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‘End of the Goddamned thing!!’

Genesis and Mutation of the ‘Wrap’ in the World’s Best-selling Author
Richard Williams

Résumés

L’auteur de romans policiers Erle Stanley Gardner et son éditeur chez Morrow, Thayer Hobson, ont imaginé une procédure originale pour éveiller la curiosité du lecteur et promouvoir la vente du prochain épisode de la série Perry Mason, en reliant ses dix premiers romans par un système d’ « indices ». La genèse de ces « indices » et les opinions divergentes de l’auteur et de son éditeur quant aux exigences de la fin dans le roman policier sont mises en relief dans leur correspondance. Cet article étudie les différentes techniques utilisées par Erle Stanley Gardner pour éveiller la curiosité du lecteur, ainsi que les problèmes soulevés par la tendance des éditeurs à substituer ou limiter ces « indices » dans les rééditions successives. C’est dans la traduction des romans cependant que la fin devient particulièrement sujette aux modifications, selon les attentes culturelles du public-cible. Les modes et conventions divergentes mises en jeu dans le choix d’un seuil textuel final s’inscrivent dans les manuscrits (et dans les romans écrits par Erle Stanley Gardner sous le pseudonyme de A.A. Fair) et dans la diffusion internationale de ces best-sellers.

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  • 1 On the transmedia adaptations, see Bounds (1996). A former salesman as well as attorney, Erle Stanl (...)
  • 2 Re-dictation of opening chapter, July 11th 1960, Audograph recording, side 2, from 13:47 to 14:17 ( (...)

1Over the four decades of his book production, from the depression years of the thirties through to the cusp of the seventies, Erle Stanley Gardner’s mysteries had a ubiquitous and defining presence in popular culture, seen on the racks of paperback vendors nationwide and in the best-seller lists (thanks to the relentless sales expertise of both the author and his publisher, Thayer Hobson of William Morrow & Co.), and also in adaptations to the media of film, radio, comic strip and TV.1 A former salesman as well as attorney, Erle Stanley Gardner kept notes on the distribution of Dell and Pocket Books reprints, and his archives include photographs of the book displays of retailers. His status as a cultural phenomenon (Thayer Hobson, Audograph recording of 26th June 1954) and the preserved audio recordings of the novels’ dictation exhibit characteristics typical of oral composition, with the short intonation units marking ‘foci of consciousness’ that are documented in contemporary spoken discourse by Wallace Chafe (1980; 1994), and reconstructed for Homer by Egbert Bakker (1997a and 1997b). The real-time hesitations between units and pausing of the recording device before a fresh spurt of composition are clearly discernible in the following example of a chapter ending from Bachelors Get Lonely (from the series under the pseudonym A.A. Fair; the symbol ^ marks where the recording was paused):2

before she gets done she’ll have her hooks into you and er
you’ll be leading her to the altar ^
DASH DASH and if she does the only er …
wedding present er
you will get out of me will be a er
get-well card ^
PARAGRAPH Now get the hell out of here and get going OPERATOR THAT’S THE END OF A CHAPTER WE’LL …
START ANOTHER CHAPTER AND I THINK WE’LL START IT ON ANOTHER RECORD

  • 3 On Homer, see Janko (1998); there are of course competing conceptions of exactly how and when the e (...)
  • 4 For a survey of views on when and how the works of the epic cycle were made to connect with the Hom (...)

2Unlike his earliest pulp stories in the twenties, which were produced on a typewriter, the novels should properly be approached, like Homer, as in essence oral dictated literature,3 for the manuscript revisions of author and publisher concern only a small proportion of the text (although on occasion, as will be seen, they concern endings). And there is one further entirely fortuitous resemblance: just as early Greek epic tales came to be linked together in a connected cycle,4 Erle Stanley Gardner ‘serialised’ his early Perry Mason stories, so that each book ends with a lead to the next, and the subsequent book reprints the (supposed) last page of its predecessor opposite the opening of the first chapter. I should say at once that I use the term ‘serialised’ with considerable reservation, for want of alternatives (‘pseudo-serialised’ might be more apropos), as it rightfully applies to serialisation of a novel in instalments in a magazine. That (highly lucrative) transition to ‘slicks’ such as Liberty and The Saturday Evening Post, where instalments of a forthcoming novel were illustrated, often condensed or edited, and the preceding action summarised, is a phenomenon worthy of study in its own right. The focus here, however, is on the early ‘serialised’ Perry Mason novels with their leads, and more generally on endings in the many other books that lack them.

3The oral composition and so-called ‘machine gun’ style of these novels cohered with American pulp and detective fiction of the pre-war years, but less readily in cultures with different stylistic conventions, as Maurice-Bernard Endrèbe (at once translator, critic and author of policiers) recounts:

... si le style relâché et plein de répétitions caractérisant Gardner ne présentait aucun inconvénient auprès de la grande masse de ses compatriotes, qui s’intéressaient uniquement à l’astuce des intrigues, il en allait différemment chez nous [...] Il fallut que deux éditeurs — Frédéric Ditis pour les romans publiés sous le pseudonyme de A. A. Fair, et les Presses de la Cité, d’abord pour le cycle de Perry Mason, puis pour l’ensemble de l’œuvre — aient l’idée de confier les romans de Gardner à une équipe de traducteurs qui, au lieu de coller à toutes les faiblesses du style, s’employèrent à l’améliorer en l’adaptant. Aussitôt, ce fut le grand succès... (Quatre grands Classiques de Erle Stanley Gardner, 1985, 9f)

  • 5 Amongst the literature on the subject, see Duchet (1996) and other essays on genetic criticism of e (...)

4Erle Stanley Gardner received and labelled copies of foreign language editions at his ranch in Temecula (the major part of which are preserved along with his papers at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin), but having, along with his secretarial staff, no proficiency in French, he was almost certainly unaware of the adaptation and ‘improvement’ described here. As will emerge, the endings of the novels turn out to be a fruitful site for imposing such change and adaptation in translations, just as they were up for negotiation between the author and his publisher Thayer Hobson. And in the ‘serialised’ Perry Mason novels, this was to become especially apparent, offering a distinctive interest to this material to complement recent critical approaches to endings.5

‘I know that we are, both of us, anxious to sell books’

  • 6 e.g. letters of Hobson of 27th April 1934 (Box 203) on TCOT Curious Bride, and of 11th March 1936 ( (...)
  • 7 e.g. letters of Hobson on Hotel Homicide published as The D.A. Calls it Murder – of 5th March 193 (...)

5For the publisher of a mystery novel, there are some specific concerns about its ending which may differ from those of the author (as the Erle Stanley Gardner – Thayer Hobson correspondence abundantly demonstrates). The publisher is concerned that no reader will be dissatisfied with the purchase when the book is finished – after all the reader will likely turn next to the back cover with its boast ‘you won’t find the Morrow Mystery Seal on ALL the good mysteries – not by a long shot. But you’ll never find it on ANY of the bad ones’. So the publisher and his editorial team pose questions such as the following: Is there any flaw in the solution (discrepancies of time schedule or circumstances)? Is the solution sufficiently explained to the reader’s satisfaction? (e.g. letter (Box 205) and notes (Box 296) of Hobson of 7th January 1941 on TCOT Haunted Husband.) Is the murderer obvious to the reader before the solution is reached,6 or alternatively kept too much in the background so that the solution seems unfair?7

6Some of these issues apply throughout the novel, some to the moment of the solution (usually in the penultimate chapter), affect, generally with additional explanation of the solution and reflection on the characters and action. The author may, however, have opposite priorities – for instance that explanation should not be tedious, and that supposed lacunas can be ignored for the sake of pace (letter of 10th January 1941)

I think I did eliminate a little too much, but, my God, Thayer, if we’re going to end up every book by trying to show every damn detail of the crime, which hand held the gun, what time the murderer first decided to perpetrate the deed, who gave the party Greeley was attending in San Francisco, and why he had to wear a Tuxedo to it, etc. etc. etc., our Mason mysteries are going to cease to be Gardner-Mason mysteries and become some of those English tales. (Box 296)

  • 8 e.g. letter of Hobson of 10th January 1935 (warning of reviewers’ reaction should the culprit in Th (...)
  • 9 e.g. letter of 6th September 1937 (Box 294): ‘If book publishers generally could weed out about nin (...)

