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The Case of the Lame Canary Hardcover – Print, June 10, 1937

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 281 pages
  • Publisher: Amereon Ltd; Kangaroo Pocket Book Edition, 25th Printing, June 1966 edition (June 10, 1937)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0884114112
  • ISBN-13: 978-0884114116
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,946,424 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Erle Stanley Gardner (1889-1970) is a prolific American author best known for his works centered on the lawyer-detective Perry Mason. At the time of his death in March of 1970, in Ventura, California, Gardner was "the most widely read of all American writers" and "the most widely translated author in the world," according to social historian Russell Nye. The first Perry Mason novel, The Case of The Velvet Claws, published in 1933, had sold twenty-eight million copies in its first fifteen years. In the mid-1950s, the Perry Mason novels were selling at the rate of twenty thousand copies a day. There have been six motion pictures based on his work and the hugely popular Perry Mason television series starring Raymond Burr, which aired for nine years and 271 episodes.

As author William F. Nolan notes, "Gardner, more than any other writer, popularized the law profession for a mass-market audience, melding fact and fiction to achieve a unique blend; no one ever handled courtroom drama better than he did."

Richard Senate further sums up the significance of Gardner?s contribution: "Although the character of Perry Mason is not unique as a 'lawyer-sleuth,' he is the first to come to anyone's mind when it comes to sheer brilliance in solving courtroom-detective cases by rather unconventional means. Besides 'Tarzan,' 'Sherlock Holmes,' 'Superman' ? 'Perry Mason' qualifies as an American icon of popular culture in the twentieth century."

Gardner's writing has touched a lot of people including a number of high profile figures. Brian Kelleher and Diana Merrill say in their 1987 book, The Perry Mason TV Show Book that Harry S. Truman was a fan and that it is rumored that when Einstein died, a Perry Mason book was at his bedside. They further describe that when Raymond Burr met Pope John XXIII, the actor reported that the pontiff "seemed to know all about Perry Mason." Federal judge Sonya Sotomayor frequently mentions how Perry Mason was one of her earliest influences.

Starting with his first book, Gardner had a very definite vision of the shape the Perry Mason character would take:

"I want to make my hero a fighter," he wrote to his publisher, "not by having him be ruthless to women and underlings, but by creating a character who, with infinite patience jockeys his enemies into a position where he can deliver one good knockout punch."

Author Photo: Courtesy of Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Duane Schermerhorn on July 1, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Background: The stylistic heritage of the Perry Mason mysteries is the American pulp magazines of the 1920s. In the early Mason mysteries, Perry - a good-looking, broad-shouldered, two-fisted, man of action - is constantly stiff-arming sultry beauties on his way to an explosive encounter that precipitates the book's climactic action sequence. In the opening chapters of these stories, Gardner subjects the reader to assertive passages that Mason is a crusader for justice, a man so action-oriented he is constitutionally incapable of sitting in his office and waiting for a case to come to him or to develop on its own once it has - he has to be out on the street, in the midst of the action, making things happen, always on the offensive, never standing pat or accepting being put on the defensive. These narrative passages - naïve, embarrassingly crude "character" development - pop up throughout the early books, stopping the narrative dead in its tracks, and putting on full display a non-writer's worst characteristic: telling the reader a character's traits instead of showing them through action, dialogue, and use of other of the writer's tools.
Rating "Ground Rules": These flaws, and others so staggeringly obvious that enumerating them is akin to using cannons to take out a flea, occur throughout the Gardner books, and can easily be used (with justification) to trash his work. But for this reader they are a "given", part of the literary terrain, and are not relevant to my assessment of the Gardner books. In other words, my assessments of the Perry Mason mysteries turn a blind eye to Erle Stanley Gardner's wooden, style-less writing, inept descriptive passages, unrealistic dialogue, and weak characterizations.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Acute Observer on May 25, 2006
Format: Paperback
The Case of the Lame Canary

A woman has urgent business with Perry Mason. Rita Swaine brought along a caged canary with a sore foot. She tells Perry about the problem her twin sister has with her new husband Walter Prescott, and the money he has taken from her sister Rosalind. Rosalind has been seeing her old boyfriend Jimmy Driscoll, and Rosalind's husband has threatened her. Rita explains the problem that happened that morning. The case intrigues Perry, so he agrees to take the case. Rita tells of an accident that happened around noon. Perry calls Paul Drake to investigate Walter Prescott, his business associate, the snoopy neighbors, and the man injured in that accident. Perry learns of trouble at the Prescott home (Chapter Three). Perry and Paul question the neighbors about the accident, and learn the homicide squad was at the Prescott house. The dialogue is an interesting as some trial scenes (Chapter Four).

The man injured in the accident has left the hospital, and can't be located. Perry and Paul visit Harry Trader, who drove the truck that was in that accident. Trader will tell them little, except it was the other driver's fault (Chapter Five). Perry and Della Street fly to Reno to locate Rita Swaine. They also find Rosalind Prescott and Jimmy Driscoll. Perry gets the complete story from Rosalind. Della calls to warn about the police, so Perry can call the telephone operator to report their presence. Perry gives good advice to his clients (Chapter Seven). Paul Drake tracks down "Carl Packard", who was injured in that accident; he can't be found. Perry learns he was an insurance detective who investigated fire-bugs connected with an arson ring (Chapter Eight)!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Brent Butler TOP 500 REVIEWER on June 28, 2011
Format: Paperback
I read a few Perry Mason mysteries each year. Not too many, because I know when I read them all, there are no more, and I like them enough that I'll regret being done reading them. So I ration them. LOL

The Case of the Lame Canary is well above average even in this fine line of mystery books. I call Perry Mason mysteries "fair mysteries", in that the reader is fairly provided all the clues at the same time Mason receives them. Very rarely does a surprise fact come out at the end which the reader hasn't been given a chance to consider.

In this novel you indeed have every clue you need to name the real murderer. Of course, it is NOT Mason's client! I will admit that, at the end, I did not have every motive and detail in place to anticipate Mason's explained solution, but I did have the right character identified as the murderer, I did have information about the commission of the crime very close to the explained solution, and I did generally have the motive. I'd even figured out a bit of "sleight of hand" involved early in the book as that event unfolded. Yes, I'm proud of my sleuthing in this read!

As a bonus, the book has a couple of laugh out loud moments of dialog between Mason and Sgt. Holcomb, the homicide investigator in most of these early Mason novels.

So sit back, read, enjoy, and try to puzzle the pieces together for yourself. They are all there, and isn't that what we read these mysteries for?
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Format: Paperback
This case opens with a potential client in Mason's office with a canary suffering from a sore foot. The story is so odd that Mason agrees to take the case, even though it a divorce case, something he has pledged to avoid. This begins a very convoluted tale of deception, murder, snoops and the usual Mason actions on the edge of the law. There is also a continuing subplot involving Mason and his confidential secretary Della Street planning for an around the world romantic cruise. While Mason concentrates on his case, Della works on the cruise, occasionally reminding him that they are booked and the joys of the places they will visit.
It comes down to Mason must either resolve the case quickly or give up the cruise and fail in his promise to Della. In true Mason fashion, he "unmasks" the culprit in a dramatic courtroom scene and he and Della dash madly to the dock, arriving only a few minutes before departure. In true Street fashion, Della has already provided for their luggage to be on board the ship. Once they are safely aboard and out at sea, Mason proposes to Della. Her answer is true Della and to learn what it was, you must read the ending.
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