Author seeks Oxnard

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Not that this is a Perry Mason case. Some might call it a crime: Ventura County has no memorial to Erle Stanley Gardner, who lived here for more than 20 years. As a lawyer in Oxnard, he perfected the courtroom razzle-dazzle that Mason later used to enrage his fictional adversary, Dist. Hamilton Burger. Although he died 20 years ago, Gardner is still among the best-selling authors in the world.

The Guinness Book of World Records ranks him second only to Gothic novelist Barbara Cartland in volumes sold, with million in 37 languages. And Perry Mason still sells. Mason, he was dead when I got there! Mason has a fan club, the National Assn. But in Ventura County, where Gardner got his start, the only memorial is a portrait at the law firm where he worked.

But the idea languished behind other priorities. He may be forgotten now, but when he lived in the county Gardner was a local celebrity, recalls Vivian Bostwick Author seeks Oxnard Ventura. Gardner, a Massachusetts native, arrived in Oxnard in at age The town had a sugar beet mill, a bustling port, about 3, residents, and a reputation for brothels and gambling dens.

Though he had passed the bar without a degree in law or anything else, Gardner quickly made a name for himself with legal tactics right out of a Perry Mason story.

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For example, there was the case of 21 Chinese residents accused of gambling with undercover detectives. Gardner felt certain that the detectives would not be able to distinguish the faces of the Chinese. Before they were picked up for trial, Gardner had the Chinese switch homes among themselves.

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Officers picked up the first suspect at the home of a Chinese named Wong Duck. The man insisted he Author seeks Oxnard not Wong Duck but was hauled off anyway. By the time a deputy familiar with the Chinese community realized they had the wrong man, it was too late.

In another gambling case, Gardner got a Chinese suspect freed by showing the Oxnard city ordinance to be unconstitutional. But Gardner was certain that the city attorney would simply arrest his client again and try him under state gambling laws. So the crafty Gardner hustled his client over to Ventura and told a judge that he felt awful about getting a guilty man off on a technicality. Unaware of the Ventura proceeding, the Oxnard city attorney rearrested the man under the state law and confidently asked for the maximum six-month sentence.

Gardner triumphantly produced the Ventura court record and argued that his client could not be tried twice for the same offense.

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The incidents, recounted in a biography of Gardner by Dorothy B. While in Oxnard, Gardner eloped with a secretary in his law office, Natalie Talbert, and lived in a house that still stands at the southeast corner of First and C streets. InH. Frank Orr, the second of four generations of Orrs to practice law in the county, invited Gardner to his prestigious firm in Ventura. That partnership, now known as Benton, Orr, Duval and Buckingham, has the portrait of Gardner in its Author seeks Oxnard room.

Naso visited the Foster Avenue home a few months ago when she returned for the 60th reunion of her class at Ventura High School. She also recalls how much her father hated being cooped up indoors. Gardner loved archery, riding horses in the Ojai Valley and camping on the beach, Naso said.

Law interfered with such pursuits. Gardner had tried other sidelines and had some success in sales. Inhe started writing fiction, which he saw as a way to achieve independence and to work outdoors. It was the first of dozens of short stories Gardner peddled to the so-called pulp magazines, named for the cheap paper they were printed on. Ever the salesman, he had surveyed the mystery market and come up with a new product.

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He tries to jockey his enemies into a position where he can deliver one good knockout punch. I want to have characters who.

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Naso says her father believed the rapid pacing of his stories was the key to their success. You just keep moving. And he was pretty accurate on that. The circumstantial evidence is overwhelming, and the client usually makes matters worse by lying to Mason. I do consider myself a good plotter. And I consider myself one hell of a good salesman as far as manufacturing merchandise that will sell is concerned. Ballantine Books reissues six Perry Mason titles a Author seeks Oxnard in paperback. But he was a demanding uncle. There was nothing for her to do while they were writing.

Natalie Gardner stopped going with her husband, and sometimes took trips herself to Europe and the South. Gardner gradually stopped coming to Ventura. A few months after his wife died inGardner, at age 79, married longtime secretary Jeanne Walter Bethell.

Possibly, said Jeanne Bethell Gardner, who lives in Fallbrook, although she thinks the character is an amalgam of herself, her sisters and other secretaries who worked for Gardner. Della Street--and her relationship with Mason--is the subject of an article that Jim Davidson is writing for the newsletter of the National Assn. Gardner apparently reveled in that ambiguity, and he replied with scorn when his publisher said readers wanted a more normal relationship.

Davidson noted that in three different novels Mason proposed to Della, and each time she turned him down. You live at too high speed. All Sections. About Us. B2B Publishing. Business Visionaries. Hot Property. Times Events. Times Store. Facebook Twitter Show more sharing options Share Close extra sharing options. But no statue or plaque testifies to his success.

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Perry Mason’s Friend From Oxnard : Fame: Erle Stanley Gardner gave life to a sly defense lawyer and, though dead 20 years, is still the world’s second best-selling author. But no statue or plaque testifies to his success.