7Again the publisher may take note of the opinions of reviewers (both in the press, and of outside reviewers before publication),8 who were from Erle Stanley Gardner’s standpoint atypical ‘trained’ mystery readers whose views were less material than the public’s (he subscribed, however, to a clippings service, and had his secretaries compile comprehensive scrapbooks with reviews pasted in).9

  • 10 The abbreviation TCOT is used henceforth in titles of the Perry Mason novels, all of which commence(...)
  • 11 Letter of Hobson to Erle Stanley Gardner’s agent Robert Hardy (18th November 1932, Box 202), and of (...)
  • 12 Although there is the illusion of a direct reprinting of the final page, in practice there is usual (...)
  • 13 There exists also an earlier ending of TCOT Sulky Girl, recopied and attached by Hobson to a letter (...)

8The ‘serialised’ endings of the Perry Mason novels came about from pure circumstance, for Erle Stanley Gardner’s agent Robert Hardy had submitted to Thayer Hobson two novels each featuring a different protagonist: Reasonable Doubt (published as The Case of the Velvet Claws) and Silent Verdict (published as TCOT Sulky Girl).10 It was Thayer Hobson’s suggestion that they should be revised to feature the same attorney/detective as hero, and (after a Morrow reader found the original end of Reasonable Doubt weak and recommended changing it) Thayer Hobson also suggested that it should lead into Silent Verdict, with a note announcing the next book.11 The revised ending has Della Street, Mason’s secretary, announcing the arrival of a new client, and characterising her as sulky, with the paratextual note: ‘The Case of the Sulky Girl, by Erle Stanley Gardner, will be published in the fall of 1933’. Then, after the first book’s publication, Thayer Hobson wrote on 18th April 1933 that the idea had that day occurred to him of reprinting the end of TCOT Velvet Claws opposite the title page of the second book, where it appears with the notice ‘The Case of the Velvet Claws was concluded as follows’, and in subsequent books the final page, set in a box, with its (purported) original page number would appear facing the opening of the new text, giving a still closer continuity.12 In turn, the ending of the second book was given a lead to its projected successor, with Della Street saying that a client was waiting to talk about a howling dog, making a will, and whether a will is valid if the testator is executed for murder, with the next book announced as TCOT Howling Dog.13

9This procedure of course required that the title of each subsequent book should be chosen, and a ‘lead’ into it composed, before the book itself had been written or necessarily plotted. That, however, was something Erle Stanley Gardner was entirely happy to do, based on his great facility with plotting, and to make these choices entirely in terms of salesmanship and provoking curiosity. Thus in a letter of 19th May 1933, he explains to Thayer Hobson that at the end of TCOT Howling Dog Della Street would report the arrival of a telegram and a photograph:

The photograph is of a pair of beautiful legs, and there is a caption underneath: “The Girl with the Lucky Legs.” Della Street states she is going to file it under “The Case of the Lucky Legs.”

I am willing to admit that I haven’t the faintest idea of what the lucky legs are going to be about, but I know that we are, both of us, anxious to sell books. (Box 293)

  • 14 Tms with A emendations and A printer’s notes and markings (304 pp.).
  • 15 TCOT Lucky Legs, Tccms with A printer’s notes and markings (292 pp.) n.d. (bound). The conclusion o (...)

10It is in the nature of the ‘leads’ that they should be (in theory at least) self-contained and hence interchangeable, and so when Liberty magazine decided to run TCOT Howling Dog, and the book was postponed, there was a rearrangement of the leads to fit the new sequence Sulky Girl – Lucky Legs – Howling Dog. Thus the lead to TCOT Howling Dog (which concludes the bound typescript of TCOT Sulky Girl)14 was attached to TCOT Lucky Legs, where it replaced an extensive earlier version in which Perry Mason takes a phone call in front of the assembled news reporters, and then dramatically announces:15

“I’m called out on another case, a case that will take me into the depths of human misery; into sordid emotions; into unbridled passions; into hatreds that have culminated in murder […]”

11These words (and the new case they are preparation for) were consequently never published in any of the novels, although they appear as the front flap text of the British edition of TCOT Lucky Legs by Harrap (who published the first three of the novels). Over the course of the correspondence with Thayer Hobson and his staff, the merits of titles and techniques for leads are debated. Instead of a new client arriving who is the subject of the next title, variations are considered: a client describing another individual, or mentioning a significant object; or having Mason learn about the new case from an office memorandum. The last option was preferred, for verisimilitude, over the arrival of a client in person (letter to Frances Phillips, 8th December 1934):

That method means – if the reader ever stops to analyse it – that Mason goes from one case into another. His cases develop rather rapidly and, for that reason, the thing isn’t quite as convincing [...] (Box 293)

  • 16 See e.g Brewer and Lichtenstein (1982) 481f; Segal (2010) 158-65; Todorov (1977) 47. For a concise (...)
  • 17 TABLE PDF

12But it is noticeable also that the leads become more adept in provoking different types of curiosity, both in Perry Mason and in the reader. In detective fiction, curiosity is most commonly thought of as the basis of a story presentation structure (in terms of structural affect theory), with the missing element being that of who committed the crime – as opposed to suspense and surprise structures.16 Erle Stanley Gardner’s leads, however, contrive to introduce two or often three of the curiosity types that have been explored in recent experimental research, and to leave the reader with feelings of both interest and deprivation, calculated to ensure that they will purchase the subsequent book (see Table17).

  • 18 See e.g. Litman and Pezzo (2007); Han et al. (2013).
  • 19 For the distinction of Interest and Deprivation based curiosity, see Litman and Jimerson (2004), an (...)
  • 20 See Campion et al. (2009).

13The description of a new client (typically by Della Street) provokes Interpersonal Curiosity (IPC),18 the desire to know more about the emotions and experiences of an individual, that cannot be satisfied until Mason – and the reader – gets to meet them. From the third book (TCOT Howling Dog) onwards, this is most often supplemented by the posing of a legal conundrum liable to provoke pleasurable Interest-based (‘I–type’) curiosity,19 whereby one is motivated to discover new information about a subject, although critical information is not withheld – these are questions on which Perry Mason, unlike the reader, could often be expected to have expert knowledge in advance (but not invariably, as in TCOT Caretaker’s Cat and TCOT Sleepwalker’s Niece). Additionally, there are elements of the client’s situation that make clear that critical information is lacking, information that is liable to be seen a a key to the new mystery (for example, the reason why the dog howls). These, although connected to Interpersonal Curiosity about the client, are matters provoking ‘D–type’ (Deprivation-based) curiosity in their own right, where the feeling of deprivation of key knowledge is a powerful incentive to remedy it and remove the discomfort (by reading the next book). And in a few of the leads at least (see Table), the information in the lead is sufficient for the reader to formulate a ‘predictive inference’ about the likely course of future events (which may or may not be accurate), a process that has been shown to further enhance interest in reading.20 Additionally, the leads consistently describe Mason’s own curiosity and interest being aroused, something that in itself is liable to stimulate the reader’s interest.

14The skill needed to compress these various elements into a lead usually of a single page or less is not to be underestimated. But with TCOT Curious Bride, Erle Stanley Gardner at least envisages reaching a still higher level of sophistication, by making the client’s curiosity the focus of that of the reader. In a letter of 6th November 1933, he expresses concern that the leads, even as they provoke curiosity about the next book, may also detract from that book when read, and suggests a remedy:

The trouble with fixing the title of one book in the book which precedes it and having the tag for that title attached to some object in the first book, is that you satisfy the curiosity of the reader in the second book too soon. [...] When we bring out "The Case of the Curious Bride", the reader doesn’t know what the bride was curious about until he gets pretty near the end of the book. All the time that he is reading, he is interested in the mystery which is being unfolded, and in trying to determine what in hell a self-respecting bride should be curious about these days. (Box 293)

  • 21 TCOT Howling Dog, Tccms (289 pp., bound).
  • 22 In practice she appears to have no real reason to ask this, provided we take at face value the expl (...)

