Erle Stanley Gardner (1889-1970) wrote 131 works of fiction that sold more than 325 million copies. He devoted time to 'The Court of Last Resort', which reviewed miscarriages of justice and often freed men who were wrongly convicted. Gardner clerked for a law firm, and passed the California Bar at 21. He was as successful in Ventura County as the fictional 'Perry Mason'. Erle was a prolific author: he dictated and others typed, he edited and it was retyped, proofread by others for final typing; an assembly line (p.16). 'Della Street' was a composite of the Walter sisters (p.18). 'Paul Drake' could have been based on Sam Hicks, a Wyoming cowboy who was Erle's ranch manager. Erle did not follow the standard device of a Dr. Watson to interact with a Sherlock Holmes; he used dialog and fast action for an explanation. Erle developed as a writer through hard work and careful study. Erle had no wish to write an ordinary type of detective story; he hated convention and rules for detective stories (p.26).
Erle's mother was of Mayflower stock, both parents were descendants of Colonial New Englanders (p.31). They moved to California in 1899 for business reasons. Ma Gardner ran the household, even when her boys were grown men (p.34), Younger brother Ken was one of San Francisco's most respected physicians. Older brother Walter was in business in Illinois (p.35). Erle's talents were first shown in 4th grade back in Malden Mass (p.36). Erle's legal research foreshadowed his fiction (pp.55-56). His courtroom work was like Perry Mason! Erle created a plot machine out of cardboard to create plots from characters, situations, and complications (pp.82-83).
Erle's contributions to American jurisprudence were his legal theories upheld by higher courts, and the principle of "limited dedication" which limited municipal rights (p.119). The formula for the Perry Mason stories is to have a protagonist who is dragged into danger, yet overcomes his problems (p.159). Many pages in this book tell of the conflicts between writer and agent to present material that met the current interests of the time. Gardner didn't put explicit dates in his stories so they wouldn't be old-fashioned in reprint (p.166). Erle had a wide circle of friends, mostly ordinary people, not writers.
Erle covered the Sir Harry Oakes murder trial for the Hearst newspapers (p.238). The Perry Mason show was a hit from 1957 to 1966, but had its problems (pp.248-251). Perry Mason was popular because he fought for human rights and liberties (p.252). An article in the 'Saturday Evening Post' resulted in 'The Court of Last Resort', and an innocent man was saved from execution (p.256). But Erle eventually resigned from the CLR (pp.264-5). Gardner's impact on the administration of justice cannot be overemphasized (p.266)! Erle helped to bring about the Supreme Court ruling than an indigent accused is entitled to legal help, and experts, and to study the prosecution's evidence (p.267). One reason for Erle's success was giving reliable data in his books. The Bibliography lists his work from 1921 to 1973 (pp. 312-341).