Blog: Writing about all things pulplish

Perry Mason novels: #47 and #48

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, September 8, 2017 in Old TV Shows, Perry Mason, Pulp
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Perry Mason novels: #47 and #48
Erle Stanley Gardner - rarely seen without glasses.

Erle Stanley Gardner – rarely seen without glasses.

Perry Mason. Let’s see… he was on TV… he was on the radio… he was in the movies… he was in the comic books… there was a daily newspaper strip… Now what am I forgetting? Oh, yeah, he was also in books. Books! You remember those things. Sometimes hard covered, sometimes soft covered. Words, no pictures. Yeah, that’s right… books!

Erle Stanley Gardner started writing Perry Mason for the book market. After 10 years of honing his writing skills in the pulp magazine market, Gardner wrote the first Perry Mason novel in 1933. The last and 85th of the Perry Mason books was published in 1973 after Gardner’s death. It was the book series that inspired all the other appearances in the media… the TV, radio, movies, etc. It all started with the books.

So in this continuing series of Perry Mason reviews, let’s take a look at the 47th and 48th of the Mason mystery novels.

‘The Case of the Sun Bather’s Diary’

Hardback book cover.

Hardback book cover

In The Case of the Sun Bather’s Diary, we have beautiful young Arlene Duvall who lives in a secluded country clearning in a small trailer. While she’s parading around in the buff, someone drives off with her car and her trailer. She’s left without anything… literally! But what concerns her most? Her diary, which was hidden in the trailer. Seems that diary contains some damaging accusations regarding a bank theft of which her father was accused and is currently spending a prison term.

Perry, Della and Paul all get involved in this strange case. District Attorney Hamilton Burger is happy that he finally gets Perry up on the witness stand where he can crucify him. He’ll either accuse Perry of perjury and have him disbarred, or accuse him of murder! It seems another person involved in the missing bank money has been killed. And the guilty party must be either Perry or his nature-loving client.

Sergeant Holcomb is mentioned several times, but doesn’t actually show up. And there’s still no sign of Lieutenant Tragg. He’s been missing for five straight novels, now. Gertie makes a brief appearance at the very end, but law-clerk Jackson isn’t even mentioned. Looks like he’s been written out of the series.

Title screen from the TV episode.

Title screen from the TV episode

When Raymond Burr brought Perry Mason to life on the TV screen, this novel was adapted for television as part of the first season, and was broadcast on Jan. 11, 1958. It’s a fun adaptation to watch… but read the book first. Oh, and Della gives Perry a kiss on the cheek in this one, supposedly the only time that happened.

This makes for another top-notch Perry Mason courtroom drama. And once again I was asking myself, how’s Perry gonna wriggle out of this one? But he does, in a most clever and satisfying way.

‘The Case Of the Nervous Accomplice’

Cover for the hardback edition.

Cover for the hardback edition

The Case of the Nervous Accomplice is the 48th Perry Mason novel from the prolific pen of Erle Stanley Gardner. It’s this “nervous accomplice” that helps Perry pull this impossible case from the fire. And I’m not going to name that accomplice here, because that would give away who-dun-it.

We meet our hapless defendant when she enters Perry Mason’s office for the first time. She’s Sybil Harlan, and she wants Perry to throw a monkey wrench into a budding romance between her husband and one of his beautiful real-estate clients. Well, Perry does a great job at that, but before you know it Sybil is accused of murder and Perry’s up to his neck in hot water… yet again!

Perry, Della, and Paul all appear as usual. District Attorney Hamilton Burger is also present, giving his gusto to an air-tight case. Sergeant Holcomb makes a brief appearance. Still no sign of Lieutenant Tragg; that’s six in a row, by my count. Telephone-operator Gertie gets a cameo, but law-clerk Jackson is all but forgotten by now.

Greta Thyssen - Miss Denmark of 1951

Greta Thyssen – Miss Denmark of 1951

And when it came to the TV show, this novel was adapted for an early season one episode, broadcast Oct. 5, 1957. The husband’s girlfriend is played by Miss Denmark of 1951. That alone should motivate you to see the TV version. But if you don’t read the book first, you’ll be missing out on a lot of detail… and a lot of fun.

Plenty of courtroom action in this one makes it another top-notch nail-biter. There’s no courtroom confession, which was so common in the TV series. But in the novels, they were pretty rare. You can’t go wrong reading this one.

In fact, you can’t go wrong reading either one of these Perry Mason courtroom dramas. Erle Stanley Gardner was the best-selling American writer at the time of his death in 1970. And these books demonstrate why. Read one. Read both. Don’t make me beg.

What do you think?