Erle Stanley Gardner Additional Biography


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Erle Stanley Gardner was born to Grace Adelma Gardner and Charles Walter Gardner in Malden, Massachusetts, in 1889. The elder Gardner was an engineer who traveled wherever his work demanded, and he moved his family to the West Coast, first to Oregon when Erle was ten, and then to Oroville, California, in 1902. The young Gardner loved California, and though in adulthood he traveled extensively, he always made California his home base and that of his fictional characters.

Gardner displayed the independence, diligence, and imagination that were later to mark his career as a writer by becoming a lawyer at the age of twenty-one, not by attending law school but by reading and assisting an attorney and then passing the bar exam. He set up practice in Oxnard, Ventura County, northwest of Los Angeles, where he quickly gained a reputation as a shrewd and resourceful attorney who helped many clients out of seemingly impossible situations.

An outdoorsman (hunter, fisher, and archer), Gardner tried a number of other business ventures before turning to writing at the age of thirty-four, selling his first story to a pulp magazine in 1923. He was not a natural writer, but he learned quickly by studying successful writers and the comments of his editors. During the 1920’s and 1930’s, he turned out an enormous number of stories for the pulps and created a large array of characters before introducing his most successful character, lawyer-detective Perry...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Erle Stanley Gardner was a true Renaissance man. In addition to being a best-selling novelist, he was a legendary trial lawyer, a talented wildlife photographer, an avid sportsman, and an enthusiastic world traveler who spoke fluent Chinese. A workaholic and a perfectionist, he was described by those who knew him well as cantankerous.{$S[A]Kendrake, Carleton;Gardner, Erle Stanley}{$S[A]Kenny, Charles J.;Gardner, Erle Stanley}{$S[A]Fair, A. A.;Gardner, Erle Stanley}

Gardner was born in Malden, Massachusetts, on July 17, 1889. The son of a gold-mining engineer, Gardner spent his youth in Oregon, California, and Alaska’s Klondike. As a teenager, he dabbled in professional boxing. He enrolled at Valparaiso University in Indiana, hoping to study law, but was expelled after just a few weeks for punching a professor. Gardner then worked as a typist in a law firm. In his spare time he read law books, and in 1911 he passed the California bar examination at age twenty-one.

He joined a law practice in Oxnard, California, where he won acclaim for his vigorous defense of indigent Chinese and Mexican clients. Before long the up-and-coming lawyer fell in love with Natalie Talbert, a secretary in his law office. They eloped on April 9, 1912, and a year later their daughter, Grace, was born. By 1935, the marriage had floundered; however, neither Gardner nor his wife sought a divorce, and they remained on amicable terms. For years Natalie and Grace lived in a house in Oxnard while Gardner resided down the street in a nearby apartment.

Despite his relish of “the rough-and-tumble courtroom fight,” Gardner did not find the legal profession very lucrative, and in the early 1920’s he began writing fiction in his spare time. He sold his first story, “Nellie’s Naughty Nightie,” to the pulp magazine Breezy Stories. In 1932, he wrote to the publishing firm of William Morrow and Company in New York and proposed a series of mysteries. Instead of the hard-boiled private eyes made popular by authors such as Dashiell Hammett, his protagonist would be a crime-solving attorney. “I want to make my hero a fighter,” the Gardner wrote. The following year William Morrow published Gardner’s first novel-length work, The Case of the Velvet Claws, featuring the lawyer Perry Mason, which spawned one of the most phenomenally successful mystery series of all time. Gardner soon gave up...

(The entire section is 986 words.)