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Speaking Volumes: He created Perry Mason, but this author wrote more than detective novels

Best known for creating the character of lawyer-detective Perry Mason, Erle Stanley Gardner would have celebrated his 130th birthday on July 17.

Born in 1889 and a lawyer himself, Gardner featured the character in more than 80 novels and short stories, beginning with the novel “The Case of the Velvet Claws” in 1933.

Soon after, Hollywood became interested.

Warner Bros. produced a series of films with Warren William as Perry Mason in the mid to late 1930’s, though most people might remember the classic television series with Raymond Burr that ran from 1957-66.

Burr became identified with the character, eventually reprising the role into the 1980’s in various movies for television.

In the novels and stories, Mason was assisted by his secretary Della Street and Paul Drake, and opposed by District Attorney Hamilton Burger and Lt. Arthur Tragg.

Although there were moments of romance between Mason and Street, they never got serious. Barbara Hale was one of several actresses who played the role, but she is the best known and won an Emmy during the run of the television series.

If you’re interested in reading some of Gardner’s works, look no further than your local library.

Gardner was a prolific writer and wrote more than just detective novels. We have the “The Case of Velvet Claws,” Perry Mason’s debut, as well as “The Case of the Stuttering Bishop” and “The Case of the Dangerous Dowager.”

There are also some anthologies that contain several novels or stories in one volume.

“A Perry Mason Casebook” consists of four novels: “The Case of the Gilded Lily,” “The Case of the Daring Decoy,” “The Case of the Fiery Fingers” and “The Case of the Luck Loser.”

Gardner died in 1970, but in the 1980s, writer Thomas Chastain penned some new Perry Mason novels. There are two in our collection: “Perry Mason in the Case of Too Many Murders” and “Perry Mason in the Case of the Burning Bequest.”

Gardner also wrote in other genres, including science fiction.

We have “The Human Zero: The Collected Science Fiction Stories of Erle Stanley Gardner,” edited by Martin Greenberg and Charles G. Waugh. This collection contains seven stories: “The Human Zero,” “Monkey Eyes,” “New Worlds,” “Rain Magic,” “A Year and a Day,” “The Man with Pin Point Eyes” and “The Sky’s the Limit.” These originally appeared between 1928 and 1932 in the pulp magazine Argosy.

Shortly before his death, Gardner created a new detective series featuring the characters of Donald Lam and Bertha Cool. Written under the pseudonym of A.A. Fair, the novels concern the law firm of Cool and Lam, and their clashes with District Attorney Doug Selby.

We have two of these novels: “Traps Need Fresh Bait” and “Crows Don’t Count,” the last of which is available through Hoopla, one of our electronic databases.

Call your local branch for more information on available titles.

Central Library — 941-748-5555;

Braden River — 941-727-6079;

Island — 941-778-6341;

Palmetto — 941-722-3333;

Rocky Bluff — 941-723-4821;

South Manatee — 941-755-3892.

You also can access the library via the internet at mymanatee.org/library.

David Breakfield is a Central Library librarian. Speaking Volumes, written by Manatee County Public Library System staff members, is published each Sunday in the Bradenton Herald.

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