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Erle Stanley Gardner

Occupation  Lawyer, writer
Role  Lawyer
Children  Grace Gardner
Name  Erle Gardner
Movies and TV shows  Perry Mason
Erle Stanley Gardner httpschriswordsdotcomfileswordpresscom2015
Born  July 17, 1889 Malden, Massachusetts, U.S. (1889-07-17)
Pen name  Kyle Corning, A.A. Fair, Charles M. Green, Carleton Kendrake, Charles J. Kenny, Robert Parr, Les Tillray
Education  Palo Alto High School (1909) Valparaiso University School of Law (1 month)
Genre  Detective fiction, true crime, travel writing
Notable works  Perry Mason Cool and Lam Doug Selby
Notable awards  Grand Master Award, Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award
Died  March 11, 1970, Temecula, California, United States
Spouse  Agnes Jean Bethell (m. 1968–1970), Natalie Talbert (m. 1912–1968)
Books  The Case of the Sulky Girl, The Case of the Velvet Cl, The Case of the Caretaker, The Case of the Counterfe, The case of the gilded lily
Similar People  Raymond Burr, Barbara Hale, William Hopper, William Talman, Ray Collins

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Erle Stanley Gardner (July 17, 1889 – March 11, 1970) was an American lawyer and author. Though best known for the Perry Mason series of detective stories, he wrote numerous other novels and shorter pieces, as well as a series of non-fiction books, mostly narrations of his travels through Baja California and other regions in Mexico.

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The best-selling American author of the 20th century at the time of his death, Gardner also published under numerous pseudonyms, including A.A. Fair, Kyle Corning, Charles M. Green, Carleton Kendrake, Charles J. Kenny, Les Tillray and Robert Parr.

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Life and work

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Born in Malden, Massachusetts, Gardner graduated from Palo Alto High School in 1909 and enrolled at Valparaiso University School of Law in Indiana, but was suspended after approximately one month when his interest in boxing became a distraction. He moved to California, pursued his legal education on his own, and passed the state bar exam in 1911.

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In 1912 Gardner wed Natalie Frances Talbert; they had a daughter, Grace. He opened his first law office in Merced in 1917, but closed it after accepting a position at a sales agency. In 1921 he returned to law as a member of the Ventura firm Sheridan, Orr, Drapeau and Gardner, where he remained until 1933.

Erle Stanley Gardner The Case of the Velvet Claws by Erle Stanley Gardner

Gardner enjoyed litigation and the development of trial strategy, but was otherwise bored by legal practice. In his spare time he began writing for pulp magazines; his first story was published in 1923. He created many series characters for the pulps, including the ingenious Lester Leith, a parody of the "gentleman thief" in the tradition of A. J. Raffles; and Ken Corning, crusading lawyer, crime sleuth, and archetype for his most successful creation, Perry Mason. In his early years writing for the pulp magazine market Gardner set himself a quota of 1,200,000 words a year. When asked why his heroes always defeated villains with the last bullet in their guns Gardner answered, "At three cents a word, every time I say ‘Bang’ in the story I get three cents. If you think I’m going to finish the gun battle while my hero still has fifteen cents worth of unexploded ammunition in his gun, you’re nuts". Early on he typed his stories himself using two fingers, but later dictated them to a team of secretaries.

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Under the pen name A. A. Fair, Gardner wrote a series of novels about the private detective firm of Cool and Lam. In another series, District Attorney Doug Selby litigated against attorney Alphonse Baker Carr in an inversion of the Perry Mason scenario. Prosecutor Selby is portrayed as a courageous and imaginative crime solver; his antagonist A. B. Carr is a wily shyster whose clients are invariably "as guilty as hell".

Gardner remained with Sheridan, Orr, Drapeau and Gardner until 1933, when The Case of the Velvet Claws was published. Much of that story is set at the historic Pierpont Inn, just down the road from his law office. In 1937 Gardner moved to Temecula, California, where he lived for the rest of his life.

With the success of the Mason series, which eventually ran to over 80 novels, Gardner gradually reduced his contributions to the pulp magazines until the medium itself died in the 1950s. Thereafter he published a few short stories in the "glossies" such as Collier's, Sports Afield, and Look, but the majority of his postwar magazine contributions were non-fiction articles on travel, western history, and forensic science. Gardner's readership was a broad and international one, and included the English novelist Evelyn Waugh, who in 1949 called Gardner the best living American writer.

Gardner also created characters for various radio programs, including Christopher London (1950), starring Glenn Ford, and A Life in Your Hands (1949–1952). He created Perry Mason as a recurring character for a series of Hollywood films of the 1930s, and then for a titular radio program, which ran from 1943 to 1955. In 1954 CBS proposed transforming Mason into a television soap opera. When Gardner opposed the idea CBS created The Edge of Night, featuring John Larkin — who voiced Mason on the radio show — as a thinly-veiled imitation of the Mason character.

In 1957 Perry Mason became a long-running CBS-TV series starring Raymond Burr in the title role. Though Burr originally auditioned for the role of district attorney Hamilton Burger, Gardner reportedly declared he was the embodiment of Perry Mason. Gardner made an uncredited appearance as a judge in "The Case of the Final Fade-Out" (1966), the last episode of the series.

Gardner and his first wife had separated in the early 1930s, and after her death in 1968 Gardner married Agnes Jean Bethell (1902–2002), his secretary since 1930. The character of Della Street was a composite of Jean and her two sisters, Peggy and Ruth, who also worked as secretaries for Gardner.

He held a lifelong fascination with Baja California and wrote a series of non-fiction travel documentaries describing his extensive explorations of the peninsula by boat, truck, airplane and helicopter. Gardner devoted thousands of hours to "The Court of Last Resort", in collaboration with his many friends in the forensic, legal, and investigative communities. The project sought to review and, when appropriate, reverse miscarriages of justice against criminal defendants who had been convicted due to poor legal representation, abuse or misinterpretation of forensic evidence, or careless or malicious actions of police or prosecutors. The resulting 1952 book earned Gardner his only Edgar Award in the Best Fact Crime category. and was later made into a TV series, The Court of Last Resort.

Death and legacy

Gardner died on March 11, 1970, at his ranch in Temecula. He was cremated and his ashes scattered over his beloved Baja California peninsula. The ranch, known as Rancho del Paisano at the time, was sold after his death, then resold in 2001 to the Pechanga Indians, renamed Great Oak Ranch, and eventually absorbed into the Pechanga reservation.

Gardner was the best-selling American writer of the 20th century at the time of his death. The Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center houses his manuscripts, along with a miniaturized reproduction of his study room. In 2003 a new school in the Temecula Valley Unified School District was named Erle Stanley Gardner Middle School.


Erle Stanley Gardner Wikipedia

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