Blog: Writing about all things pulplish

Perry Mason novels: #49 and #50

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, September 29, 2017 in Old TV Shows, Perry Mason, Pulp
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Perry Mason novels: #49 and #50
Erle Stanley Gardner in one of his several appearances as a judge.

Erle Stanley Gardner in one of his several appearances as a judge.

Erle Stanley Gardner started writing for the pulps in 1923. But it was for Perry Mason, the courtroom attorney, that he became the most well known. The first Perry Mason mystery was published in 1933 and the final one was published in 1973, three years after Gardner’s death.

In today’s blog, I’ll be discussing the 49th and 50th Perry Mason stories. Both were published in 1956, the year before Perry Mason debuted on television with Raymond Burr in the lead role… a part he went on to make his own.

‘The Case of the Terrified Typist’

Book cover for the Terrified Typist.

Book cover for The Terrified Typist.

From 1956 comes the first of three Perry Mason novels published that year, The Case of the Terrified Typist.

Guilty! Yes, at the end of this story Perry Mason’s client is found guilty. But somehow, Perry still saves the day in this nail-biter. And the terrified young lady who enters Perry’s office posing as a typist is the key to the whole thing.

This is a case of murder, of course. A swindler and smuggler of diamonds has been murdered. The giant South African diamond conglomerate hires Perry Mason to defend one of its U.S. representatives who is accused of the crime. Did the terrified typist plant the stolen diamonds in the representative’s office? Or is she an innocent dupe? Perry Mason solves it all in this 49th courtroom drama.

Lieutenant Tragg is missing yet again, although his name is mentioned in passing once. But District Attorney Hamilton Burger is present, and finally gets to hear those lovely words “Guilty!” Sitting chagrinned as the verdict is read are our heroes Perry, Della, and Paul. Gertie gets a couple of nice scenes, and law-clerk Jackson is an all-but-forgotten memory.

Perry and the terrified typist, herself.

Perry and the terrified typist, herself.

Plenty of courtroom action; over half the novel is set in court. That’s a big plus. And a twist ending that had me guessing. Yet another winner!

When it came to television, this novel was adapted for a first season episode broadcast on June 21, 1958. It was the 38th episode of the season. That was way back in the day when TV series had 39 episodes in a season. None of our current 20 episodes (or even 10) in a season, no sirree.

In the cast is actress Joanna Moore. She played Andy Griffith’s girlfriend in season three of the Andy Griffith Show. She also was married to Ryan O’Neal and was mother of Tatum O’Neal. In this Perry Mason episode, she plays the “terrified typist” from the title. A very good TV episode, by the way.

‘The Case of the Demure Defendant’

Hardback cover for the Demure Defendant.

Hardback cover for The Demure Defendant.

And the second of three Perry Mason mysteries published in 1956 was The Case of the Demure Defendant.

Yes, she is demure. She sits there quietly, eyes downcast. Yet this demure defendant has just confessed, under the influence of truth-serum, to murder! Nadine Farr admits that she poisoned Uncle Mosher. She even tells where she threw the poison. But when Perry goes to retrieve the bottle of poison, he finds himself accused as well!

It’s another twisted case for Perry Mason. But Perry, Della Street and Paul Drake once again save the day in the nick of time. Lieutenant Tragg is back, after an absence of eight novels. D.A. Hamilton Burger and Sergeant Holcomb are also working on the prosecution side of the table. Law-clerk Jackson, all-but-forgotten, is actually mentioned once in passing. And telephone operator Gertie is there and gets a few things to do.

Perry Mason interviews the demure defendant.

Perry Mason interviews the demure defendant.

There’s not as much courtroom action in this story, even though that’s primarily what Perry Mason novels are known for. We’re about two-thirds of the way through the book before Perry steps into court. But once he’s there, he really starts tearing into things. Go get ’em, Perry! This is another good one, but then most of them are. It’s hard to find a “bad” Perry Mason mystery.

On Jan. 4, 1958, the Perry Mason television series aired an adaptation of this mystery as the 16th episode of season one. Actress Christine White, who played the demure defendant, must have made an impression, because she returned to Perry Mason in two more guest roles, one later that year and another the following year.

So, what’s my opinion of these two Perry Mason mysteries published in 1956? Both are a lot of fun to read, and both get my recommendation. But then, as you probably know, I love these books. There’s no such thing as a bad Perry Mason book. So if you see one, regardless of title, pick it up. You’ll be glad you did.


  1. Have read both during my college days when I was running through the series but can’t recall the story line of either. Time to have a re-look. Thanks for an entertaining post.

    • I’d recommend an ebook version, but it appears that neither is available in ebook format. So you’ll have to go old-school and actually get a paperback. Luckily, there are different printings and thus many copies available. Cheap, too.