15In the lead as originally written,21 Della Street describes the bride (who gives the false name of Helen Crocker) saying ‘She was the most curious person I ever saw in my life’; this was changed in editing at Morrow to avoid ambiguity to ‘She was curious about a lot of things’ (295). At first sight it is tempting to agree with the reviewer of The Sun (New York) that ‘the bride is curious for only a few minutes’ (9th November 1934) because she quickly learns the answer to her main question: is her new marriage is voidable because her first husband has reappeared after being presumed dead? But the book also sustains an undercurrent of suspicion about her motives for asking a second question: whether it is true that a person cannot be prosecuted for murder if no body can be found.22 What this highlights is that ‘serialisation’ does not simply make the notoriously ‘closed’ ending of a mystery less closed, it also has implications going forward for its successor. And in turn, it also makes the opening threshold of the next book more permeable, for the first sentence of TCOT Curious Bride – ‘The woman was nervous’ – is read differently ex nihilo compared to when the lead is reprinted on the facing page, with Della Street’s introduction of the character (Gardner, 1934a, 295): ‘she kept twisting a wedding ring around on her finger as though it were a new toy’.

16In one instance the negotiations between author and publisher over marketable adjective + noun title combinations disrupted the production of a seamless lead. A debate over the title TCOT Dangerous Dowager extended over fully six months, with Thayer Hobson contending that ‘TCOT Pigheaded Widow’ would be more appealing, provoking scathing responses by cable and letter from Hawaii (31st May 1936):

LOCAL MARKET CHOICE UNBLEMISHED PIGHEAD WIDOWS DIME DOZEN WOULD GO BEGGING AT TWO BUCKS CLIPPER LETTER FOLLOWS:
ERLGARD. (Box 293)

Already in a letter of 26th February 1936, Erle Stanley Gardner had been looking to move to a looser lead from TCOT Stuttering Bishop to the following book:

Thayer, I think we’re making a mistake to write about titles. On the next one I want to write the book first, get a damn good mystery plot, and work out a title afterwards. This may mean that the closing episode of the “Stuttering Bishop” won’t have quite as definite a tie-up as has been the case with the other books, but I really don’t see that it’s necessary. (Box 293)

  • 23 Letter of November 5th 1936 (Box 203), responding to a letter of 27th October (Box 293) lampooning (...)

17But the vehement objections to either of the proposed titles resulted in the lead introducing the dowager character Matilda Benson, but announcing the title instead as TCOT Gambling Girl. Only in November 1936 (after TCOT Stuttering Bishop had been published) was Thayer Hobson persuaded to accept the Dangerous Dowager title by a letter parodying the Morrow office correspondence; 23 this in turn required the start of the new book to be revised, with the word ‘dowager’ (absent from the reprinted lead) appearing three times in the text of the opening page, including the formulation ‘dangerous dowager’ with an explanatory note below:

* It will already be obvious to the reader why Della Street changed her file title from “The Case of the Gambling Girl” to “The Case of the Dangerous Dowager.”–Publisher’s Note. (Gardner, 1937a, 3)

  • 24 Letter of 10th December 1936 (Box 293). The two following books, TCOT Substitute Face and TCOT Shop (...)

18Following TCOT Lame Canary (1937), the continuous sequence is broken (partly connected with a hiatus in the movie adaptations), and although a few of the later books have leads, there is never again the same pattern of reprinting the lead from one book at the start of the next.24

19Through their correspondence, en amont (following the division of Hubert Nyssen, 1993) of the first publication, the two dynamic personalities of author and publisher, each with their own priorities, form a growing bond of friendship and mock-rivalry as they work to maximise sales to mutual advantage. But the luxury $2 Morrow hardbacks account for a mere fraction of Erle Stanley Gardner’s 500 million copies or more sold in the twentieth century. The great majority were reprints – paperback or cheap hardback and book club editions – or overseas and translated editions (where again there is a range of price and quality levels). Surveying the situation diachronically en aval of the first publication, it can be seen that different publishers were increasingly likely to suppress some or all of the ‘serialising’ elements (lead, paratextual note on future publication, reprinting of the final page from the previous book), no doubt to save space and costs, and also perhaps so as not to commit to following a series in its original sequence.

  • 25 A vonító kutya esete, trans. Földes Jolán, n.d. (TCOT Howling Dog); Az ujdonsült asszonyka esete, t (...)

20In the early hardback editions there is at first little change. The near-contemporary reprints of Grosset and Dunlap preserve the leads at the end, sometimes the reprinting of the final page also – the Blakiston reprints (of a few years subsequently) dispense with the latter feature. In England, the Cassell editions keep both features, but the reprinted lead is sometimes placed before the title page, no longer facing the first page of the new work, rupturing the effect of a continuous story and rendering it more an external paratext. Translated editions almost invariably drop the reprinted lead, with the notable exception of some of the early Hungarian editions which have it facing the title page.25

  • 26 The other Pocket Book edition affected is TCOT Stuttering Bishop (PB 201), which has a substituted (...)

21Erle Stanley Gardner, when he wrote the leads of these pre-war Mason novels, could not have foreseen the explosive advent of the mass-market paperback around 1940-41, which entirely changed publishing conditions in the United States. The early paperback reprints of Pocket Books keep the leads at the end (but not the reprinted lead at the start). But in the 1944 fan mail file from Morrow (Box 297) there is the copy of a reply (dated 16th June) to a disgruntled reader, who had found that in two instances the Pocket Books edition concluded with the ‘wrong’ lead, and so duplicated endings that were found in their ‘correct’ place in other books. Thus TCOT Counterfeit Eye (PB 157, 1942), which should lead into TCOT Caretaker’s Cat, instead has the lead to TCOT Curious Bride.26 A further problem with this substitution is that the book originally ended with Mason learning about the new case from an office memorandum. But with the lead swapped over, it is now Della Street who introduces the case rather Mason discovering it in his papers (the start of the substituted lead is shown here in bold, and appears also in its correct place as the conclusion to TCOT Howling Dog - PB 116, 1941):

[“... ] Ho hum. ... I suppose I have to tackle this pile of correspondence and memoranda. Was there anything new that came in today while I was in court?”

“A woman,” she said, “who gave the name of Helen Crocker [...”] (Gardner, 1942, 241)

  • 27 The translator, Enrico Andri, was in reality Enrico Piceni (1901-86), the originator of the sobriqu (...)

22Pocket Books were instructed to address the duplications, and within a short time the leads were dropped altogether from their editions. But Pocket Books were not the first to substitute leads. Already in the pre-war years Mondadori had been publishing hardback translations, of which TCOT Velvet Claws, the first of the Mason books, has the lead to the ninth (TCOT Stuttering Bishop), and TCOT Howling Dog now has a lead to TCOT Caretaker’s Cat (instead of TCOT Curious Bride). Here significant alterations are made, both to make a play on the transition from ‘dog’ to ‘cat’ and also in switching from a memorandum device (originally the new case was found in the correspondence Mason is shuffling in the same extract from TCOT Counterfeit Eye cited above) to Della Street describing the presence of a client – thus the words in bold type are here the free invention of the translator: 27

  • 28 “Was there anything new to-day? Did anyone come in while I was away?”
    “Yes, a man with a crutch … he (...)

— C’è qualche novità? Nessuno è venuto durante la mia assenza?
— Si, un uomo con una stampella... un certo tipo bizzoso, irascibile...
[...] una cosa tanto buffa…
— Buffa?
—Sí, soprattutto in quanto che è appena finito il caso del «cane molesto»...
— Non capisco.
— Il fatto è che si tratta... si tratta di un gatto
!!28 (Gardner, 1938, 239f.)

23There follows some lively and entirely fictive concluding dialogue about the caretaker’s imagined affection for his cat, and then, after a bar to mark the end of the text, a paratextual notice similar to the Morrow original (Cosí si prepara la prossima avventura di Perry Mason [...]). But the earlier Mondadori version of TCOT Velvet Claws had altered this convention, bringing a reference to the anticipated case inside the text, something that is never done by the third person narrator in the source texts, but only in character language:

Cosí ebbe inizio la pratica che poco dopo Della Street avrebbe intitolata alla Cliente misteriosa.

  • 29 And so began the case to which Della Street would shortly afterwards give the name ‘The Mysterious (...)

FINE29

This is followed by a decorative line and then a second paratextual notice:

Il giudice balbuziente conduce Perry Mason ad una nuova impresa narrata nel volume

PERRY MASON E LA CLIENTE MISTERIOSA

  • 30 The stuttering bishop leads Perry Mason into a new adventure which is recounted in the book PERRY M (...)

che è in corso di stampa.30 (Gardner, 1937b, 243)

24Besides the double anticipatory notice, it will be seen that – contrary to the pretence of a never-ending story – there is also a terminal formulation: FINE. The same is done with, for example, the Spanish translations of the Biblioteca Oro series published by Editorial Molino. This intervention to formally close a ‘serialised’ text is merely one example of how the closing threshold of the text may be managed quite differently en aval of the first publication compared to its genesis en amont.

