Friday, June 14, 2013

The Case of the Waylaid Wolf

At age 70, Gardner was still able to keep a good pace. In 1960 alone, he produced three Perry Mason novels, all of which would rapidly become fodder for the television show.  These late novels show certain common traits such as a concentration on secretaries as suspects, marriages gone bad, a blurred line between Gardner’s own life and Perry’s along with a number of recycled plotlines. 

 The Case of the Waylaid Wolf is exactly what it sounds like. Arlene Ferris, a secretary at Lamont Rolling, Casting and Engineering Company, experiences car trouble after working late and agrees to accept a car ride home from Loring Lamont, the son of the company’s founder.  
After a few excuses and detours, the pair  ends up at a company-owned cabin, where Lamont says that he is to wait for a man to pick up some papers. Following a phone call, Lamont’s attentions turn brutal, and Ferris escapes in Lamont’s car. She calls on Perry Mason the next morning to determine her options. While she’s meeting with Mason, they learn that Lamont was killed out at the cabin.
The timeline and forensics details play a large part in this case. The time of death was determined in part by the contents of the victim’s stomach. Arlene Ferris claimed that a meal including scrambled eggs was prepared, but never eaten. The coroner puts the death at minutes after the meal was consumed.   
 The Newsweek piece gave details on Gardner’s creative processes for The Case of the Duplicate Daughter. Gardner had indicated that he felt a creative streak coming on. He’d avoided alcohol that evening, went to bed at 2 a.m. and woke at 6 a.m. to begin work on the book, dictating with two recorders in front of him. “All right, gal, hold onto your hat. Here it comes,” he had been reported to say. Gardner dictated in the voice of each character, indicating paragraph marks to the secretaries, but leaving all other punctuation to their knowledge of the rules of grammar. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Bachelors Get Lonely

During the early 1960s, Gardner began to subtly change the Cool / Lam series. The duo took on cases that Bertha Cool felt would bring them respectability. Gardner had done this years before with Mason, when he tried to break into the slick magazines. Additionally, like the Perry Mason books before them, the Cool / Lam books began to lose something in terms of the plotting. Gardner was in his 70s by this point with pressures from the television show and writing multiple books per year. The plots became more predictable, frequently involved automobile accidents, often recycled and thin compared to the more robust multiple story line plots of the 1940s.

Bachelors Get Lonely embodies most of the later books' flaws. Montrose Carson is an example of the “big, substantial, solid businessmen” that Bertha has her eye on. Carson’s office experiences a series of losses in its business ventures. Lam lays a trap, pretending to be a wealthy businessman with a property to lease. Carson gives each member of his staff a unique dollar amount that the lease should go for. Lam easily determines the office leak when the price is just over one of the staff’s given amount. The path leads to Herbert Dowling, one of Carson’s competitors and to a series of women who work for and love the two men. After Dowling is murdered, the police implicate Lam because of the tracking device he’d installed on Dowling’s car.

Gardner uses the chance to discuss restless men in this book, appropriate to the title.
“It’s hard to describe a man like that, Donald. He’s emotionally restless. He’s—Well, I’ve always felt that we had a perfect companionship and that much of his present trouble is that he had been search for something to take the place of that companionship.”[i]

[i] Gardner, Erle Stanley (as A.A. Fair). Bachelors Get Lonely. New York: William Morrow and Company, 1961. Page 70.