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Re: American Mystery Classics: ERLE STANLEY GARDNER

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Re: American Mystery Classics: ERLE STANLEY GARDNER

Erle Stanley Gardner’s The Fluid or Unstatic Theory of Plots

 

Growing up, I always wanted to be a writer—well, at least since third grade when I wrote a Halloween story. Despite everything I learned in school before college on how to write a story, I felt that I was missing a huge key to unlock how to write. I found this key –at least the seed that could blossom in my mind—in a chance encounter in the campus library. I didn’t run in to Mr. Gardner, the prolific and best selling author of Perry Mason and many other novels, or any other great author. I ran into a book, sitting on a shelf by a bunch of other books on writing. The spine gave the main title: “The Secrets of the World’s Best-Selling Writer.” Dubiously I pulled it from the shelf and then my eyes must have grown to the size of small moons as the front cover gave the secondary title “The Story Telling Techniques of Erle Stanley Gardner.”

I grew up on the Perry Mason TV show and I had read a lot, but not all of the more than 80 Perry Mason Novels. When I saw the title, I had to check the book out. When I finished reading it, I combed the used books stores to buy a copy (as it was already out of print by the time I read it.) Unlike many other books on writing that I have read before and since that moment, this book was written directly from an examination of the plotting notebooks, the notes, and the diaries that Mr. Gardner left behind. The book documents his struggles and his life, not just how he wrote.

Mr. Gardner’s notes made it clear that as an early writer, he was determined to turn his mind in to a plot machine—which was my goal as well when I discovered the book. To do this, he actually created a plot machine that he played with until his mind did exactly what the machine did. The plot machine was only a bunch of circle cut outs that had a spinner and plot elements on it. After playing with it and a few other elements (which I may blog about at another time) his mind was able to create the twisting plots.

The plot machine cardboard wheels consisted of nine circles, each answering a question.It was these nine questions that he used to plot out (most) of his 154 novels that he wrote under a variety of pen names. These questions were written to write murder mysteries, but they can easily be changed to fit any genre. The nine wheels, thus the nine questions that he used (and that I use as part of my plotting method) are:

1. The act of primary villainy

2. Motivation for the act of villainy: Villain resorts to crime because of desire for (“Note difference between a static and cumulative motivation. Better wherever possible to start with a departure from a cumulative murder motivation—gradually, inexorably, forced to a murder motivation.” Erle Stanley Gardner)

3. The villain’s cover-up: Having committed the act of villainy, the villain tries to conceal it or escape consequences, or to help carry out motive by

4. Complications which arise during and after the cover-up: In trying 3 or afterward, villain is confronted by complications incurred through

5.The hero’s contact with the act of villainy: The Hero contacts an but not necessarily theact of villainy either by chance or by deliberation

6. Further complications and character conflicts: When conflict has been joined and hero comes in contact with villainy there are certain complicating circumstances which make for character conflicts and story

7. Suspense through hero’s mistakes: The complications become involved with the suspense element

8. Villain further attempts to escape: Villain feeling net closing about him tries to escape by some further act which points to a more exciting dramatic climax when carried through

9. Hero sets solution factors in motion or traps villain.

The plot machine looks easy, but it isn’t. Nor, is it the end of how Mr. Gardner pulled his plots together. It is only one huge cog in his method that drove the rest. 

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Re: American Mystery Classics: ERLE STANLEY GARDNER

COURTING PERRY MASON

 

“Who do you draw inspiration from?”

 

The question came at the end of a Rotary presentation I gave on Storytelling in Business. I wondered what I could say to earn points for professionalism and intelligence.

I was momentarily stumped then blurted out, “Erle Stanley Gardner.”

In order to meet demand, Gardner wrote in stereo

 

Blank stares predominated. “He wrote about 5,000 words a day, the equivalent of a novel per week… He was listed in the Guinness book of world records as the world’s best selling author… He created Perry Mason.”  FINALLY – nods of recognition in the audience, but I could tell I still needed to earn those points.

 

Stories in business aren’t much different than the stories we learned as children – the good ones contain similar elements. And Gardner, who authored about 800 works, has a lot to teach us about successful storytelling:

 

Compelling Characters:  Gardner believed in realistic characters, warts and all. The Perry Mason of his novels was a bit edgier than the character portrayed by Raymond Burr, but both had the ability to make the audience care.

 

The witness was uncooperative

 

Challenges to Overcome: Good stories have gaps that demand filling, triggering a very human desire to make things right. Gardner’s early writing was pulp at its pulpiest: He started his stories with riddles and kept the action rolling.

