Showing posts with label Erle Stanley Gardner. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Erle Stanley Gardner. Show all posts

31 July 2019

Today in Mystery History: July 31

by Robert Lopresti

This is the third installment in my occasional stroll through the calendar.  Enjoy.

July 31, 1904.  David Dresser was born on this date.  You probably remember him as Brett Halliday, the creator of Miami private eye Mike Shayne.  His first novel was rejected more than 20 times, but he went on to write 30 books, which were adapted for radio, TV, and a series of movies.  He stopped writing in 1958 but authors labelled "Brett Halliday" went on to write many more books about Shayne.  Until I was researching this I had no idea that the excellent movie Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was inspired by one of his books.

July 31, 1930.  The Detective Story Magazine Hour began broadcasting on radio today. This is mainly significant because of the show's announcer, a sinister presence played by an actor whose identity was kept firmly hidden.  He was known only as The Shadow and proved so popular that he spawned his own show, a magazine, and tons of novels written by Walter B. Gibson.  Bwaa ha ha!

July 31, 1940.  The British magazine The Sketch published "The Case of the Drunken Socrates" on this date.  It was part of a series of stories about a Czech refugee detective which Eric Ambler wrote while waiting to be drafted into the army. (Notice the title of the book that collected the tales.)  Of course, Ambler was much better known for his espionage thrillers.

July 31, 1948.  The issue of Saturday Evening Post with this date featured the first installment of The D.A. Takes A Chance, the next to last novel Erle Stanley Gardner wrote about district attorney Doug Selby.  Alas, the prosecutor was never as popular as that other lawyer Gardner created, the defense attorney whose clients always turned out to be innocent.

July 31, 1951.  On this date Mr. and Mrs. Rackell came to Nero Wolfe to seek the murderer of their nephew.  "Home to Roost" is probably the high point of Rex Stout's literary attacks on American Communists.  You can find it in his collection Triple Jeopardy.


July 31, 1975.  On this date the movie Bank Shot was released.  It starred George C. Scott in the unlikely role of Donald E. Westlake's hapless burglar John Dortmunder.  (Okay, his name was changed to protect the guilty.)    

 July 31, 1986.  Stanley Ellin died on this date.  He was one of the greatest author's of mystery short stories ever.  If you don't believe me, try "The Specialty of the House," "The Payoff," or "You Can't be a Little Girl All Your Life."

July 31, 2001. This date saw the publication of Nightmare in Shining Armor, part of Tamar Myers' series about a shop called the Den of Antiquity.  I haven't read it, but I'm guessing it's a cozy.

16 April 2014

Gardner had it covered

by Robert Lopresti

Topic for the day: Cover letters.  Do you use them when you send a short story to a magazine?  Most magazines say they're optional.

Personally I only use one if I have something specific to say about a story.  Only when--

Oh, skip it.  You are welcome to write about cover letters in the comments if you want, but that was just an excuse to tell you this story. Let's get to the point, because getting to the point is  exactly the point of what I am about to tell you.

I have been reading Dorothy B. Hughes' biography Earl Stanley Gardner: The Case of the Real Perry Mason.  It seems that early in Gardner's career, when he was turning out stories and novelettes like a printing press on steroids, his best market was Black Mask, and he started getting too many rejections from them.

Obviously this called for the attorney to use his best diplomatic skills and eloquence to persuade the editors that he was an author they wanted to work with.  So he wrote the following cover letter, which I quote in its entirety:

'Three O'Clock in the Morning' is a damned good story.  If you have any comments on it, write them on the back of a check.

Editor Harry North not only bought the story, he printed the cover letter in front of it.  And bought a lot more of Gardner's work after that.

Which shows you what you can do, if you're a future MWA Grand Master.  For the rest of us, your mileage may vary.

