Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Duke of Erle

On the Rap Sheet J. Franklin Pierce recommends a Salon site called Re-Viewed. Jeff particularly likes (with one exception) a piece on the Perry Masons by Louis Bayard.

"Leaving aside his criminal misrepresentation of Mason creator Erle Stanely Gardner as a “bad writer” (he wasn’t that at all--Gardner was an author who understood what his audience wanted, and that was punchy prose, thoroughly twisted plots, and dialogue filled with the gams-and-gats slang-speak of his era), Bayard nicely captures the dramatic appeal of Perry Mason, which ran originally from 1957 to 1966. He writes:

"The episodes chosen for the 50th anniversary DVD release boast early appearances by star-hatchlings like Robert Redford, Burt Reynolds and Ryan O’Neal, as well as a bizarre guest-lawyer performance by Bette Davis at her herky-jerkiest. But the shows themselves are still the attraction. Watching them, you may be surprised at how gore-free they are--virtually every murder takes place off-screen--and how unafraid the writers were of boring us with complicated points of law. But there’s a larger and subtler surprise: A show conceived in the Eisenhower era is, for all intents and purposes, a harbinger of 1960s counterculture, the kind of anti-law enforcement, pro-Bill of Rights template that Abbie Hoffman might have scripted."

For the rest of the piece log on to the Rap Sheet and while you're there check out Jeff's own piece on Gardner, one of the finest, smartest assessments of The Man ever written. http://therapsheet.blogspot.com/2007/07/defense-never-rests.html

My own favorite Gardners are the A.A. Fairs and the pulp western-mysytery novelettes known as The Whispering Sands collectively.

Ass I mentioned to Jeff until recently I was able to wrap up my day by watching the early Perry Masons at nine every night. Relaxing and fun. But now some moron has replaced them with a moronic sit-com.


Peter Rozovsky said...

The "Gardner was/wasn't a a bad writer" question took on new interest for me when I read Gardner in The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps. I was stunned at how smoothly his work flowed, and with what wit. I thought it had dated as well as just about any Black Mask writer's work except possibly that of Paul Cain.

Then I got to the end-of-story information dump. I don't know if it's fair to hold against an author a device that may have been a convention of its time, but it was a disappointing contrast with what had gone before.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Anonymous said...

I was a fan of Gardner and loved the Perry Mason series as a child.
Very enjoyable stuff. Now I have one son who is a trial attorney and I get to compare his cases to those. He, of course, defends both the guilty and the innocent.However, like Perry, he believes in the system and does his job very well.

Jacqueline Seewald
Five Star/Gale