 

Internal Alignment: Stories don’t need to make sense to the real world, but they need to make sense to themselves. In other words, the elements of a story should fit together, with characters acting true to their nature. Perry Mason novels aren’t classical literature, but the characters, setting and plot fit together snugly – and thus “click” with their intended audience.


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Re: American Mystery Classics: ERLE STANLEY GARDNER

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Re: American Mystery Classics: ERLE STANLEY GARDNER

The Case of the Final Fade-Out Poster

 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0673265/

 

User Reviews

11 September 2011 | by DKOSTY (United States) 

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

 

While this is the last of the original Perry Mason series, I would not call it the strongest episode. This final fade out plays some things fast and loose with an interesting guest cast cast, and some very staged production shots.

Still, this is a satisfying ending to a classic series which established court room drama for many other series to come. Raymond Burr's Mason is a little calmer in this episode. He doesn't seem on his mark in grilling witnesses in the court room. William Talman's Hamilton Burger is in good form.

The story is OK though not one of the best scripts in the series. The biggest surprise to me is Denver Pyle who seems to be totally different in this role as one of the two murder victims. It is his face I recognized as he used a different voice in this episode.

William Hopper and Barbara Hale are in decent form here though it appears Paul Drake has little to do in this episode. Still, you can feel that this is a send off for a wrap party after the shoot. Estelle Windwood who would go on to live to be 101, was already around 80 and looks it here.

In a way, Dick Clark plays a shifty middle level movie executive. While the shifty is out of character for him, the executive type is not far from his emcee persona. Still, this is one of the few times that you find Clark being an actor instead of himself, the host.

It would be another successful Ironside series before Raymond Burr would get back into the Mason character. Long before that happens, both William Hopper and William Talman would be dead. This episode is an appropriate way to bid them a fond farewell.

 

 

Note: I wonder if Erle Stanley Garner played the judge, either in this or another episode:

 

Erle Stanley Gardner 46 Audiobooks Unabridged Collect

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Re: American Mystery Classics: ERLE STANLEY GARDNER

http://www.npr.org/programs/morning/features/patc/perrymason/index.html

 

NPR

 

Erle Stanley Gardner

 

Erle Stanley Gardner uses a dictation machine in his study, circa 1940.


Photo: Courtesy Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin

 

June 10, 2002 -- He's got an instantly recognizable television theme song, 82 novels written about him and, best of all, he almost never loses a case. It's a career that most lawyers wouldn't dare dream about. But most lawyers can't call themselves Perry Mason, either.

Erle Stanley Gardner, Mason's creator, began his professional life in a law firm. Working as an apprentice until he had learned enough to pass the bar exam, Gardner soon tired of the long hours and restrictions of his job. Longing to set his own schedule and interested in writing, he set his knowledge of the law toward a different purpose: mystery stories.

As NPR Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenbergreports for Morning Edition, as part of the Present at the Creation series, Gardner's first efforts were published in pulp magazines. But even he admitted that the stories were less than memorable.

Gardner got his first big break when a critique of one of his stories was accidentally attached to the rejection notice sent to him by Black Mask Magazine. He used the criticism to make revisions, and this time the story sold.

The first Perry Mason novel, The Case of the Velvet Claws, was published in 1933, and from the beginning Gardner had a very definite vision of the shape the character would take.

"I want to make my hero a fighter," he wrote to his publisher, "not by having him be ruthless to women and underlings, but by creating a character who, with infinite patience jockeys his enemies into a position where he can deliver one good knockout punch."

By this time Gardner had stopped practicing law altogether, and focused his energy on writing. But he didn't go about it in the usual way. Instead of just pecking away at a typewriter in an office, Gardner employed what he called a "fiction factory." This consisted of a pool of secretaries that he would shuttle into the desert for dictation sessions cut off from the rest of civilization. All in all, his factory produced more than a million words per year.

While his methods may have been unconventional, Gardner certainly knew the ingredients necessary to sustain a mystery series. Alongside Perry Mason, the cast of characters included District Attorney Hamilton Burger, Investigator Paul Drake, and Mason's secretary, Della Street.

The success of Gardner's novels convinced Hollywood that Perry Mason was a viable franchise, and a series of movies based on the character were produced, but met with little success. A Perry Mason radio show stayed on the air for 12 years, but Gardner had little creative control and disliked the series. How could he expect a television series to be any better?

Gardner took matters into his own hands. He started a production company and involved himself in the series from the get-go, working on scripts and helping to cast the actors that would bring his characters to life.

And it was fortunate for viewers that he did. When Raymond Burr arrived at the audition, the man who would personify Perry Mason for generations of viewers didn't even have the character in mind. He was there to try out for the role of Hamilton Burger. But when Burr walked into the room, Gardner knew he had found his leading man, says author Brian Kelleher, who wrote a book about the series.

