Gee, you'd think I'd have a chance to be the most famous mystery writer who ever 290pxpalo_alto_high_school_billboargraduated from my high school. No shot. Never. You see I'm an alum of Palo Alto High as is... Erle Stanley Gardner, the progenitor of Perry Mason. He had 135 million copies of his books in print at the time of his death in 1970. Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-boom.

May was Perry Mason month on one of the local TV channels and I Tivo-ed them. They're always fun to watch, but my curiosity was piqued and I checked out one of Gardner's books, The HowlingdogCase of the Howling Dog, from the library. Written in 1934, the book featured a tougher, harder-nosed Perry Mason than we saw on TV. He's more a detective than a courtroom lawyer and goes right up to the line in legal ethics. Della Street worshipped him, but was a pretty smart cookie herself. Paul Drake, the P.I., was sent hither and yon while being kept in the dark. I remember the yellow-spined Nancy Drews of the 1950's; they were milquetoast compared to the grittier tales of the 1930's where Nancy packed heat. Similar difference for the Perry Mason of 1950's TV and 1930's books. Like those old Nancy Drews I've read my daughters, the 1930's version of Perry Mason was dated, but fun.

P.S. I did guess the ending.

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