Erle Stanley Gardner Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

According to the 1988 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records, as of January 1, 1986, Erle Stanley Gardner’s books had sold more than 319 million copies in thirty-seven languages. This sales total makes Gardner one of the most popular fiction writers of all time. The sheer number of volumes he produced is overwhelming; 141 of his books were in print at the time of his death, including 80 in his most popular series, the Perry Mason books (another 5 were published later), 46 mystery novels of other kinds, and 15 nonfictional volumes. This list is supplemented by hundreds of short stories and magazine articles. (His complete bibliography fills thirty quarto-sized pages, each of which contains three columns of small print.) Although Gardner constructed his mystery stories according to formulas, the success of which he proved over more than a decade of pulp magazine apprenticeship, they were never stereotyped or hackneyed because Gardner’s sense of integrity did not allow him to repeat situations. His dedication to pleasing his audience, coupled with his extraordinarily fertile imagination, led him to turn out first-rate mystery novels at the rate of at least three a year for thirty years. Many of his books were made into films, radio plays, comic strips, and television shows, crowned by the top-rated television series Perry Mason, which ran for nine years (1957-1966) with Raymond Burr as the lawyer-detective and which was filmed with Gardner’s assistance and supervision. Gardner’s volume of output and reader popularity, along with the approval of both critics and peers, have ensured his prominent position in the annals of mystery and detective fiction.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Bounds, J. Dennis. Perry Mason: The Authorship and Reproduction of a Popular Hero. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996. Examines the fictional Perry Mason as a “cultural product”; also discusses Gardner.

Fugate, Francis L., and Roberta B. Fugate. Secrets of the World’s Best-Selling Writer: The Story-Telling Techniques of Erle Stanley Gardner. New York: William Morrow, 1980. Focuses on Gardner’s technique in his mystery and detective fiction.

“Garner, Erle Stanley.” In Mystery and Suspense Writers: The Literature of Crime, Detection, and Espionage, edited by Robin W. Winks and Maureen Corrigan. New York: Scribner’s Sons, 1998.

Haining, Peter. The Classic Era of American Pulp Magazines. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2000. Discusses Gardner’s pulp work, shedding light on the relationship between the Perry Mason stories and their pulp-fiction forebears. Index.

Hughes, Dorothy B. Erle Stanley Gardner: The Case of the Real Perry Mason. New York: William Morrow, 1978. A comprehensive biography of Gardner.

Leitch, Thomas. Perry Mason. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2005. Study of the enduring popularity of the Perry Mason character and what it reveals about American culture. In addition to this broader cultural analysis, the book includes a detailed account of the creation of the character and the nuts and bolts of his portrayal on television.

McWhirter, Darien A. The Legal One Hundred: A Ranking of the Individuals Who Have Most Influenced the Law. Secaucus, N.J.: Carol, 1998. Gardner is ranked ninety-ninth in this list of the one hundred people who have had the greatest effects on the evolution of the modern legal system.

Penzler, Otto. The Private Lives of Private Eyes, Spies, Crimefighters, and Other Good Guys. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1977. Studies detectives in the mass media. Includes bibliographies, filmographies, and index.

Senate, Richard L. Erle Stanley Gardner’s Ventura: The Birthplace of Perry Mason. Ventura, Calif.: Charon Press, 1996. Study of the formative role of this little-known community outside Los Angeles in the life of Gardner in general and in the creation of Perry Mason in particular.

Van Dover, J. Kenneth. Murder in the Millions: Erle Stanley Gardner, Mickey Spillane, and Ian Fleming. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1984. Examines the work of three highly popular writers for the stereotypes they employed. Suggests the moral, political, and social implications of their genres.