"Before a word came out of his mouth, Erle Stanley Gardner, so they say, jumped off his chair and said, 'That's him, that's Perry Mason!'" Kelleher says.

Of course, Burr was Perry Mason, and in the course of the show's initial nine-year run (from 1957-66), he nearly exhausted the possibilities for criminal defense. So how did the show manage to captivate audiences through 271 episodes, and years of repeats in syndication?

The answer, according to fellow lawyer/mystery author Scott Turow: "People love the puzzle." In other words, Gardner knew how to weave plots and characters into a seamless web.

"What I took from Perry Mason," Turow says, "was the childlike delight in the surprise and in a plot as revelation of character. In the sense that the significant turn of the plot ends up deepening your understanding of somebody and what they had at stake in the situation." 


Other Resources 

• Learn more about the Perry Mason TV series, including information about the cast and a list of famous cameos.

• Read the Perry Mason TV Show Book by Brian Kelleher and Diana Merrill. It includes descriptions of all the episodes.

• Learn more about Erle Stanley Gardner.

• See Perry Mason book covers.

• Read a biography of Raymond Burr.
Perry Mason Multimedia
video icon
Watch a clip from the premier Perry Mason episode, "The Case of the Restless Redhead", which first aired Sept. 21, 1957.
(© 1994 Paisano Productions Inc. and CBS Inc.)
video icon
Watch a clip from "The Case of the Baited Hook", which debuted Dec. 21, 1957.
(© 1994 Paisano Productions Inc. and CBS Inc.)
audio icon
Listen to the theme music of the Perry Mason TV series.


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Re: American Mystery Classics: ERLE STANLEY GARDNER

I found a site that lists Erle Stanley Gardner's movies:

 http://www.blockbuster.com/browse/catalog/personDetails/183741

 

I've been trying to confirm whether he did any cameos in the TV episodes. Apparently he did a cameo, uncredited, in the final episode, THE CASE OF THE FINAL FADEOUT:

 

Plot

Appropriately enough, the 271st and final episode of Perry Mason concerns a murder which takes place during the filming of a TV show. No sooner has Perry (Raymond Burr) been able to establish the innocence of chief suspect Jackson Sidemark (Denver Pyle) than Sidemark himself is knocked off by the real killer (and wait until you see who THAT is!) Several members of the Perry Mason production staff, including executive producer Gail Patrick Jackson, appear in cameo roles, while series creator Erle Stanley Gardner shows up unbilled as a judge. Longtime fans of the series will enjoy the multitude of "inside" jokes in the script (including a barbed reference to the show's NBC competition Bonanza), but the best is reserved for last when Perry and his longtime courtroom adversary Hamilton Burger (William Talman) exchange words for the final time. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/perry-mason-the-case-of-the-final-fadeout-tv-episode#ixzz1l8rcovdt

 

 

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Re: American Mystery Classics: ERLE STANLEY GARDNER

becke_davis, I have heard of Erle Stanley Garnder and Perry Mason. I forgot that he created that characater. I remember watching the tv show.

 

Interesting how characters from books come to tv and movies.

 

ReadingPatti

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Re: American Mystery Classics: ERLE STANLEY GARDNER


ReadingPatti wrote:

becke_davis, I have heard of Erle Stanley Garnder and Perry Mason. I forgot that he created that characater. I remember watching the tv show.

 

Interesting how characters from books come to tv and movies.

 

ReadingPatti



ReadingPatti wrote:

becke_davis, I have heard of Erle Stanley Garnder and Perry Mason. I forgot that he created that characater. I remember watching the tv show.

 

Interesting how characters from books come to tv and movies.

 

ReadingPatti


You should check out the books, Patti - they're fun reads!

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Re: American Mystery Classics: ERLE STANLEY GARDNER

[ Edited ]

becke_davis wrote:

maxcat wrote:

Don't know about the eyeballs, Becke. But it does make for an interesting point.


These books were written a LONG time ago so there are bound to be a lot of things that seem quaint or very-outdated (like the glass eyes). 

 

What have you all noticed, particularly?


Well, the stereotypical Japanese manservant, for one thing.

 

The following contains spoilers for The Case of the Queenly Contestant - not the solution, but things that Perry doesn't know from the beginning.

 

In this book, the client had been a beauty contest winner, but then got pregnant, moved away, and never let anyone know where she was or what had become of her.  Her hometown paper wanted to do a follow-up story twenty years later, and she hired Perry to keep them from finding her, because she didn't want to bring shame upon her family or town.  That is a bit outdated now; single mothers no longer have such a stigma.  She also gave the baby to a couple that she worked for - went to a hospital under the woman's name so it would seem he was born to his adoptive mother.  There was no formal adoption - she just gave them the baby and they raised it as their own.  I'm not so sure they could get away with that now!

