Friday, July 07, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, July 7, 2017

Todd Mason will have the links next week

(from the archives) Sarah J. Wesson is a local history librarian by day, writer of con-game fiction by night, and all-around sleep-deprived, chai latte addict.

THE CASE OF THE LUCKY LEGS, Erle Stanley Gardiner
While Earle Stanley Gardiner can hardly be called a forgotten author, nor Perry Mason a forgotten character, the books that first introduced these icons to the public appear to be fading from memory. Or at least they are in my library, where most of them have been relegated to the large print shelves so that the patrons who grew up reading about the singular cases of the granite-hard defense attorney can enjoy them without squinting.
The earliest Gardiner in our collection is The Case of the Lucky Legs. First published in 1933, it was the fifth of what would be roughly eighty-two Perry Mason adventures. Stilted by our standards, with rigid standards of grammar and punctuation, and---heaven forbid---not a few adverbs, this mystery still grabs the imagination and keeps it there until the last page.
The case starts with a provocative photograph of a pair of shapely female legs, sent to the lawyer by a prominent businessman, who wants Mason to do something about a fraud that has hurt a young lady of his acquaintance. It seems that a movie studio man has been conning innocent girls into competing in a Lucky Legs contest, the winner of which is promised a screen career that never materializes. Unfortunately, there is no legal recourse unless the con man confesses.
Unlike the televised, post World War II Perry Mason who has entered our cultural lexicon, the Perry Mason of the 1930s wasn't afraid to get his hands or his ethics dirty---he basically agrees beat a confession out of the huckster, though he does pause to square this plan with the county prosecutor before heading to the man’s hotel. In the lobby, he bumps into a frightened young lady with good-looking gams, so it comes as no surprise---to the reader or our hero---that Mason discovers the murdered body of the con man. Moments before the police arrive, alerted by a neighbor who heard a woman’s screams, Mason extracts himself by a bit of slick trickery and gets to work.
It seems odd that Perry Mason doesn’t set foot in a courtroom in Lucky Legs---he didn't settle into regular trial work until later in the series. It’s clear that Gardiner is till getting to know his character and hadn’t quite settled on his formula. But Mason does tamper with a crime scene, trap himself in a legal corner or two, smoke enough to stun a camel, and bring the murderer to justice at the fifty-ninth minute of the eleventh hour despite numerous red herrings. Furthermore, his client is as lovely and clueless as they come and the man footing the bill is an interfering, opinionated pain in the tuchus. Della Street is smart, sassy, and loyal, while Paul Drake is hangdog, hungry, and resourceful.
These are among the golden elements that have kept Perry Mason going for almost eighty years. They’re well worth a revival, not only as the prototypes to modern legal procedurals or slices of social history, but as terrific who-on-earth-dunnits.
I confess that I check out these books fairly often to keep them off the weeding reports. If that's a crime, I doubt even Hamilton Berger, Mr. Mason's D.A. foil and frenemy, could bring himself to prosecute.

Yvette Banek, THE EMPEROR's SNUFF BOX, John Dickson Carr
Joe Barone, SEARCH THE DARK, Charles Todd
Les Blatt, DETECTION BY GASLIGHT, Douglas G. Greene
Elgin Bleecker, THE KILLING, Lionel White
Bill Crider, DESERT STAKEOUT, Harry Whittington
Martin Edwards, NECK AND NECK, Leo Bruce
Curt Evans, MURDER IN PASTICHE, Marion Mainwaring
Elisabeth Grace Foley, TISH, Mary Roberts Rinehart
Richard Horton,  STEPSONS OF TERRA, by Robert Silverberg/ A MAN CALLED DESTINY, by Lan Wright
Jerry House, THE GIRL FROM HOLLYWOOD, Edgar Rice Burroughs
Nick Jones, Science Fiction Books Bought Near Brighton Station 
George Kelley, MISKATONIC UNIVERSITY, Martin H. Greenberg and Robert Greenberg
B.V. Lawson, DEATH AND THE SKY ABOVE, Paul Winterton
Evan Lewis, RED HORSE, Will Murray
Steve Lewis, DEATH PULLS A DOUBLE CROSS, Lawrence Block
Todd Mason,  PULLING OUR OWN STRINGS: FEMINIST HUMOR & SATIRE edited by Gloria Kaufman and Mary Kay Blakely
Matt Paust, RANDOM HARVEST, James Hilton
James Reasoner, HELL'S RECRUIT, Phil Richards
Richard Robinson, THE COMING FURY, Bruce Catton
Gerard Saylor, THE RIVALRY, Norman Curwin
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, DEATH OF A SNOB,  M.C. Beaton
TomCat, THE DA DRAWS A CIRCLE, Erle Stanley Gardner
TracyK, TRACK OF THE CAT, Nevada Barr
Zybahn, BOOK OF BLOOD, VOl 1, Clive Barker


Elisabeth Grace Foley said...

Here's mine:Tish by Mary Roberts Rinehart.

Todd Mason said...

And I'm finally up and at 'em:

PULLING OUR OWN STRINGS: FEMINIST HUMOR & SATIRE edited by Gloria Kaufman and Mary Kay Blakely

Elgin Bleecker said...

Patti – Thanks for compiling the list and including my post.

Todd Mason said...

And happy birthday to Martin Edwards!

Rick Robinson said...

Nice to have you back, if only for a week.

Yvette said...

I'm sorry, Patti, my post is just now up on my blog. I simply forgot. Hey, I'm old. :)

Mathew Paust said...

Welcome back, Patti!

Pretty sure The Case of the Lucky Legs was the first of my dad's paperbacks I read. I was probly 8 or 9. Or maybe it was Vengeance is Mine. Don't remember the plot of either one, but the first sentence of Vengeance is embedded.

patrickbeverley675 said...

Awesome post