Erle Gardner

Erle Stanley Gardner (1889 - 1970)

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Erle Stanley Gardner
Born in Malden, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United Statesmap
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married [date unknown] [location unknown]
Descendants descendants
Died in Temecula, Riverside, California, United Statesmap
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Profile last modified 4 May 2019 | Created 17 Jul 2014
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Erle Gardner is Notable.
Erle Stanley Gardner was an American lawyer and author best known for the Perry Mason series of detective stories.


Erle Stanley Gardner (July 17, 1889 – March 11, 1970)[1] [2] was an American lawyer and author of detective stories. Best known for the Perry Mason series, he also published under the pseudonyms A.A. Fair, Kyle Corning, Charles M. Green, Carleton Kendrake, Charles J. Kenny, Les Tillray and Robert Parr.

Erle was born in Malden, Massachusetts, the second child of Charles Walter Gardner and Grace Adelma Waugh. The eldest child, Walter, was two years older. A third child, Kenneth, was born in 1901. His father, a civil engineer, moved the family west to find work in his field, first to Portland, Oregon[3], and then to Oroville, California.

Erle's mother was of Mayflower stock, both parents were descendants of Colonial New Englanders. His father was an engineer who descended from a long line of sea captains. His parents moved to California in 1899 for business reasons.

Erle's parents had one son in Stanford and could not afford to support another college student, so Erle read for the law in a legal office while working as a clerk.[4] He enrolled for a short period of time at Valparaiso University in Indiana but dropped out after being promoted as a boxer in an illegal boxing exhibition just avoiding an indictment. He spent most of his time traveling in California and reading law in various law offices and passed the bar in 1911 at the age of 21.

In 1912, he wed Natalie Frances Beatrice Talbert; they had a daughter, Grace. They separated in 1935.

He liked working as a lawyer[5], but it wasn't enough to keep him busy, so he started writing detective fiction for pulp magazines. In 1933, he published The Case of the Velvet Claws, his first novel featuring detective and defense attorney Perry Mason, who always pulled through and won cases for the underdogs. Gardner wrote more than 80 Perry Mason novels, and his books have sold more than 300 million copies.

He said: "I still have vivid recollections of putting in day after day of trying a case in front of a jury, which is one of the most exhausting activities I know about, dashing up to the law library after court had adjourned to spend three or four hours looking up law points with which I could trap my adversary the next day, then going home, grabbing a glass of milk with an egg in it, dashing upstairs to my study, ripping the cover off my typewriter, noticing it was 11:30 p.m. and settling down with grim determination to get a plot for a story. Along about 3 in the morning I would have completed my daily stint of a 4,000-word minimum and would crawl into bed."

On August 9, 1968 he married his long-time secretary Agnes Jean Bethell (1902–2002), the "real Della Street".

Stung by Hollywood s early treatment of his material, he became a producer, founding Paisano Productions, to guard his properties. Gardner worked without credit as script supervisor for the long-running Perry Mason television series (1957-66), starring Raymond Burr, and within a few years, television's restrictive influence had infiltrated the new Mason novels.

He was founder and member of the Court of Last Resort (now the Case Review Committee) from 1948 to 1960, a real life association of crime experts and investigators who reopened cases wherein a person might have been falsely convicted. His nonfiction account of this organization's cases won him the 1952 Fact Crime Edgar Alan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America, another organization he helped found.

Gardner is the most translated American author: his books have been published in 71 languages.

He died at Temecula, Riverside County, California and his ashes scattered above Baja peninsula in Mexico.[6]


  1. Massachusetts Births, 1841-1915", database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 28 March 2016
  2. "California Death Index, 1940-1997," database, FamilySearch ( : accessed 28 March 2016
  3. United States Census, 1900," database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 28 March 2016.
  4. "United States Census, 1910," database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 28 March 2016. Occupation-clerk in an office.
  5. "United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918," database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 28 March 2016
  6. Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed 13 June 2018), memorial page for Erle Stanley Gardner (17 Jul 1889–11 Mar 1970), Find A Grave Memorial no. 6939, ; Maintained by Find A Grave Cremated, Ashes scattered, who reports a Ashes scattered above Baja peninsula in Mexico.

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