‘The case is closed’

  • 31 Tms/rough draft with A revisions (262 pp.) 1962.

25Regrettably, no audio recordings or dictation transcripts have survived from this period to document how the leads, which are so calculated to stimulate curiosity, were composed. Only from the end of the fifties were all the phases of the genesis of the novels preserved. The transcriptions from this period, which were corrected in manuscript to form the rough draft, show how the oral composition, finishing with variants of Erle Stanley Gardner’s habitual ‘End of the goddamned thing!!’ is liable to be supplemented to give a concluding ‘punch’ that does not always arise in consciousness in real time. Many of the A.A. Fair novels end with a formulaic episode where the client writes a sizeable check in the office of the two detectives (the ‘pint-sized’ narrator Donald Lam, and his partner Bertha Cool, whose avarice is a caricatural trait), as in Fish or Cut Bait (Gardner 1963):31

Bertha’s greedy hands grabbed the check […] “All right, take this down and deposit it and let Marilyn thank Donald.”

End of the goddammed thing!!!

[added in ms.]: , but be sure the bastard wipes off the lipstick before any more clients come in.”

  • 32 See also. e.g. Some Slips Don’t Show, 1957 (Tms with A revisions, 235 pp. 1956):

    I didn’t say anythi (...)
  • 33 Audograph recording, from 11:06 to 11:40 (HRC inventory A1778); Tms/rough draft with A revisions (2 (...)

26Typically, these additions serve the comedic ethos of the Fair books. 32 But with the final novel Erle Stanley Gardner composed, completed in the weeks leading up to his eightieth birthday at a time when, as Dorothy B. Hughes recounts (1978, 298-305), he was already suffering from illness, there are perhaps valedictory overtones, both in the testamentary phrasing of the words to the operator, and in the manuscript continuation where (after a case where Donald has visited a quarter populated by struggling writers) the wealthy businessman client unexpectedly vows to pursue a new occupation (All Grass Isn’t Green, published posthumously, Gardner 1970):33

Fry me for an oyster she said ^
PARAGRAPH And then there was a er
flash of light as her er jeweled hand er
reached er
for the check
OPERATOR THAT’S THE END OF THE GODDAMN THING THAT’S THE … er
END OF er
SIDE ONE OF er RECORD NINETEEN OF …
THE er A. A. FAIR STORY DONE AT er
TEMECULA CALIFORNIA THIS er …
TWENTY-FOURTH DAY OF JUNE NINETEEN SIXTY-NINE WHICH IS A TUESDAY

[added in ms. on Rough Copy transcript]: “And, for your confidential information” Calhoun went on, “I am completely changing my life. I have tired of the artificial existence I have been living, with my mental horizon bounded only by money, money, money.

“From now on I am going to try to develop my creative energy. In short, I am going to take up writing […]”

I just reached across & shook the guy’s hand.

The revised final copy sent to Morrow has generally simply a typed design as a colophon, usually thus:

--ooOoo--

  • 34 Also Turn on the Heat (1940), Spill the Jackpot (1941). The final page of Double or Quits (1941), w (...)

27while in a few instances (especially where the manuscript might be submitted to a magazine e.g. TCOT Restless Redhead) Erle Stanley Gardner’s full name appears as well. What is not present in the Mason novels are the words ‘The End’. But curiously, among the books written under the A.A. Fair pseudonym, the few early manuscripts that have survived – including the long unpublished ‘second’ novel The Knife Slipped (1939, first publication 2016 by Titan Books) – do conclude with ‘The End.’34 (although the words are absent from the printed hardbacks). Later on, in Fools Die on Friday of 1947 the colophon --oOo-- is found and ‘The End.’ does not reappear in the remainder of the series. An explanation might be that this was one of the precautions taken to prevent the identity of Fair being recognised by Thayer Hobson’s staff at Morrow, who were initially kept out of the secret of the pseudonym, in case they should ‘smell a rat and start doing some Sherlock Holmes stuff’; these included a different technique for revision pages and ‘using a typewriter on this stuff that you have never seen, different stationery etc.’ (Letter of November 4th 1938 (Box 285). One may speculate, that is, that the words were not intended for publication, and that Hobson appreciated that they would be superfluous to the dry, punchy endings. But there is also at least one instance where Morrow add the words after a Perry Mason novel where they are lacking, so that a romantic moment between the lawyer and his secretary is given an added emphasis, teasing the reader with the prospect that their endlessly deferred liaison might now finally come to fruition:

  • 35 TCOT Baited Hook (1940) also has ‘The End’, but the final page of the manuscript was retyped by Mor (...)

He laughed. “Let’s think of the moonlight instead, Della.”
Her hand slid over to the steering wheel, rested on his for a moment. “Let’s,” she said.

THE END 35 (Gardner, 1939a, 280)

  • 36 TCOT Howling Dog (January – March 1934); TCOT Curious Bride (July – September 1934); and TCOT Caret (...)

28English language reprint editions mostly follow what is (other than the examples just mentioned) the practice of the Morrow editions of omitting a terminal formulation, but the early Pocket Book reprints of the ‘serialised’ novels conclude with ‘The End’ even though the leads are preserved. The three novels that appeared in Liberty,36 and those that are printed in the Saturday Evening Post, and in condensed form as supplements of the Toronto Star Weekly, likewise add ‘The End’, as might be expected in a magazine environment. So too do the Armed Services Editions of six Erle Stanley Gardner novels, where it is apparently felt necessary to give this new readership an explicit notification of closure. With translated editions, as we have already seen, there is much more variation, depending on fashion both geographically and diachronically. Thus the Détective Club editions of A.A Fair of the fifties add ‘FIN’, whereas the Masque reprintings of those same translations in the eighties and nineties suppress it. Conversely, different near-contemporary translations can vary. The Bigger They Come (1939) is one of a number of A.A. Fair books that leaves the detective Donald Lam alone at the end with the girl who is the romantic interest of the story:

  • 37 Similarly in the translation by Eveline Mahyère, Détective Club, Paris (1953).

J’entrai dans la chambre d’Alma et refermai la porte de communication d’un coup de talon.

FIN
37 (Gardner, 1948, 238)

  • 38 Doublé de Dupes, Presses de la Cité, Paris (1958) trans. Françoise Christian, 188.

29The presence of ‘Fin’ in the Arthaud and Détective Club translations has a quite different effect of drawing a tactful curtain compared to the Presses de la Cité version, which lacks it,38 conforming to the source text, in which the closing sentence of itself slams the door in the face of the curious reader (Gardner, 1939b, 281):

I walked on into Alma’s room and kicked the communicating door shut with my heel.

30Beyond the immediate threshold of ‘The End’ (or its absence) are the paratextual elements that can surround the wrap. The expensive hardback editions come with the luxury of one or more sheets of blank paper at the end (followed by the back flap and cover). It is very different in the paperback reprints, where both American and translated editions create a range of devices to intrigue and entertain the reader, often undreamt of when the novel was originally written.

  • 39 See Lyles (1983) for an account, based on interviews with former staff, of the design and manufactu (...)

31All but the first of the early A.A. Fair novels were reprinted by Dell, whose paperbacks were initially designed by Western Publishing, famous for creating innovative models for the paratext, with modernistic airbrushed front cover art and ‘tantalisers’, including a list of the fictive chapter titles (the ‘List of Exciting Chapters’) that were invented where books lacked them. 39 The ‘wrap’ of these eleven A.A. Fair novels thus has a fictive threshold which ranges from the prosaic (‘The Payoff’ - Gold Comes in Bricks, Dell 84, 1945) to the pretentious (‘Requiem for a Racket’ - Bedrooms Have Windows, Dell 603, 1952), while in Give ’Em the Ax (Dell 389, 1950) the title ‘The Case is Closed’ appears to be a banal signpost for the wrap, but turns out to reprise character text from the final exchange of dialogue, with a different grammatical sense:

I heard her scream at me. “Goddamn you Donald Lam! If you’re headed for the Rimley Rendezvous, remember you can’t charge any more cigarettes on the expense account. The case is closed.” (Gardner, 1950, 291)

  • 40 There is a rare example in Erle Stanley Gardner’s TCOT Crooked Candle, where the plan appears in th (...)

