Authors: Erle Stanley Gardner

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American novelist

Author Works

Long Fiction:

The Case of the Velvet Claws, 1933

The Case of the Sulky Girl, 1933

The Case of the Lucky Legs, 1934

The Case of the Howling Dog, 1934

The Case of the Curious Bride, 1934

The Clue of the Forgotten Murder, 1935 (as Carleton Kendrake)

This Is Murder, 1935 (as Charles J. Kenny)

The Case of the Counterfeit Eye, 1935

The Case of the Caretaker’s Cat, 1935

The Case of the Sleepwalker’s Niece, 1936

The Case of the Stuttering Bishop, 1936

The Case of the Dangerous Dowager, 1937

The Case of the Lame Canary, 1937

The D.A. Calls It Murder, 1937

The Case of the Substitute Face, 1938

The Case of the Shoplifter’s Shoe, 1938

The D.A. Holds a Candle, 1938

Murder up My Sleeve, 1938

The Bigger They Come, 1939 (as A. A. Fair)

The D.A. Draws a Circle, 1939

The Case of the Perjured Parrot, 1939

The Case of the Rolling Bones, 1939

The D.A. Goes to Trial, 1940

Turn on the Heat, 1940 (as Fair)

Gold Comes in Bricks, 1940 (as Fair)

The Case of the Baited Hook, 1940

The Case of the Silent Partner, 1940

Spill the Jackpot, 1941 (as Fair)

The Case of the Haunted Husband, 1941

The Case of the Empty Tin, 1941

The Case of the Turning Tide, 1941

Double or Quits, 1941 (as Fair)

The D.A. Cooks a Goose, 1942

Owls Don’t Blink, 1942 (as Fair)

Bats Fly at Dusk, 1942 (as Fair)

The Case of the Drowning Duck, 1942

The Case of the Careless Kitten, 1942

Cats Prowl at Night, 1943 (as Fair)

The Case of the Smoking Chimney, 1943

The D.A. Calls a Turn, 1944

The Case of the Buried Clock, 1943

The Case of the Drowsy Mosquito, 1943

Give ’em the Ax, 1944 (as Fair)

The Case of the Crooked Candle, 1944

The Case of the Black-Eyed Blonde, 1944

The Case of the Golddigger’s Purse, 1945

The Case of the Half-Wakened Wife, 1945

Crows Can’t Count, 1946 (as Fair)

The D.A. Breaks a Seal, 1946

The Case of the Backward Mule, 1946

The Case of the Borrowed Brunette, 1946

Two Clues, 1947

The Case of the Fan Dancer’s Horse, 1947

The Case of the Lazy Lover, 1947

Fools Die on Friday, 1947 (as Fair)

The D.A. Takes a Chance, 1948

The Case of the Lonely Heiress, 1948

The Case of the Vagabond Virgin, 1948

The Case of the Dubious Bridegroom, 1949

Bedrooms Have Windows, 1949 (as Fair)

The D.A. Breaks an Egg, 1949

The Case of the Cautious Coquette, 1949

The Case of the Musical Cow, 1950

The Case of the Negligent Nymph, 1950

The Case of the One-Eyed Witness, 1950

The Case of the Fiery Fingers, 1951

The Case of the Angry Mourners, 1951

The Case of the Moth-Eaten Mink, 1952

Top of the Heap, 1952 (as Fair)

The Case of the Grinning Gorilla, 1952

The Case of the Hesitant Hostess, 1953

The Case of the Green-Eyed Sister, 1953

Some Women Won’t Wait, 1953 (as Fair)

The Case of the Fugitive Nurse, 1954

The Case of the Runaway Corpse, 1954

The Case of the Restless Redhead, 1954

The Case of the Glamorous Ghost, 1955

The Case of the Sun Bather’s Diary, 1955

The Case of the Nervous Accomplice, 1955

Beware the Curves, 1956 (as Fair)

The Case of the Terrified Typist, 1956

The Case of the Demure Defendant, 1956

The Case of the Gilded Lily, 1956

The Case of the Lucky Loser, 1957

You Can Die Laughing, 1957 (as Fair)

Some Slips Don’t Show, 1957 (as Fair)

The Case of the Screaming Woman, 1957

The Case of the Daring Decoy, 1957

The Case of the Long-Legged Models, 1958

The Count of Nine, 1958 (as Fair)

The Case of the Foot-Loose Doll, 1958

The Case of the Calendar Girl, 1958

The Case of the Deadly Toy, 1959

The Case of the Mythical Monkeys, 1959

The Case of the Singing Skirt, 1959

Pass the Gravy, 1959 (as Fair)

Kept Women Can’t Quit, 1960 (as Fair)

The Case of the Waylaid Wolf, 1960

The Case of the Duplicate Daughter, 1960

The Case of the Shapely Shadow, 1960

The Case of the Spurious Spinster, 1961

The Case of the Bigamous Spouse, 1961

Bachelors Get Lonely, 1961 (as Fair)

Shills Can’t Cash Chips, 1961 (as Fair)

Try Anything Once, 1962 (as Fair)

The Case of the Reluctant Model, 1962

The Case of the Blonde Bonanza, 1962

The Case of the Ice-Cold Hands, 1962

The Case of the Mischievous Doll, 1963

The Case of the Step-daughter’s Secret, 1963

The Case of the Amorous Aunt, 1963

Fish or Cut Bait, 1963 (as Fair)

