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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