BACK

    William F. Nolan. Critic, historian, novelist, and screenwriter. Nolan's books include The Black Mask Boys, Hammet: A Life at the Edge, and The Marble Orchard, the latest in his Black Mask Mystery series. His crime-based movies of the week include Melvin Purvis, C-Man, The Kansas City Massacre, The Norliss Tapes, Sky Heist, and Terror at London Bridge. Nolan attended the Kansas City Art Institute and San Diego State College and has lectured widely, taught a creative writing seminar at Bowling Green State University, and contributed to over 240 magazines and newspapers worldwide. Twice winner of the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Special Award, Nolan's output includes 65 books, 135 short stories, 600 nonfiction magazine pieces, and 40 screenplays. His works have been selected for some 250 anthologies and textbooks. He is recognized as a major authority in the genre of hard-boiled fiction.

ERLE STANLEY GARDNER (1889-1970)

by WILLIAM F. NOLAN

CONSIDER THE STATISTICS: in a career that spanned five decades, Erie Stanley Gardner sold more than seven hundred fictional works, including 127 novels (82 of them featuring his fighting lawyer, the global icon Perry Mason). Adding in four hundred articles and more than a dozen travel tomes, his overall creative total climbs past eleven hundred, embracing 155 published books in thirty- seven languages around the world. Media totals for Perry Mason alone include six motion pictures, 3,221 radio episodes, 271 television episodes, and more than twenty made-for- television movies. No updated figures are available, but it is estimated that some 325 million of Gardner's books have been distributed globally, making him one of history's all- time best-selling mystery writers. At the height of his popularity (in the mid- 1960s), his novels were being sold at an average of twenty-six thousand copies per day! No other author came close to this amazing sales record.

Yet writing was only one facet of Gardner's complex life. He spoke fluent Chinese, worked as a professional attorney for twenty- two years, and was an ardent sportsman (boxing, fishing, archery, tennis, and golf), a constant traveler (China, Baja California, and the desert country of the American Southwest), a working rancher (raising horses, dogs, and cattle), founder of and activist in the Court of Last Resort (established to aid prisoners who maintained that they had been unjustly convicted), an enthusiastic wildlife photographer (illustrating his own travel books), and an amateur explorer and criminologist-with an in-depth knowledge of geology, archaeology, engineering, astronomy, forensic medicine, natural history, and the breeding habits of the California gray whale.

Early Life

Erie Stanley Gardner was born to Charles W. Gardner and Grace Adelma Waugh Gardner on 17 July 1889, the second of three sons, in Malden, Massachusetts, a modest community boasting a strong New England heritage. Speaking of his ancestors (as quoted in The Black Mask Boys), Gardner declared that his roots extended back to the Mayflower on his mother's side and that he was "descended from hardy New England stock. My forebears were the captains of windjammers, whalers...out of Nantucket " (Nolan, p. 94).

At age ten, he had just completed the fourth grade when his father moved the family west to Portland, Oregon, where the elder Gardner intended to pursue a career in engineering. Three years later they were headed into the Klondike, where Charles Gardner found employment as a mining engineer.

To Page Two