32Generally in these early Dell editions the last words printed inside the book are Erle Stanley Gardner’s (there is sometimes an advertising panel), but the concluding threshold is really the ‘mapback’, showing most often the crime scene interior. These colourful views (mostly drawn by Ruth Belew) aimed presumably to entice prospective buyers and hence be ‘read’ first, yet their form derives from the plans of crime scenes inserted into the texts of mysteries (particularly ‘locked room’ mysteries).40 Thus they function as a visual key, not least to the concluding chapters with the solution. One might therefore suppose they are to be inspected before, during, and after reading, but with different functions in cognitive terms.

  • 41 Des yeux de chouette (Owls Don’t Blink) Détective Club, Geneva (1950), trans. Jean Benoit.

33For French readers the Détective Club books posed a different and more fiendish sequel to the mystery in the form of a crossword, testing their ability to recall elements of the text rather than to compete with the hero in solving the mystery, with the prize of a free volume at stake for the first five correct answers. In contrast to Erle Stanley Gardner’s conception of the mystery as a distraction at the end of a busy day, to be followed by sleep, the puzzle sends the reader back to individual moments of the text to solve such clues as ‘De bas en haut, les flics le furent de justesse par Donald et Roberta au chapitre XVI.’41 Mondadori editions, in contrast, often conclude with additional short stories and jocular cartoons that divert the reader’s attention from the text once read. In such ways as these the reputedly closed finality of mystery stories can be manipulated for the reader by the conventions of different publishing houses as they serve perceived cultural expectations, in particular by translated editions to suit the conditions of the target culture.

‘Cultural frontiers’

34Since endings ‘stick’ in the reader’s memory, they are apt to become a sensitive site in terms of cultural sensibilities. Translators may be especially conscious of their final opportunity to shape the source text to the environment of the target culture. And in the case of one of Erle Stanley Gardner’s travel books, Neighborhood Frontiers (1954), the American publisher too seems concerned as to how the ending will be received. The final chapter dwells on Mexican values of hospitality and friendship, observing that ‘the people of Chihuahua offer a cultural frontier’ that is little known to Americans, before concluding:

  • 42 Tccms April 1954; earlier states of the final clause: from “the conquering of the West”.

... and, if we will only realize it, we are surrounded by cultural frontiers that can only be explored with greater benefit to the nation as a whole than ever resulted from “winning the West”.42

Erle Stanley Gardner

35But the implications of the word ‘greater’ were perhaps thought inapposite, and the passage has been recast in a more ‘written’ and balanced expression so as to eliminate them, along with the undesired repetition of ‘cultural frontiers’, as well as the authorial inscription:

The West has been “won,” but its deepest benefits have not yet been realized. In our neighborhood frontiers, waiting to be explored, are intellectual, emotional and spiritual values that could affect profoundly the American way of life. (Gardner, 1954a, 272)

  • 43 On explicitation and other ‘universals’, see Mauranen (2008); for an overview of how translation st (...)

36In translations, changes may be made both to suit the target culture and in accordance with universal tendencies of translation, such as explicitation.43 The leads of the ‘serialised’ Mason books are quite rapid and laconic (not surprisingly, as they were intended to be reprinted on a single page in the following book), as in TCOT Lucky Legs, where Perry Mason has just learnt of his new client:

Swift interest shone in the lawyer’s eyes. The lines of fatigue were erased from his face.
“Show him in,” he said. (Gardner, 1934b, 282)

Apparently feeling that this is too telegraphic, a German translator enlarges it with a simile:

  • 44 Perry Mason’s expression had changed. The fatigue had faded away from him. His face now taut and el (...)

Perry Masons Gesichtsausdruck hatte sich verwandelt. Die Müdigkeit war von ihm gewichen. Elastisch und angespannt, als habe er eine Nacht ungestörter Ruhe und ein kräftiges Frühstück hinter sich, forderte er Della Street auf:
“Lassen Sie den Mann eintreten.”
44 (Gardner, 1947, 221)

  • 45 This simile, however, is not represented in the translation, which chooses an opposite and more con (...)

37Similes for Perry Mason do indeed occur in the original books, but at their opening rather than at the end, including in this novel, where it makes clear the reference in Mason’s name45:

The man seemed as substantial as a granite rock, and there was something of the appearance of rugged granite in his face, which was entirely without expression as he said: [... ] (Gardner, 1934b, 3)

38In some cases, however, there seems also to be a desire to go further in assimilation, and to make ostentatious and discordant reference to the target culture, as if to offer the reader a ‘re-entry’ at the end of the work, or to assert cultural exceptionalism. In the French version of TCOT Moth-eaten Mink, additional material of a page’s length is inserted into the ‘wrap’ to account for details of the plot that Erle Stanley Gardner thinks it unnecessary to explain, including the following:

Mais, remarqua Della Street en fronçant les sourcils, puisque la police ne les a pas retrouvés dans l’hôtel, c’est qu’ils en étaient partis, comme dirait ce M. de la Palisse qui fait la joie des Français. Pourquoi Hoxie n’a-t-il rien dit à leur sujet? (Gardner, 1954b, 219)

39Not only would the ‘real’ Della Street, as a working girl in fifties Los Angeles of the source text be most unlikely to be familiar with French idioms, her words ‘qui fait la joie des Français’ seem calculated to remind the reader that transatlantic culture is being appropriated.

40There is a similarly discordant moment in the French translation of TCOT Lucky Legs, where the entire final chapter is compressed into less than a single page, and transferred from Mason’s office (omitting the lead to TCOT Howling Dog) to a restaurant that seems to offer a distinctively Gallic ambience to match its name:

— Je vous admire, patron, dit Della, installée en face de Mason devant une table au Soleil de Bourgogne.
— Pourquoi? demanda l’avocat, en croquant un radis.
— Tout le temps, j’ai tremblé pour vous.
[...]
—Bien sûr, Della, je serai heureux de les recevoir. Ce sont de braves gosses. J’espère qu’ils retourneront à Cloverdale où ils se marieront et auront beaucoup d’enfants... Mais, comme je vous disais, tout à l’heure, assez parlé de cette affaire...
A nous une belle soirée... Garçon... !
(Gardner, 1956a, 192)

  • 46 For an account of the couple in French post-war culture (in an interpretation of colonialism and Am (...)

41This emphasis on marriage and procreation is more in keeping with fifties French demographics following De Gaulle’s call in 1945 for ‘douze millions de beaux bébés pour la France’ than with the world of the source text in America of the post-depression years, (when birth rates plumbed a trough),46 where Mason somewhat curtly dismisses the lovers, announcing simultaneously the end of their case and the book:

“What are you two children doing here?” he asked. “Your case is over. Get out. You’ve ceased to be a case; you’re just a file. The Case of the Lucky Legs ­- closed.” (Gardner, 1934b, 281)

42The difficulties that arise when the leads in the ‘serialised’ Masons are suppressed, and the distinctive ways they are handled in translations for different target cultures, are well seen from the example of TCOT Counterfeit Eye. Immediately prior to the lead, Perry Mason has been talking about one of the lesser protagonists, Hazel Fenwick, a ‘female Bluebeard’, who would have given his client an out if she had not fled because she was wanted by the police. For Della Street, as the notional perfect companion for Mason, a woman who murders husbands is an inexplicable phenomenon:

“How can women do things like that?”
“Just sort of a disease,” he said. “It’s a mental quirk. . . . Ho hum. ... I suppose I have to tackle this pile of correspondence and memoranda.”
He started shuffling through the papers and suddenly paused, his eyes lighting.
“Now here,” he said, “is something.”
“What?” she asked.
“When a man inherits a caretaker,” he said, reading from a memorandum, “does he inherit the caretaker’s cat?” [...] (Gardner, 1935, 304)

  • 47 For an account how serial killings and murders within the family have been thought of as alien to I (...)

43With the lead removed, so that Mason’s remarks on the pathology of husband killers become the conclusion, the ending is liable to seem both inconsequential and shocking. This would be perhaps a distasteful note to end on for the target culture of the Italian translation,47 which (having intimated that such cases are rare and better not discussed) has Mason turn the conversation to happier matters such as eating and dancing:

  • 48 “Oh, how could a woman commit such horrors?”
    “It must be a kind of mental illness … fortunately a ve (...)

