Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Next time we'll talk about what everyone misses about Lord Peter Wimsey

 I've always found Erle Stanley Gardner more interesting and substantive than he's given credit for.  His writing could be uneven and badly edited (perhaps inevitably given his output), but there was always a sharp intellect at play and a reluctance to insult that of the readers (a quality sorely lacking in many of his more respected peers).

The Case of the Careless Kitten is ESG at the top of his game, ingeniously plotted with surprising but logical twists. The client's innocence is confirmed in the middle of the book almost in passing. He plays almost no role in the in the amusing climactic courtroom scene (he's not even the defendant). Instead the focus is on pay back for Hamilton Burger in response t the DA trying to have him disbarred.

Recommendation aside, what makes this book of special interest is the way it spells out the central conflict between Mason and Burger. Both make intelligent, reasonable arguments about the courts and the role of defense attorneys. These arguments form the subtext of all the Perry Mason books.

 Like all good pulp, there's a bit more here than seen at first glance.








  1. Yeah, and that was published in 1942. I was always a big Perry Mason fan. ESG did a great job with him, especially since he maintained his character's integrity from the 1930s through the 1960s. I got hooked on the TV show, but the books were even better. The remake of the show misses the entire point of it.

    Whimsey was too much about the cult of the clever amateur for me. It was all about being clever. Justice, respect for the law, fighting for the underdog were, if present, present only in passing.

    1. Yeah, the Perry Mason prequel sounds great except for the Perry Mason part. I hear good things and like the people involved, but it doesn’t appear to have anything to do with the actual character. It’s not a revisionist take; it’s a “never bothered to read the books” take.

      [If you’re an ESG fan, make sure to check out Cool and Lam and particularly the DA books where the Burger character is the hero and the Mason character is the villain.]

      The key to Wimsey is that the foppish sleuth bit is mainly therapeutic cosplay (including the perfect English butler who isn’t actually a butler) for a WWI veteran suffering from severely debilitating PTSD. It is only by keeping this parlor game tone up that he is able to maintain his emotional equilibrium. When things get too real he’s vulnerable. For example, following the execution of a murderer he has revealed, Wimsey goes through a period of deep depression.