Besides the novels that made him famous, Erle Gardner also produced a veritable avalanche of writing from 1920 onwards. He wrote everything – from travelogues and pulp fiction to novellas and science fiction! Among his fans were people like Albert Einstein, Pope John XXIII, and Harry S. Truman.
No other writer besides JK Rowling has seen such enormous success in book sales. The Perry Mason novels were a cultural sensation, with over 300 million copies sold to date.
The HBO Revival Took Inspiration From Gardner’s Writing for Mason’s Origin Story
In the HBO Revival, viewers meet E.B. Jonathan for the first time — played by the inimitable John Lithgow. Who is E.B. Jonathan, though? He’s nowhere in the novels or the show. The show’s creators decided that the new Perry Mason needed an origin story and a mentor. Creators Ron Fitzgerald and Rolin Jones dove deep into the novels, sleuthing for clues.
To arrive at Perry Mason, the man, they seemingly had to be him. Enter E.B. Jonathan – a lawyer mentioned nowhere in the novels but in a short story written by Gardner. Expectedly, Lithgow, as Mason’s father figure, is perfection.
Why William Talman Won in the End
In 1968, millions of Americans watched a commercial that would haunt them — at least, that’s what the creators hoped. It featured an emaciated William Talman – whose character (prosecutor Hamilton Burger) audiences had long pegged as a “loser.”
The short film by the American Cancer Society was an anti-smoking commercial. A message about smoking and losing from someone with an intimate experience of both. While filming it, Talman knew he was dying from lung cancer. Not one to go quietly into the light but laughing all the way, Talman ended with a wink saying, “Don’t be a loser.”
Gardner’s Unusual Ways
Few people know that as a child, Erle Gardner earned money by taking part in unlicensed boxing matches. He found loopholes in the California laws that made prizefighting a crime and so he benefited from the practice without worrying too much.
This was an unusual road to becoming a brilliant attorney, a more unusual one to becoming a writer. But then, Gardener is anything but ordinary.
Women in the Perry Mason Novels
Analyzing popular sensations like the Perry Mason franchise is a big ask. And when it involves studying women characters of the past, the path can be disappointing. But not with the Perry Mason novels. For books set in the 1930s, the women have incredible agency and voice.
Gardner gives equal weight to women’s opinions and aspirations. Della Street is undeniably the most significant person in Mason’s life and not as a love interest. Mason trusts her judgment and intuition. The cherry? Gardner doesn’t spend much time describing physical attributes — a brand of annoyance prevalent when male authors write about women characters.