— Oh, come può, una donna, commettere simili orrori?
— Mah! Dev’essere una forma di malattia mentale... Molto rara per fortuna... Comunque, poiché è andata così, preferirei non parlarne piú. Che ne direste di un buon pranzetto?
— Direi che me lo merito — rispose la segretaria — purché l’orchestra sia davvero indiavolata.
— State tranquilla. Tornerete a casa col fiato corto.
Felice, Della corse a rifarsi il trucco
.48 (Gardner, 1969, 605)

  • 49 Reproduced in Album Mondadori 1907-2007 (2007) 169.

44Aside from the use of the word felice, showing access to a character’s consciousness (which the narrator of the Mason books almost invariably lacks), there is a conspicuous return here to normative values with the notion of ‘feasting and dancing’ that marks weddings and happy endings from New Comedy onwards, while Della Street’s desire to prettify herself for a man is redolent of the ethos of magazines such as Grazia (published by Mondadori), an early issue of which gave advice on female body toning exercises under the headline Per essere belle non basta il trucco.49

45Turning to post-war France, it would appear that such deplorable cases, far from being rare, are on the contrary only too probable:

Comment une femme peut-elle faire des choses pareilles?
Oh! Della, sourit Mason, nourririez-vous encore des illusions sur votre propre sexe?

FIN
(Gardner, 1956b, 188)

  • 50 The earlier Arthaud translation ends somewhat inconsequentially at the moment Mason is shuffling pa (...)

46How to explain this apparent male anxiety, so at variance with Erle Stanley Gardner’s typical sentiments? It has perhaps a passing connection with the circumstance that the translation was issued in the year after the release of H.-G. Clouzot’s Les Diaboliques, seen by well over three million in France in 1955.50 In contrast, an Austrian translation of the Nazi period manages to evade the question by entirely different and self-referential means:

  • 51 “How can a woman commit such terrible crimes?”
    “To explain that” replied Counselor Perry Mason, “is (...)

“Wie kann eine Frau so furchtbare Verbrechen begehn?”
“Das zu erklären”, antwortete Strafverteidiger Perry Mason, “ist Sache der Romanschriftsteller
.”51 (Gardner, 1937c, 207)

This comes perilously close to ending the novel with a violation of the rule promulgated in a letter of 29th April 1940 to Richard Taplinger of the Morrow team:

I don’t think that any of the conversation in the book should indicate that Mason is published in books.

The minute a book character becomes conscious of the fact that he is a book character, it has a tendency to weaken his appeal – at least with me. (Box 296)

‘How about Hazel Fenwick?’

  • 52 Letter of 19th December 1934 (Box 203); Erle Stanley Gardner sent revisions with significant change (...)

47It’s been a story of mutilated endings, substituted leads, and the tell-tale fingerprints of translators. The wraps of these early Perry Mason novels can be seen from the archival evidence to be a critical site for the collaboration of author and publisher as they built up their mock-rivalry and enduring ‘bromance’, both in approving the embryo of the mystery that is to follow, and in negotiating how much detail should be provided for the one that is closing. And indeed it is this negotiation that was responsible for the talk of the ‘female Bluebeard’ in TCOT Counterfeit Eye, which created such problems for translators. It was in fact the outcome of a letter from Thayer Hobson, noting that readers would be dissatisfied if they did not find out what happened to Hazel Fenwick at the end of the story, and requesting that a few lines be inserted on how the police would pick her up in due course.52 That idea was incorporated in a revision to the ending, where Della Street is first made to remark ‘How about Hazel Fenwick?’ before concluding ‘How can women do things like that?’

48The leads of these first ten novels can be seen as especially well-crafted to provoke different types of curiosity to stimulate the readers’ desire for the next book – a feeling of lack that works in contrast with that of pleasurable satiety from seeing the last outstanding details of the current mystery resolved in the wrap. With the Hazel Fenwick episode it is the publisher’s anxiety that a subject of curiosity might remain unresolved that prompts the explanation, whereas the author may reasonably have thought that what might happen to a peripheral character after the end of the story, though a matter of potential curiosity, is not a part of a curiosity story presentation structure within the mystery itself, and so unlikely to concern the reader.

  • 53 For most of the story, it seems that the two are incompatible, and that his client must inevitably (...)
  • 54 cf. the blurb of TCOT Stuttering Bishop, ‘The Bishop piqued Mason’s curiosity – because he stuttere (...)

49The skilful arousal of multiple types of curiosity in the leads gives an extra compulsion to read these books, to set beside their strong double actantial model, whereby Perry Mason as Subject seeks two Objects: the murderer, and the acquittal of his client.53 In functional terms, the leads serve a similar purpose to blurbs, tantalizing the reader with intriguing situations and individuals, but are told by the narrator within the previous story. Unsurprisingly, the blurbs of the Morrow editions themselves reprise the opening situations of the novels, and occasionally draw specifically on the scenario of the lead, as seen in the front flap copy of TCOT Lucky Legs (Gardner, 1934b):54

When Perry Mason received the above telegram, he was mildly curious. The photograph that arrived about the same time, however, fired his interest.

It was the photograph of a young woman – or rather her legs. Her face was missing […]

  • 55Perry Mason tackles his third case. “It will take me,” he says, “into the depths of human misery; (...)
  • 56 20th January 1934, 208; a cutting is preserved in one of Erle Stanley Gardner’s scrapbooks (S-25).

50It is thus perfectly logical that Harrap should have wished to use the words from the first version of the lead that concluded TCOT Lucky Legs (alluded to previously) for the flap of their edition (Gardner 1934c).55 But one might reasonably be curious as to how they had known of it, since it was replaced before publication. The solution is most likely that they had sight of the advertisement copy that appeared in The Publishers’ Weekly: 56

“I’m called out on another case, a case that will take me into the depths of human misery; into sordid emotions; into unbridled passions; into hatreds that have culminated in murder. I’ll be matching my wits with the police, trying to fit facts together to make a solution that will hold water. I’ll be working at high speed and without sleep – and, by God, I like it!”

perry mason in the case of the lucky legs

51But Harrap made a slip in not realising that Perry Mason was talking about his next case, not about the Lucky Legs. And so it happened that the first British edition of The Case of the Lucky Legs included in its blurb some text from a lead that referred to an entirely different (and non-existent) case, and words of Erle Stanley Gardner that had never been published in America in his novels.

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Annexe

Table: curiosity in the leads of the first ten Perry Mason novels

Lead / date

Interpersonal curiosity

I–type curiosity

Mason’s interest / curiosity

Dtype curiosity / predictive inference

TCOT Velvet Claws to TCOT Sulky Girl

1933 (February)

Della Street describes a new client as either trapped or sulky

The savage glint slowly faded from his eyes, and in its place came a look of thoughtful interest.

(Only hinted at by the words ‘trapped’ and ‘all torn up’)

TCOT Sulky Girl to TCOT Lucky Legs

1933 (September)

A photograph showing a girl from the neck down is mailed to Perry Mason

Perry Mason stared at the telegram curiously. […]

“Now,” said Perry Mason, his curiosity aroused, “what the devil does that mean?”

What does the sender wish to consult Mason about, and how does it involve ‘the girl with the lucky legs’?

TCOT Lucky Legs to TOCT Howling Dog

1934 (February)

Della Street describes a ‘most peculiar man’ who looks sleep-deprived

Is a will is valid if the testator is executed for murder?

Swift interest shone in the lawyer’s eyes. The lines of fatigue were erased from his face.

Why does the dog howls and why is it worth consulting an attorney?

(Predictive Inference: the man intends to make a will and then commit a murder.

TOCT Howling Dog to TCOT Curious Bride

1934 (June)

Della Street describes a woman who she thinks is a bride

Is a marriage voidable if a previous husband, presumed dead, reappears alive? Is it true a person cannot be prosecuted for murder if no corpse can be found?

“Say what she wanted?” Mason inquired, his eyes glinting with interest. […]

Mason’s eyes were now sparkling with keen interest.

Why is a bride curious to know this, and does she have a guilty secret?

TCOT Curious Bride to TCOT Counterfeit Eye

1934 (November)

Della Street describes a man who lost his glass eye but didn’t notice it immediately

Perry Mason’s face lit up with enthusiasm.

Why has someone stolen the man’s glass eye but left a counterfeit?

