by Erle Stanley Gardner, © 1933
The 15th entry in a series of Friday Forgotten Books
Sure, I’d watched the television show back in the day. My parents watched and I got to watch too. I liked it, and I rarely figured out the real culprit until the stunning (to me, at least) courtroom revelation. Hey, I was just a kid.
Yet I’d never read any of the books. I picked this to start with, it’s the first one in the series and I read a series in order whenever I can. It wasn’t quite what I expected from my viewing of the TV show, but I liked it a lot. I tried a couple more and I’m hooked. I love these darn things! I’ve probably read about a third of the 80 books and plan to keep on going.
When Eva Griffin walks into Mason’s office and says she’s in a jam, she’s obviously not giving her real name nor telling the truth, but Mason takes the retainer. He soon finds her real name is Eva Belter. She was at a night club with a politician when a shooting occurred, and she wants Mason to help her avoid a scandal. He tries to suppress the story in the scandal rag Spicy Bits but the client doesn’t have enough money for the payoff. Then a few nights later she calls Mason in the middle of the night, pleading with him to meet her in an all-night drugstore. When he gets there she tells him her husband has been killed and pleads for his help.
This is pure pulp, with a twist or two but nothing that special. Mason is a tough guy here, not polished as we see him in later books or the television program. At one point he decks a guy he’s been pushing for information. He’s insolent to the cops and demanding of Paul Drake.
Mason describes his view of his profession to Drake about ¾ through the book:
“The D.A represents the people, he makes the strongest case he can. It’s my duty to make the strongest kind of case I can on the other side. If the District Attorney would play fair, then I could be fair. But the District Attorney uses everything he can in order to get a conviction. I use everything I can in order to get an acquittal. It’s like two teams playing football. One of them tries to go in one direction just as hard as it can, and the other tries to go in the other direction just as hard as it can.”
One surprise to me was the lack of any courtroom scene in the book. As expected, this is a fun, fast read. Caution, reading this and other books in the series can be habit forming.
Note that Friday Forgotten Book participant Scott Parker reviewed this book on September 19, 2008. To see his review, go here.