Friday, November 18, 2016
FFB: This is Murder by Erle Stanley Gardner
And then came This is Murder – a big disappointment.
That surprised me. Just writing this surprises me. I never thought I would be bashing the work of this writer I admire.
But Gardner can take it. Yes, I know he has been dead since 1970. Even if he were not, any writer with a body of work like his – at least 100 books, some say more – can handle it if one blogger does not like one of his stories.
In this 1935 stand-alone novel, which he wrote under the pen name Charles J. Kenney, Gardner introduces us to Sam Moraine, an adman and friend of the district attorney of a cold, windy, unnamed city. For kicks, Sam involves himself in a kidnapping case and is soon tangled up in a complicated murder investigation.
Political corruption is part of the plot along with many twists and turns, convenient coincidences and improbable – if not impossible – situations. All of which caused me to lose interest in Sam, the suspects, and the whole thing.
Mostly, This is Murder suffers from over plotting. It is said that Gardner created a plot wheel, a paper device he could turn and come up with a variety of situations, to help him create all those stories. This time he gave the wheel too many spins.
Gardner also seems out of his element writing about an ad executive who runs a one-man advertising business with his secretary. It all came across like a law office not an ad agency.
So, I will stick with Gardner’s stories featuring his famous criminal-defense attorney.
(For more posts about forgotten books, check out Patti Abbott’s blog.)
Posted by Elgin Bleecker at 12:25 AM
Labels: Erle Stanley Gardner, Perry Mason, This is Murder
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Let me recommend that you try his Lester Leith stories for some good fun.ReplyDelete
Barry – Thanks for reading the post. I have yet to run across any of the LL stories. But if I ever do, I will be sure to read them.Delete
One more suggestion, Elgin. Try some of the Donald Lam/Bertha Cool mysteries he wrote under the A.A. Fair pseudonym.ReplyDelete
Barry – I have several old Lam and Cool paperbacks. They are fun, too. But the Perry Masons are by far my favorites. Thanks again.Delete
I want to read more the Perry Mason mysteries (and some of the Donald Lam/Bertha Cool series). Have read many books in both of those series and liked them. I also read about a D.A. Doug Selby series that I have not tried.ReplyDelete
Tracy – Yes, I need to check out the D.A. Doug Selby books, too. I would be fun to see Gardner working from the prosecution side of the courtroom. Thanks for reading this post.Delete
Shame - I often much prefer his pulpier output from the 1930sReplyDelete
Sergio – While I am a fan of the Perry Mason novels, Gardner’s Lester Leith short stories sound like good fun from the pulp era.Delete
Elgin, ESG remains one of my favourite writers and I'm glad his Perry Mason novels hold up whenever I reread them. I'm quite sure I read all 80 in my teens and twenties. His earliest Mason novels were gritty and hardboiled. More recently, I read some of his short stories.ReplyDelete
Prashant – The Perry Mason books are good, but the earlier ones are a bit more fun because in them PM is apt to pull more questionable legal tricks. A lawyer in my family loves those stories and holds that actor Warren William in the 1930s movies was far closer to the books’ PM than Raymond Burr of the TV series.Delete
Like Prashant, I too must have read almost all of Gardner's Perry Mason books in my teens and early twenties. He was very popular in India during the eighties and Nineties (perhaps even before that). I have never liked his DA series or the books he wrote under the A.A Fair pseudonym. In fact, I remember my sister being totally put-off by one of his Donald Lam/ Bertha Cool books. She refused to believe it was the same author who wrote Perry Mason!Thanks Elgin for this post, it has brought back so many memories.ReplyDelete
Neer – I am with you on his A.A. Fair books. When I found THIS IS MURDER in small used-book shop, I also found an old Pocket Books edition of a D.A. novel. Someone must have just cleared out his home library, because there were also very old PM paperbacks, and I scooped up a half-dozen of those, too. Thanks for visiting my blog.Delete