(Predictive Inference: the eye may be used to frame the client)

TCOT Counterfeit Eye to TCOT Caretaker’s Cat

1935 (April)

When property is bequeathed on condition of giving employment to the testator’s caretaker, can the legatee oblige the caretaker to dispose of his cat?

“I’ll take over that case myself. It amuses me [...]”

Why is there a dispute about the caretaker keeping a cat?

TCOT Caretaker’s Cat to TCOT Sleepwalker’s Niece

1935 (September)

The new client has an uncle who walks in his sleep, and a knife has been found under his pillow

Can you be convicted of murder with intent if you kill while sleepwalking?

His face showed keen interest. […]

Mason’s face showed keen interest

How could the sleepwalker have brought from the dining room to his bedroom despite being loked in his bedroom?

(Predictive Inference: the sleepwalker will commit a murder)

TCOT Sleepwalker’s Niece to TCOT Stuttering Bishop

1936 (March)

The new client is a bishop who has spent time in Australia, is nervous, and stutters

Can you be arrested for manslaughter more than three years after the crime?

Mason’s eyes showed his interest.

Why does a bishop want to know this, and has he committed a past manslaughter?

TCOT Stuttering Bishop to TCOT Dangerous Dowager

1936 (September)

A woman of around seventy smokes large cigars in Mason’s offices

“How old?” Mason asked, curiously.

Why does she want to consult Mason about a ‘gambling girl’

TCOT Dangerous Dowager to TCOT Lame Canary

1937 (April)

A young woman bursts into Mason’s office unannounced carrying a caged canary

As Della Street noted the expression of absorbed interest on Mason’s face […]

Mason, his eyes glinting with the enthusiasm of a student tackling a new and absorbing problem […]

Why has she brought a canary, and why does the bird have a sore foot?

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Notes

1 On the transmedia adaptations, see Bounds (1996). A former salesman as well as attorney, Erle Stanley Gardner kept notes on the distribution of Dell and Pocket Books reprints, and his archives include photographs of the book displays of retailers. His status as a cultural phenomenon is alluded to by Thayer Hobson in a transcribed Audograph recording of 26th June 1954.
The research from which this paper arose was begun during a Visiting Research Fellowship at the Harry Ransom Center, the University of Texas at Austin, in 2011-12, funded by the Erle Stanley Gardner Endowment for mystery studies. I gratefully acknowledge both this support, and also the kindness and help of HRC staff over repeated visits. I am especially grateful to the Erle Stanley Gardner Trust and to Queen Literary Agency for permission to cite unpublished extracts of Erle Stanley Gardner’s correspondence, manuscripts and audio dictation.

2 Re-dictation of opening chapter, July 11th 1960, Audograph recording, side 2, from 13:47 to 14:17 (HRC inventory A1672). The final sentence was changed in revision to the slightly less colloquial “Now, get the hell out of here and start work!” References to Gardner collection materials preserved at the Harry Ransom Center follow the conventions and abbreviations of the HRC catalogue.

3 On Homer, see Janko (1998); there are of course competing conceptions of exactly how and when the epics came to be written down.

4 For a survey of views on when and how the works of the epic cycle were made to connect with the Homeric poems and with each other, see Burgess (2001).

5 Amongst the literature on the subject, see Duchet (1996) and other essays on genetic criticism of endings; Del Lungo (2010) and Orlandini and Poccetti (2008) on the framing thresholds of beginning and end; essays from a classical perspective by Fowler and Fusillo in Roberts, Dunn and Fowler ed. (1997), and more generally Kotin Mortimer (1985) and Hamon (1975).

6 e.g. letters of Hobson of 27th April 1934 (Box 203) on TCOT Curious Bride, and of 11th March 1936 (Box 203) (also objecting that, as originally written, the mystery was unsatisfying because the murder victim turned out not in fact to have died). With TCOT Dangerous Dowager, Erle Stanley Gardner sent the manuscript in piecemeal (letters of 22nd April, 8th, 11th and 14th May 1936, Box 293), challenging the Morrow team to spot the murderer if their identity was obvious. After reading to page 274, Hobson replied on 21st May (Box 203) wagering that it was the detective George Belgrade (incorrectly).

7 e.g. letters of Hobson on Hotel Homicide published as The D.A. Calls it Murder – of 5th March 1936 (Box 203), and on Gold Comes in Bricks of 29th February 1940 (Box 204).

8 e.g. letter of Hobson of 10th January 1935 (warning of reviewers’ reaction should the culprit in This is Murder be a detective).

9 e.g. letter of 6th September 1937 (Box 294): ‘If book publishers generally could weed out about ninety percent of the present book reviewers and replace them with eight or ten men of really intellectual attainments, it would mark the greatest forward stride in the history of publishing […] These reviews are written by intellectual nincompoops, studious recluses, unsuccessful writers, and embryonic pansies’; letter of 19th January 1935 (Box 293): ‘In short, I do wish to God that book reviewers in general would get some knowledge of what they are talking about before they talk about it so convincingly that it sounds so damned logical even when incorrect’.

10 The abbreviation TCOT is used henceforth in titles of the Perry Mason novels, all of which commence ‘The Case of the…’

11 Letter of Hobson to Erle Stanley Gardner’s agent Robert Hardy (18th November 1932, Box 202), and of Erle Stanley Gardner, 14th December 1932 (Box 293): ‘I liked your idea about having the last of one book pave the way for the next. If we’re going to run a series, that’s the way to do it’. (The publisher’s note is flagged with an asterisk, except in TCOT Lucky Legs, where a numeral is used). In the original ending of Reasonable Doubt (Tccms with A revisions and T inserts, c. 275 pp. n.d.), Harrison Burke admits to finally losing his temper with his mistress Eva Belter, whereupon Perry Mason winks at his secretary; the concluding paragraph is: ‘Della Street thrust a handkerchief into her mouth, turned abruptly, and walked out of the office’ (this ‘tag-line’ effect is frequent in Erle Stanley Gardner’s later A.A. Fair novels).

12 Although there is the illusion of a direct reprinting of the final page, in practice there is usually resetting to begin with the start of the lead (often from the penultimate page), and naturally the paratextual publisher’s note is omitted. On occasion there are textual changes for clarity when read out of context, thus (lead to TCOT Caretaker’s Cat, as reprinted with additions bracketed): “Ho hum … <” yawned Perry Mason “> I suppose I have to tackle this pile of correspondence and memoranda” […] “What?” she <Della Street> asked.

13 There exists also an earlier ending of TCOT Sulky Girl, recopied and attached by Hobson to a letter of 5th May (Box 202), with a brief reference to a new male client who has arrived with the detective, Paul Drake, in the outer office.

14 Tms with A emendations and A printer’s notes and markings (304 pp.).

15 TCOT Lucky Legs, Tccms with A printer’s notes and markings (292 pp.) n.d. (bound). The conclusion of TCOT Howling Dog in Liberty of 17th March 1934 preserves the originally intended lead to TCOT Lucky Legs; the ending of TCOT Caretaker’s Cat in Liberty of 17th August 1935 announces ‘TCOT Sleepless Sister’ rather than TCOT Sleepwalker’s Niece.

16 See e.g Brewer and Lichtenstein (1982) 481f; Segal (2010) 158-65; Todorov (1977) 47. For a concise review of recent psychological work on suspense and curiosity, see Sanford and Emmott (2012, 220-231).

17 TABLE PDF

18 See e.g. Litman and Pezzo (2007); Han et al. (2013).

19 For the distinction of Interest and Deprivation based curiosity, see Litman and Jimerson (2004), and Litman (2005) where previous approaches – notably that of Loewenstein (1994) – are appraised.

20 See Campion et al. (2009).

21 TCOT Howling Dog, Tccms (289 pp., bound).

22 In practice she appears to have no real reason to ask this, provided we take at face value the explanation given by her aspiring lover Doctor Millsap that they conspired only to bury under the name of her first husband a hospital patient who had in fact died of natural causes (126).

23 Letter of November 5th 1936 (Box 203), responding to a letter of 27th October (Box 293) lampooning Thayer Hobson’s memos to his staff and also parodying the book Crimefile Number 1: “File on Bolitho Blane” by Dennis Wheatley, published by Morrow the same year. There was still further debate on changing the title again in a letter of 28th November (Box 293f), with a reply by Thayer Hobson of 30th November (Box 203). Some of the other correspondence relating to this episode is cited by Fugate and Fugate (1980) 194f.

