Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Case of the Rolling Bones: Erle Stanley Gardner

Description from the back of my paperback edition of The Case of the Rolling Bones:
Perry Mason sat quietly in his office and complained to Della Street that life was dull. Two minutes later he was neck deep in trouble. It involved Alden Leeds, black sheep of the Leeds family. It seemed that when Uncle Alden was much younger he had run away to Alaska. There he had struck gold and become entangled with a Klondike dance-hall girl. Now that girl had reappeared and staked a claim on Alden. His heirs took one look at her and objected strenuously.
And this is only the start of a very complicated story starring Perry Mason, the famous and talented defense lawyer, and his lovely secretary Della. The plot of TCOT Rolling Bones is so complex even now I could not hope to explain it to you. There are confused identities, multiple aliases, and the story leads all the way back to Alden Leeds' early days as a prospector in Alaska.

My favorite part of a Perry Mason novel is always Perry and Della and the way they work together. Here are the descriptions of those two in The Cast of Characters at the beginning of the book:
Perry Mason, who likes to puzzle with human problems, and gets a lot of encouragement. 
Della Street, who is not only Perry's Girl Friday but all the other days of the week.
Due to the complexities of the plot and me getting completely lost in it, I would not say this is my favorite Perry Mason novel. Of course, I have only read two of them in the last few years, so I don't have much to compare to. (I read many books from the series when I was a teenager.) The other one I read recently, The Case of the Restless Redhead, published in 1954, had a more straightforward plot (comparatively). It did involve Perry juggling the evidence; I had forgotten that he has no problems doing that and getting away with it.

So, not my favorite, but still an entertaining read. Many people liked this one a lot, so I don't want to discourage anyone from reading it. John at Pretty Sinister Books has written a wonderful review with lots of detail, and his post features three lovely covers different from mine.

We have been watching episodes from the Perry Mason TV series. In the first season, a large number of the episodes are based on the novels, and the last episode of that season is an adaptation of TCOT Rolling Bones. As you would expect when you shorten the story to  a one hour episode, the story is greatly simplified in the TV show, but it doesn't lose any of its charm.

Raymond Burr as Perry Mason is very entertaining, always so sure of himself. Barbara Hale as Della is terrific, and it is fun to see the cars and clothes from the 1950s. In this episode, Perry and Paul Drake (a detective who often works for Perry) go to Reno, Nevada via airplane, and it was also fun to see the old airplane, a Douglas DC-4. The California settings are good too.

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Publisher:   Pocket Book edition,1947. Orig. pub. 1939.
Length:      218 pages
Format:      Paperback
Series:       Perry Mason
Setting:      Southern California
Genre:       Legal Mystery
Source:      I purchased this book.


20 comments:

  1. You know, Tracy, your post is a clear example of why authors need to be careful when they add complexity to their plots. There are good reasons not to create a plot that's too one-dimensional. But too many 'extras' can keep a reader from really enjoying the story.

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    1. I will always be a fan of Perry Mason mysteries, Margot, but I could not keep up with this one. I am looking forward to trying some of the very early books in the series.

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  2. Tracy, I once prided myself on reading nearly every Perry Mason, though I read Gardner's early gritty novels much later. I'm sure I read this one too, though, frankly, the title doesn't ring a bell. The Case of the Restless Redhead sounds more familiar. I'm glad ESG still holds up for me.

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    1. There are a lot of Perry Mason novels, Prashant, but they short and quick and entertaining reads.

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  3. I think the best Perry Masons were published in the 1950s. TCOT ROLLING BONES is enjoyable and clever. I love the cover on that paperback edition you included!

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    1. I love that cover on TCOT ROLLING BONES too, George. That is the reason I had a copy of that particular book.

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  4. I think the 1950's was the best decade when it comes to TV series!
    Dragnet, I Love Lucy, Amos & Andy, The Jack Benny Show, What's my Line? I will have to find Perry Mason on the internet! My CF 'Whose Body' is coming along.

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    1. Oh, I wish I could see some of the episodes from What's My Line. I loved that show. And Dragnet and the Jack Benny Show.

      I hope you are still liking Whose Body?

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    2. Favorite character is Bunter, the butler and of course Lord Wimsey...5 more chapters to read.

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    3. I like Bunter a lot too, Nancy.

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  5. It's been years since I've read a Perry Mason novel, Tracy, but I don't think this was one of them. It does sound more complex than those I remember reading.

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    1. The characters were still fun, and interesting, Mathew. I think if was the aliases that made the story too challenging for me. But some reviewers really liked it.

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    2. I have a hard enuf time keeping track of their real names, Tracy!

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    3. Me, too, Mathew. The list of characters were huge. Another thing I liked about this one was the trips to several different cities. Air travel back then was much easier.

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  6. I probably won't rush to get this one, but will definitely try one one day.

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    1. There are plenty to choose from, Col. I like Erle Stanley Gardner's Lam / Cool series also, and want to read more of those.

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  7. I read most of these these when I was a teenager too, Tracy. But I haven't read any in later years. I'm always afraid I won't appreciate them as much as I did then. Where are you watching the old Perry Masons? Are they being streamed somewhere?

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    1. I have the same reaction when trying some older authors at this point in my life, Yvette. And often it depends on my mood at the time, I think.

      We started watching Season 1 of the Perry Mason TV show at Netflix. Currently they have six of the seasons. Then we began to enjoy them so much we bought DVDs of the 2nd half of the first season and all of season 2. We will see how we feel after that. Some of the stories are predictable if you watch a lot of them, but I love the main characters and how they are portrayed, so I don't care.

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  8. I've been dipping cautious toes into ESG books - but not really Perry Mason yet. This probably won't be the first one I read.

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    1. I would like to read more of Gardner's books, Moira, but there are lots of authors I say that about and I cannot get to all of them. Haven't read enough of them to give suggestions, and everyone has different reactions to them anyway. You probably would have done a better job of following the plot on this one than I did.

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