The Case of the Velvet Claws

by Erle Stanley Gardner, © 1933

The 15th entry in a series of Friday Forgotten Books

The cover shown here isn’t the one on the book I have – mine is in a 3-novel volume titled A Perry Mason Omnibus published by William Morrow in 1956 which, frankly, has a really boring cover.

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.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more FFB reviews at her own blog, along with a complete list of today’s participating blogs.

About Rick Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
This entry was posted in Friday Forgotten Book, Review and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to The Case of the Velvet Claws

  1. Erle Stanley Gardner is an underrated writer, Rick. The Perry Mason series varies in quality. I like THE CASE OF THE RUNAWAY CORPSE and THE CASE OF THE RESTLESS REDHEAD. And, as A. A. Fair, Gardner wrote some very good Donald Lam-Bertha Cool books, too.

  2. Richard says:

    I’ve never been a fan of the Lam-Cool books, for some reason they just don’t work for me. I can’t remember now what it was about the first one or two I tried that put me off, but now that I have that negative impression, I doubt I’ll try another.

  3. Richard says:

    THE CASE OF THE AMOROUS AUNT is one of my favorites. There are others, but I’m too lazy to look them up just now. The books changed a lot as he wrote the series, this first one is not typical, but I wanted to start at the beginning.

  4. Evan Lewis says:

    Great choice! I love this book. It’s the hardest-boiled of the series, and Perry chain-smokes through the whole case.

  5. Jeff Meyerson says:

    Think of Bertha Cool as Ellen Nehr and you’re halfway there!

    Perry Mason was more hardboiled in the early books of the series than the ones that came out during the run of the TV series.

  6. Richard says:

    That’s a scry thought, Jeff. And you’re right about the series getting less hard boiled as it went along. However I think the plots got better.

  7. ed gorman says:

    One of my two or three favorite Masons. His description of the place wandering wives hang out in was on the money. Really fine book.

  8. Cap'n Bob says:

    I just read my first Mason, shame on me. It was TCOT Daring Decoy. Good courtroom scenes and good mystery. I was amused by the many references to the latest in swimwear, the “bikini bathing suit.” Never just bikini.

  9. Jeff says:

    I’m working on an updated biography of Gardner. So much of what has been written about him is in regard to output and sales. I think he’s been done a great injustice in not discussing the quality of his work, his plotting and dialog.

  10. Anu says:

    I luv all d PERRY MASON books. I enjoy reading them a lot. I loved the case of the careless kitten and the case of the caretaker’s cat , long legged models, the case of the velvet claws and all the other books in this series that i’ve read.
    I want to read the whole series.These books are awesome.

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