24 Letter of 10th December 1936 (Box 293). The two following books, TCOT Substitute Face and TCOT Shoplifter’s Shoe use a new model, printing after the ending some excerpts from the start of the next book, with the announcement ‘A few passages from the first chapter will show you how it all started’. This was abandoned after Erle Stanley Gardner wrote that he no longer thought it commercially advantageous to announce the subsequent book (letter of 27th December 1938, Box 294). But leads would reappear in 1944 from TCOT Crooked Candle to TCOT Black-Eyed Blonde, and from that book to TCOT Golddigger’s Purse. The comic strip adaptations of 1950-52 adopt a similar procedure, with the final panel of the last daily strip of a case introducing the next (see reprints of the first four strips in Four Cases of Murder, 1989).

25 A vonító kutya esete, trans. Földes Jolán, n.d. (TCOT Howling Dog); Az ujdonsült asszonyka esete, trans. Zigány Árpád, n.d. (TCOT Curious Bride), both published by Palladis RT. Kiadása, Budapest. Most of the front covers of this series are adorned with stills from the Warner movies, an early example of the transmedia adaptations being used to market the original novels, as seen later in some French and Italian editions using the image of Raymond Burr from the TV series.

26 The other Pocket Book edition affected is TCOT Stuttering Bishop (PB 201), which has a substituted lead to TCOT Lame Canary rather than to TCOT Dangerous Dowager.

27 The translator, Enrico Andri, was in reality Enrico Piceni (1901-86), the originator of the sobriquet ‘giallo’ for the Mondadori editions (for a brief appreciation see Ganni, 2011).

28 “Was there anything new to-day? Did anyone come in while I was away?”
“Yes, a man with a crutch … he’s rather temperamental and irritable … […] it’s such a funny thing …”
“Funny?”
“Yes, particularly as now you’ve just finished with the case of the Howling Dog …”
“I don’t get it.”
“It’s actually about … it’s about a cat!”

29 And so began the case to which Della Street would shortly afterwards give the name ‘The Mysterious Client’.

                                                                           THE END

30 The stuttering bishop leads Perry Mason into a new adventure which is recounted in the book PERRY MASON AND THE MYSTERIOUS CLIENT, which is now in press.

31 Tms/rough draft with A revisions (262 pp.) 1962.

32 See also. e.g. Some Slips Don’t Show, 1957 (Tms with A revisions, 235 pp. 1956):

I didn’t say anything to Bertha about it.
Bertha didn’t <doesn’t> appreciate real <modern> art.
[added in ms]: There are many forms of art Bertha can’t doesn’t fully appreciate.
But she loves to cash checks.

33 Audograph recording, from 11:06 to 11:40 (HRC inventory A1778); Tms/rough draft with A revisions (246 pp.) 1969. Calhoun’s words were edited by Morrow as follows: ‘I am sick and tired of the artificial existence I have been living, thinking only of money, money, money’ (Tccms/printer’s copy, 217 pp., 1970).

34 Also Turn on the Heat (1940), Spill the Jackpot (1941). The final page of Double or Quits (1941), which lacks them, has been edited and retyped by Morrow, and so may have originally have included them; the words have then been added in purple pencil with a question mark, and are printed. For the remaining seven novels of 1939-1946 the manuscripts have unfortunately not survived.

35 TCOT Baited Hook (1940) also has ‘The End’, but the final page of the manuscript was retyped by Morrow, so it cannot be proved that this is an addition.

36 TCOT Howling Dog (January – March 1934); TCOT Curious Bride (July – September 1934); and TCOT Caretaker’s Cat (June – August 1935).

37 Similarly in the translation by Eveline Mahyère, Détective Club, Paris (1953).

38 Doublé de Dupes, Presses de la Cité, Paris (1958) trans. Françoise Christian, 188.

39 See Lyles (1983) for an account, based on interviews with former staff, of the design and manufacture process of the Western Publishing and Lithographing Company at Racine, Wisconsin. On the fictive chapter titles, see further Williams (2017).

40 There is a rare example in Erle Stanley Gardner’s TCOT Crooked Candle, where the plan appears in the seventeenth of twenty-one chapters.

41 Des yeux de chouette (Owls Don’t Blink) Détective Club, Geneva (1950), trans. Jean Benoit.

42 Tccms April 1954; earlier states of the final clause: from “the conquering of the West”.

43 On explicitation and other ‘universals’, see Mauranen (2008); for an overview of how translation studies oriented in the 1980’s towards the adaptation of the source text to the conditions of the target culture see Snell-Hornby (2006) 47ff.

44 Perry Mason’s expression had changed. The fatigue had faded away from him. His face now taut and elastic, as if he had a night of undisturbed rest and a hearty breakfast behind him, he said to Della Street:
                                             
“Show the man in.”

45 This simile, however, is not represented in the translation, which chooses an opposite and more conventionally expected sense that the hero’s face should be animated: ‘Energisch wie seine Bewegungen waren auch seine Gesichtszüge’ (‘his features were as animated as his bodily movements’ – Gardner, 1947, 5). There is another instance at the start of TCOT Velvet Claws: ‘his face in repose was like the face of a chess player who is studying the board’ (Gardner, 1933, 1). Ironically, the original unpublished lead from the end of TCOT Lucky Legs did indeed include a simile.

46 For an account of the couple in French post-war culture (in an interpretation of colonialism and American cultural influence), see Ross (1998) 123-56.

47 For an account how serial killings and murders within the family have been thought of as alien to Italian culture and a source of ‘moral panic’ from the fifties to the present day, see Nerenberg (2012).

48 “Oh, how could a woman commit such horrors?”
“It must be a kind of mental illness … fortunately a very rare one ... Still, given how things turned out, I’d rather not talk about it any more. What would you say to a good meal?”
“I’d say I deserve it”, replied the secretary, “just so long as the orchestra play like the very devil.”
“Don’t worry. You’ll be returning home quite out of breath.”
Della went off happily to fix her makeup.

49 Reproduced in Album Mondadori 1907-2007 (2007) 169.

50 The earlier Arthaud translation ends somewhat inconsequentially at the moment Mason is shuffling papers but before he discovers the new case (L’affaire de... l’homme à l’oeil de verre, trans. J.-N. Augé, Grenoble and Paris, n.d. 236): — Oh... une sorte de maladie... Un complexe, aussi... Hum !... Voyons si je m’attaquais à ce tas de lettres et de notes. »

51 “How can a woman commit such terrible crimes?”
“To explain that” replied Counselor Perry Mason, “is a matter for novelists”.

52 Letter of 19th December 1934 (Box 203); Erle Stanley Gardner sent revisions with significant changes to the last four chapters (the original versions are lost) together with a letter on 5th February 1935 (Box 293).

53 For most of the story, it seems that the two are incompatible, and that his client must inevitably be the murderer, but with the solution they prove to be different, and so at the end of the case, the innocent are kept safe and the interests of Justice are shown to be served.

54 cf. the blurb of TCOT Stuttering Bishop, ‘The Bishop piqued Mason’s curiosity – because he stuttered’.

55Perry Mason tackles his third case. “It will take me,” he says, “into the depths of human misery; into sordid emotions […] and, by God, I like it.”’ The back cover of the jacket announces a ‘Harrap Jig-saw Mysteries’ edition of TCOT Velvet Claws, packaged with a puzzle of ‘150 pieces, which, when fitted into their correct positions, present in colour a reconstruction of the dramatic climax of the story as described in the closing pages’.

56 20th January 1934, 208; a cutting is preserved in one of Erle Stanley Gardner’s scrapbooks (S-25).

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Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Richard Williams, « ‘End of the Goddamned thing!!’ », Sillages critiques [En ligne], 24 | 2018, mis en ligne le 01 juillet 2018, consulté le 14 décembre 2018. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/sillagescritiques/6272

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Auteur

Richard Williams

Richard Williams is an independent scholar and cultural historian from the UK, who works on the Erle Stanley Gardner collection (preserved at the Harry Ransom Center, the University of Texas at Austin).
Richard Williams est un chercheur indépendant, spécialiste d’histoire culturelle. Il vit au Royaume-Uni et travaille actuellement sur la Erle Stanley Gardner Collection (conservée par le Harry Ransom Center au Texas).

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Sillages critiques est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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