|Erle Stanley Gardiner (L) with Luther S. Cressman,|
"father of Oregon archaeology" in 1966
Cool and Lam Detective Agency, Donald Lam and Bertha Cool. It wasn't until years later that I discovered A. A. Fair was just one of Erle Stanley Gardner's nom de plumes, not unlike Aunty Em Ericann. Some of the other names used by Gardiner over the years include Kyle Corning, Charles M. Green, Carleton Kendrake, Charles J. Kenny, Les Tillray and Robert Parr. As I grew older I started collecting Perry Mason books in both hardcover and paperback. The original idea was to collect every title. However, that changed when I started seeing other printings of the same novels with different lurid pulp cover graphics. That's when I started collecting every different edition of every Erle Stanley Gardner novel I could find. While there are only 82 Perry Mason novels, I have HUNDREDS of Perry Mason books, packed away in boxes because I have no place to display them in the condo.
However, as acquisitive as I was about Perry Mason books, I knew nothing about the author. That all changed one day in a thrift shop when I discovered "Erle Stanley Gardner: The Case of the Real Perry Mason," a biography by Dorothy B. Hughes. It was then I discovered the man behind the books; I learned that Gardiner really was a lawyer, as well as an avid rock hound, inveterate traveler and, most importantly, the impetus behind The Court of Last Resort, a place where the wrongly convicted might find justice.
|Gardner's rudimentary recreational vehicle|
Over the years, I've seen fewer and fewer Erle Stanley Gardner novels in bookstores, often just a title or two. Yesterday at my local Barnes and Noble I could find NOT A SINGLE PERRY MASON BOOK. That made me incredibly sad.
The Erle Stanley Gardiner collection can be found at the Harry Ranson Center at the University of Texas at Austin.
Full episodes of Perry Mason can be found on the CBS web site.