18 June 2012

To Fathers, Step-fathers, Adopted Fathers & Foster Fathers

by Jan Grape

As I write this it is June 17th, Father's Day, however this won't be posted until the 18th which is the day after Father's Day. But I'd like to talk a bit about fathers. I had two. My dad and my step-dad. They both were decent, honorable men who did the best they could for me, helping me reach adulthood as a productive, considerate, educated woman. I lived with my mother and my step-father, Charlie Pierce. I only spent two or three weeks with my birth father or as I called him, my "real" dad, Tom Barrow. It was difficult as a child to only see my father for such a short amount of time each summer. When I returned back home to my mother's house, I usually cried for a week or two, knowing it would be another year before I saw my dad again. I didn't understand it at the time and the idea of joint custody or even more reasonable longer visitation was not an accepted idea. My father wasn't married the first few years when I visited with him. And I think I must have been nine or ten before we had those visitation weeks. My mother and father had divorced when I was around two years old and shortly after that my father went to China and India as an Army man during World War II.

I do remember him visiting me when I was six years old. I was living with my grandmother in Houston, TX at the time. My mother was working at an aircraft factory, Consolidated, in Fort Worth and it was very difficult to have and take care of a small child with the hours she worked. My grandmother and her husband lived ten miles from the city limits of Houston on a dirt road. One day, a yellow taxi drove up to our house and a tall, lean man in an Army uniform got out of the car. It was my dad. He was home on furlough and wanted to see me. I was just getting over chicken pox and I got so excited that my red-spots seemed to pop out again. Of course it was just the excitement.

My step-father has been gone since 1995 and I miss him a lot.. He and I had a lot of problems during my teen age years but I think that's fairly normal. Teenagers are an alien species as I have mentioned before. Charlie had a lot of little sayings, like "I ain't had so much fun since the hogs at my little brother." Don't ask me to explain that one. And the standard when I asked him for money was, "If money was germs, I'd be as sterile as St. Vincent's hospital." You get the picture. One saying he had that stayed with me all these years was "There are two things in this world that can't be beat. One is a good education and the other is a good reputation." Those are words to live by for sure. I miss you and love you, Daddy.

My dad has been gone for twenty-four years and I miss him almost daily. Immediately after I graduated from high school, I moved to Fort Worth to live with my dad and step-mother. I graduated from school on Friday night and started to X-ray school on Monday morning. And during all those year afterwards I spent a lot of time with them and we grew very close. We made up for all the years we had not been together. I'm very glad he got to know my late husband, Elmer. They were alike in many ways and they were close too.

My dad loved to read and he had scads of books, mostly mysteries. Mostly private-eye mysteries and from the time I was about 12 years old and visiting my dad in the summer, he was handing me books by Mickey Spillane and Richard S. Prather and Erle Stanley Gardner. I was in heaven reading their books. Of course they were hard-boiled and womanizers (well, Perry Mason wasn't but Donald Lam was) but I just loved the style of writing these guys wrote and enjoyed the mystery plots. I decided then and there if I ever did learn to write it would definitely be mysteries and mostly likely private-eye stories. And most of my short stories did feature my female PIs Jenny Gordon and C.J. Gunn.

One major thing my dad taught me was, to do what you love. And if you can make a living at that, you're ahead of the game. That's true. I loved being in the medical field, but my unspoken dream was to write and be published. I'm really glad my dad lived long enough to read many of my short stories. He died before my novels were published but I'm sure where ever he is, he's read them as I wrote them.

The other big thing my dad taught me is that you can't live in the past with regrets. And you just can't wallow in guilt about mistakes you made. And he didn't mean not to acknowledge your mistakes, but learn from them. Everyone fails at some things and that's the way you learn how to succeed. This is very true in writing too (you thought I never would get to the point about writing didn't you?).

The only way to ever learn to be a better writer is to keep writing. When someone who knows about writing and is willing to pay you for writing gives you a critique or suggestion about your writing, then pay attention and learn. Few people are born with enough talent to be a good writer. However, you can learn how to write and how to write very well, but you have to learn from your mistakes.

Actually all the great writers that I know were not "born" writers. They were just persistent and willing to learn the craft and then learn the business or lean on someone who could guide them to the right way to become published.

So today, I say, Happy Father's Day to my dad, Thomas Lee Barrow. I love you and I miss you.