Erle Stanley Gardner was born July 17, 1889 in Malden, Massachusetts.
After graduating High School in 1909, Erle began a legal education at Valparaiso University School of Law, however he was suspended after only one month when his interest in boxing became a distraction.
Erle then settled in California where he taught himself law and passed the state bar exam in 1911.
At first, he could not earn a living as an attorney, so he worked as a salesman for five years.
Then in 1921, along with three other attorneys, Erle created the law firm of Sheridan, Orr, Drapeau and Gardner in Ventura, California.
Innovative and restless by nature, Erle became bored with the routine of legal practice. The only part he enjoyed was trial work and the development of trial strategy. In his spare time, he began to write for pulp magazines, with his first story being published in 1923.
He created many different series characters, including the ingenious Lester Leith, a parody of the “gentleman thief” in the tradition of Raffles; and Ken Corning.
Then Erle began working on a full length detective style mystery, creating the crusading fictional lawyer and crime-solver Perry Mason. He utilized the historic Pierpont Inn which was located just down the street from his law office.
In March of 1933, his first Perry Mason mystery novel “The Case of the Velvet Claws” was published.
With the success of his first novel, Erle also published in 1933 his second Perry Mason mystery “The Case of the Sulky Girl.
Erle Gardner then gave up the law practice to devote his time to writing.
Seven Perry Mason mysteries later, Erle moved to Temecula, California in 1937, where he purchased a large ranch known as Rancho del Paisano. His ranch has been variously described as being 700 acres, 1,000 acres, or 3,000 acres.
The character of Perry Mason was portrayed in various Hollywood films of the 1930s and 40s, and a long-running radio program from 1943 to 1955.
In 1956, CBS created the TV courtroom drama series Perry Mason, based on Erle Garner’s successful novels.
Raymond Burr initially auditioned for the role of District Attorney Hamilton Burger.
William Talman tried out for the title role.
The producers of the show also allowed Raymond Burr to try for the title role and when Erle, who was present at the audition, saw him he declared, “He is Perry Mason.”
Raymond Burr eventually won the role with which he became most closely identified.
The series ran from 1957 to 1966, and Burr won Emmy Awards in 1959 and 1961 for his performance as Perry Mason.
Erle Gardner himself made an uncredited appearance as a judge in the final episode of the original series titled “The Case of the Final Fade-Out.”
The series has been re-run in syndication ever since and is currently running on the Hallmark Movie Channel.
In 1968, Erle Gardner married his long-time secretary Agnes Jean Bethell, the “real Della Street”.
Erle held a lifelong fascination with Baja California and became an authority on the early exploration of the Mexican peninsula via books he wrote on the area. He used various modes of transportation to traverse Baja, including boat, oversized trucks, airplanes and even helicopters.
Erle Gardner died March 11, 1970. His ashes were scattered over the Baja California Peninsula.
Erle wrote a total of 82 Perry Mason novels. 80 were published during his lifetime, then posthumosly in 1972, The Case of the Fenced-In Woman was published, and in 1973 his last Perry Mason novel, The Case of the Postponed Murder was published.
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