Up for Grabs, 1964 (as Fair)

The Case of the Daring Divorcee, 1964

The Case of the Phantom Fortune, 1964

The Case of the Horrified Heirs, 1964

The Case of the Troubled Trustee, 1965

The Case of the Beautiful Beggar, 1965

Cut Thin to Win, 1965 (as Fair)

Widows Wear Weeds, 1966 (as Fair)

The Case of the Worried Waitress, 1966

The Case of the Queenly Contestant, 1967

Traps Need Fresh Bait, 1967

The Case of the Careless Cupid, 1968

The Case of the Fabulous Fake, 1969

All Grass Isn’t Green, 1970 (as Fair)

The Case of the Fenced-in Woman, 1972

The Case of the Postponed Murder, 1973

Short Fiction:

The Case of the Murderer’s Bride, and Other Stories, 1969

The Case of the Crimson Kiss, 1971

The Case of the Crying Swallow, and Other Stories, 1971

The Case of the Irate Witness, 1972

The Amazing Adventures of Lester Leith, 1981


The Land of Shorter Shadows, 1948

The Court of Last Resort, 1952

Neighborhood Frontiers, 1954

The Case of the Boy Who Wrote “The Case of the Missing Clue” with Perry Mason, 1959

Hunting the Desert Whale, 1960

Hovering over Baja, 1961

The Hidden Heart of Baja, 1962

The Desert Is Yours, 1963

The World of Water: Exploring the Sacramento Delta, 1964

Hunting Lost Mines by Helicopter, 1965

Off the Beaten Track in Baja, 1967

Gypsy Days on the Delta, 1967

Mexico’s Magic Square, 1968

Drifting Down the Delta, 1969

Host with the Big Hat, 1970

Cops on Campus and Crime in the Streets, 1970

Whispering Sands: Stories of Gold Fever and the Western Desert, 1981


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.{$I[A]Gardner, Erle Stanley}{$S[A]Kendrake, Carleton;Gardner, Erle Stanley}{$S[A]Kenny, Charles J.;Gardner, Erle Stanley}{$S[A]Fair, A. A.;Gardner, Erle Stanley}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Gardner, Erle Stanley}{$I[tim]1889;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 his day job to devote himself exclusively to writing. Ultimately, he completed eighty-six Perry Mason mysteries. He had amazing self-discipline, producing more than a million words annually. At first, he typed all these words himself; later, he employed six full-time secretaries to transcribe his novels.

In each of the Perry Mason mysteries, Mason must defend a client charged with murder. The client is always entwined in suspicious circumstances that make him or her appear guilty of the crime. Mason is aided by his loyal and devoted secretary, Della Street, and his private detective friend, Paul Drake. Usually Mason does not solve the crime until a climactic courtroom scene.

Many of Mason’s cases were actually based on the author’s experiences as a trial lawyer. Gardner took great care to ensure that all of the details in his books were factually correct. He even went so far as to purchase a new gun for each mystery that he wrote.

Although the Perry Mason mysteries brought Gardner fame and fortune, even he did not regard them as literary masterpieces. He did not devote a lot of space to characterization and description, preferring instead to focus on fast pacing, intricate plotting, and scintillating dialogue. “I have no aptitude as a writer,” Gardner once said. “I don’t consider myself a very good writer. I do consider myself a good plotter. And I consider myself one hell of a good salesman as far as manufacturing merchandise that will sell is concerned.” He did not mind being called a fiction factory or “the Henry Ford of novelists,” references to the assembly-line nature of how his prodigious books were produced. All told, Gardner ended up penning more than seven hundred fictional works during his lifetime. In addition to the Perry Mason series, Gardner wrote twenty-nine novels under the pseudonym A. A. Fair about private eye Donald Lam and nine books about small-town district attorney Doug Selby. There are more than three hundred million copies of his books in print.

In 1957 Gardner maintained creative control when the character of Perry Mason became the basis for a long-running television series. Gardner himself approved the scripts, helped select the actors, and often visited the set. He personally chose the dark-eyed actor Raymond Burr to portray Mason. The series was incredibly popular with the public, running for nine years, and on the last episode of the show Gardner played a judge.

Writing brought Gardner financial independence and the freedom to pursue other interests, particularly travel. He spent months in China and often journeyed to Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. His passion for the outdoors led him to purchase a thousand-acre ranch near Temecula, California, southeast of Los Angeles. Although he was an excellent marksman, Gardner eventually gave up hunting, partly because of his love for animals. A staunch advocate of social justice, he helped found the Court of Last Resort in 1948, which consisted of a group of crime experts and investigators who reinvestigated cases of people who might have been unjustly convicted of crimes. His nonfiction account of the Court of Last Resort’s work won him the 1952 Fact Crime Edgar Allan Poe award from the Mystery Writers of America, another organization he helped create.

In 1968, after Gardner’s wife Natalie died, the seventy-nine-year-old author married his longtime secretary, Jean Bethell. They had only two years of wedded life together before Gardner died of cancer on March 11, 1970. At his funeral, he was eulogized as a “lawyer, author, citizen, and friend who contributed more to the cause of justice than any other man of his generation.”

BibliographyBounds, 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.
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