for the March 26, 1964, episode The Case of the Woeful Widower. Sadly, it wasn’t as good the second time around. Watch both TV episodes if you can, and you’ll agree with me. But if you can only watch one, stick with the original 1958 version.

‘The Case of the Angry Mourner’

 Book cover for the Case of the Angry Mourner.

Book cover for The Case of the Angry Mourner

This story finds Perry on vacation in Bear Valley. But he’s not used to the calm, and is starting to go stir crazy. Fortunately, a murder case crops up to keep him busy… really busy!

It seems that beautiful young Carlotta Adrian snuck home in the middle of the night after fighting off a wolf. A wolf named Authur B. Cushing. And now, Cushing’s been found dead in his cabin, shot through the chest. But did Carlotta do it? Or did her protective mother, Belle Adrian? Well, there are tracks leading from the Adrian cottage to the Cushing home, so the law figures it’s one or the other.

And who’s the “angry mourner” of the title? She’s Marion Keats, another girlfriend of the wolf, Arthur Cushing. Perry hauls her into court against her will, and must deal with the outraged woman and her slick lawyer. Hey, maybe she did it?

Young Barbara Eden as Carla Adrian.

Young Barbara Eden as Carla Adrian

Only Perry, Della Street and Paul Drake are here from the familiar cast. Everyone else is back in Los Angeles. The judge, the lawmen and prosecuting attorneys are all new to the readers, which makes for a nice change of pace. And they really give Perry a run for his money in this thirty-eighth Perry Mason mystery.

When the television series began in 1957, this story was adapted for the seventh broadcast on Nov. 2, 1957. Carlotta Adrian, called Carla in the teleplay, was played by a young Barbard Eden, nine years before her fame in I Dream of Jeannie. Her part was relatively small, here, but still…

I have been quoted as saying I never read a Perry Mason book that I didn’t like. Here are two good examples that support that statement. Read one. Read both. You won’t be sorry!