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Erle Stanley Gardner Biography

(1889–1970), The Case of the Velvet Claws, The Case of the Postponed Murder

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Richard Furness Biography to Robert Murray Gilchrist Biography

American detective story writer, born in Malden, Massachusetts, and after an adventurous youth admitted to the California Bar in 1911. From 1923 he combined law with writing, contributing hundreds of stories under many pseudonyms to pulp mystery and Western magazines. After the success of his first novel, The Case of the Velvet Claws (1933), which introduced his best-known detective, the Los Angeles lawyer Perry Mason, he devoted himself exclusively to writing, later settling on a ranch in Southern California, where he employed six full-time secretaries and produced over eighty Perry Mason stories, ending with The Case of the Postponed Murder (1977). Fast-moving, with crisp dialogue, and full of legal detail deployed with skill and ingenuity, these deservedly enjoyed immense popularity. His stories about a Californian district attorney, Doug Selby (The D.A. Calls It Murder, 1937) are less successful, but the twenty-nine novels about the private detective partners Donald Lam and Bertha Cool, originally published under the pseudonym of A. A. Fair (such as The Bigger They Come, published in Britain as Lam to the Slaughter, 1939) are fresh and amusing. In 1948 Gardner established the Court of Last Resort, a private organization which examined the cases of prisoners believed to have been unjustly convicted, and succeeded in obtaining a number of releases. Several films have been made of the Perry Mason stories, and a well-known television series in which he is portrayed by Raymond Burr.

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