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The Case of the Sulky Girl Mass Market Paperback – January 13, 1992

Book 2 of 52 in the Perry Mason Series

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About the Author

Born in Malden, Massachusetts, Erle Stanley Gardner left school in 1909 and attended Valparaiso University School of Law in Indiana for just one month before he was suspended for focusing more on his hobby of boxing than his academic studies. Soon after, he settled in California, where he taught himself the law and passed the state bar exam in 1911. The practise of law never held much interest for him, however, apart from as it pertained to trial strategy, and in his spare time he began to write for the pulp magazines that gave Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler their start. Not long after the publication of his first novel, The Case of the Velvet Claws, featuring Perry Mason, he gave up his legal practice to write full time. He had one daughter, Grace, with his first wife, Natalie, from whom he later separated. In 1968 Gardner married his long-term secretary, Agnes Jean Bethell, whom he professed to be the real 'Della Street', Perry Mason's sole (although unacknowledged) love interest. He was one of the most successful authors of all time and at the time of his death, in Temecula, California in 1970, is said to have had 135 million copies of his books in print in America alone.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback
  • Publisher: Fawcett (January 13, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345371453
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345371454
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 4.5 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,748,735 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

Hard to put them down once you start reading.
truebluetoo
Unfortunately I found fairly quickly that I wasn't liking the book.
JZS
Number 3 is next, and I am liking each one even more.
Bruce L. Thomas

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Michael Dea on February 28, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is the first Perry Mason story written by Erle Stanley Gardner, published in 1933. This is the first and only Perry Mason story I have read. I've heard that the tone of these earlier works are a little 'tougher' than the stories written in the following decades. The first half of the book certainly follows the hard-boiled tradition, as Mason acts a more like a private dick than a lawyer. But a lawyer he is, and the second half settles into a court-room drama. What does Perry Mason have up his sleeve that will rescue a young lady and her new husband from charges of murdering her uncle to ensure her inheritance?
An enjoyable, light read, although Gardner's writing is a little pedestrian and the build-up to the court case is a little long, with the trial itself resolved a little perfunctorily.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Acute Observer on October 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
A young woman visits Perry Mason to inquire about a will; this will probably result in a court trial. Fran Celane's father's will would disinherit her if she married before age 27. Her uncle was the trustee; but if he died Fran would inherit everything. The secret is that Fran got married, and could lose a fortune when this was revealed. Mason rides with Fran to their country home, and talks with her uncle, Edward Norton. Uncle Edward is obstinate in preventing Fran from getting her inheritance. "Great riches, with the wrong temperament, frequently lead to great suffering."

In Chapter V Perry gets a call from Fran late at night; her Uncle Edward has just been murdered! Norton's business partner had just left the house when Don Graves looked back and saw someone hit Norton; just a glance out of the rear window of a car. They turned back and found the body. As in other stories, people reveal their character through their statements. Chapter X provides an example of how a criminal lawyer could sell out his client for the right price. Paul Drake explains how private detectives use a "rough shadow" (Chapter XII). Chapter XIV tells how the police can lock up a material witness to prevent testimony to a defense attorney! Chapter XVI explains how news photographs are made. Chapter XVII tells how statements made right after the murder "disappeared". "The way to get to the bottom of a murder is to ... find the real explanation of that fact." Chapter XVIII tells how a prisoner can be manipulated into telling a false and incriminating confession! The trial of Fran and Rob starts in Chapter XIX. Chapter XXIII tells how newspapers reports are made for publicity. Chapter XXV explains the significance of having the spectators watching the defendants. Once again, Perry Mason vindicates his clients.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Christopher aka Donut Customer on August 31, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
“Did you ever hear the story,” asked Perry Mason, in a kindly tone of voice, “of the man who brought suit against his neighbor, claiming to have been bitten by the neighbor’s dog? The neighbor filed an answer in which he denied that his dog was vicious, denied that the dog had bitten the man, and denied that he ever had a dog.”
“Yes,” said Frank Everly, “I’ve heard that yarn. It’s a classic around law school.”
“All right,” said Perry Mason. “The defense in that case became humorous because it took in too much territory. Now, when you’ve got a doubtful case, it’s all right to try and have two strings to your bow. But remember that when you have two strings on a bow, while increasing the factor of safety, you lose the efficiency of the weapon. A bow that has two strings won’t break a string, but it won’t shoot an arrow one quarter of the distance that it would if it only had one string to it.”
“You mean you’re sacrificing everything in this case to concentrate on some one point?” asked the law clerk.
“Yes.”

Erle Stanley Gardner got his start in the pulps, but he was hardly 'gritty,' to use a current term. His 'hard-boiled' style, as far as it goes, consists mainly in playing it close to the vest; literally in Perry Mason's case. He is constantly pacing the floor with his thumbs in the armholes of his vest.. this is "hard-boiled" for "thinking." It can be an effective way of narrating a mystery, since the reader gets very little indication of WHAT Perry Mason is thinking.

I liked the procedural, lawyerly tricks that Mason pulls- at one point he sends ten thousand dollars by registered mail to a false address, just so that the DA won't find proof that his client had some of the victim's money.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Whistlers Mom TOP 1000 REVIEWER on August 28, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Normally, I'm OCD about reading every word of a book before reviewing it, but I got half way through this one and I just CANNOT finish it. I bought a bunch of the Perry Mason series when they went on sale recently and this is the fifth one I've read. I liked all of the others. I love old mysteries and the older the better, but perhaps the author was having trouble moving from the pulp short story to the mass market novel when he wrote this one.

The premise is fine. Beautiful heiress's money is tied up in a trust controlled by her uncle and she'll lose it if she marries before age twenty-five. She consults Perry Mason to help break the trust so she can marry her moronic boyfriend. Then the uncle is bumped off and all hell breaks loose. Whodunit?

Unfortunately, it's so poorly written it's not so much "whodunit" as "who cares?" You've got Perry and Della (whose character isn't very well developed at this point) and a young law clerk who runs errand and adds nothing of interest to the story. Della is described as being "about 27 years old." How on earth are you "about" 27? You can be "about 25" or about 30," but surely you're either 27 or you're not. It's must have sounded unconvincing to the author because the next character introduced is the uncle's business partner who's described as being "45, broad-shouldered, and affable." How come we know HIS age to the year, but can't figure out poor Della's?

There are stilted, British expressions and words that sound totally out of place in a hard-boiled, American mystery. The car is called "the machine." The "police representative" is guarding the "clews" needed to convict the "chap" who committed the murder.
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