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Re: American Mystery Classics: ERLE STANLEY GARDNER


dulcinea3 wrote:

becke_davis wrote:

maxcat wrote:

Don't know about the eyeballs, Becke. But it does make for an interesting point.


These books were written a LONG time ago so there are bound to be a lot of things that seem quaint or very-outdated (like the glass eyes). 

 

What have you all noticed, particularly?


Well, the stereotypical Japanese manservant, for one thing.

 

The following contains spoilers for The Case of the Queenly Contestant - not the solution, but things that Perry doesn't know from the beginning.

 

In this book, the client had been a beauty contest winner, but then got pregnant, moved away, and never let anyone know where she was or what had become of her.  Her hometown paper wanted to do a follow-up story twenty years later, and she hired Perry to keep them from finding her, because she didn't want to bring shame upon her family or town.  That is a bit outdated now; single mothers no longer have such a stigma.  She also gave the baby to a couple that she worked for - went to a hospital under the woman's name so it would seem he was born to his adoptive mother.  There was no formal adoption - she just gave them the baby and they raised it as their own.  I'm not so sure they could get away with that now!


Wow, it's weird to think that was so scandalous back then!

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Re: American Mystery Classics: ERLE STANLEY GARDNER

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Re: American Mystery Classics: ERLE STANLEY GARDNER

I finished The Case of the Buried Clock, and found another anachronism - running boards on cars!  At one point, a car is found that has gone over an embankment and crashed.  The question is whether it was an accident, or whether the car was crashed on purpose, by someone standing on the running board to get the car going and then jumping clear before it went over.  Later, there is a rather amusing incident with one of Paul Drake's operatives, who is trying to tail one of the characters.  When she unexpectedly jumps into a cab and goes off, the detective jumps onto the running board of a passing car and tells the driver to follow the cab.  The driver, instead, pulls over to the side of the road and calls the police!  Then the detective has to explain and identify himself to the officer, by which time the suspect is long gone.  I remember when I was little, some cars did have a bit of a running board, but I think they must have been more of a remnant, becuase I don't think they were really big enough for someone to stand on while the car was moving.

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Re: American Mystery Classics: ERLE STANLEY GARDNER


dulcinea3 wrote:

I finished The Case of the Buried Clock, and found another anachronism - running boards on cars!  At one point, a car is found that has gone over an embankment and crashed.  The question is whether it was an accident, or whether the car was crashed on purpose, by someone standing on the running board to get the car going and then jumping clear before it went over.  Later, there is a rather amusing incident with one of Paul Drake's operatives, who is trying to tail one of the characters.  When she unexpectedly jumps into a cab and goes off, the detective jumps onto the running board of a passing car and tells the driver to follow the cab.  The driver, instead, pulls over to the side of the road and calls the police!  Then the detective has to explain and identify himself to the officer, by which time the suspect is long gone.  I remember when I was little, some cars did have a bit of a running board, but I think they must have been more of a remnant, becuase I don't think they were really big enough for someone to stand on while the car was moving.


How funny - I never even thought of that!

 

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dulcinea3
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Re: American Mystery Classics: ERLE STANLEY GARDNER

Hey, I just saw the TV episode of The Case of the Buried Clock, the novel I read!!!  Of course, they changed things a lot, consolidated characters, etc., to fit it into an hour.  Some really bad acting in it, too! :catfrustrated:

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Re: American Mystery Classics: ERLE STANLEY GARDNER


dulcinea3 wrote:

Hey, I just saw the TV episode of The Case of the Buried Clock, the novel I read!!!  Of course, they changed things a lot, consolidated characters, etc., to fit it into an hour.  Some really bad acting in it, too! :catfrustrated:


I think the bad acting is part of the fun of watching those old episodes!

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Re: American Mystery Classics: ERLE STANLEY GARDNER

Thanks to my friend MARY KENNEDY for passing on this link:

 

http://killzoneauthors.blogspot.com/2013/04/how-to-make-money-self-publishing.html#.UXX5-KJthq2

 

About Mary:

 

http://www.marykennedy.net -visit Mary's website.
The Friday Night Dream Club Mysteries, coming summer, 2014, from Penguin
Be sure to read Mary's latest blog on BlogHer. http://www.blogher.com/i-cant-resist-mystery-cat
The Talk Radio Mysteries from Penguin Books--"Frasier meets Murder She Wrote in this entertaining new series from a real-life psychologist." 
Be Mary's Facebook friend https://www.facebook.com/mary.kennedy.948

Follow Mary on Twitter https://twitter.com/marykennedybook