Erle Stanley Gardner in his office.

Who was Erle Stanley Gardner?

  •      Mr. Gardner was born in Malden, Massachusetts, in 1889. His father was a mining engineer, who moved the family to Portland, Oregon, the Klondike area, and Oroville, California. Erle graduated from Palo Also High School, near San Francisco, in 1909.

         When Mr. Gardner was twenty-one, in 1911, he opened his own law office in Merced, California. Because business was not good, he worked for a corporate attorney from 1911 to 1918. During this time, he often defended poor Chinese clients. He learned to speak fluent Chinese. In 1912 he married Natalie Talbert, and they had one child a year later, Natalie Grace Gardner.

         To make more money, Erle began writing pulp stories, using the name Charles Green. Pulp fiction was a genre popular from the 1930's to the 1960's that represented the culture at that time. "Pulp fiction" covered westerns, science fiction, detective stories, etc. It was inexpensively produced, often on poor quality paper, and aimed at the masses. Both novels and magazines were considered pulp writing and were thought to be cheap entertainment. His pen names also included A.A. Fair, Carleton Kendrake, and Charles J. Kenny, among others.

         His first Perry Mason novel was written in 1933. It was titled The Case of the Velvet Claws, and was published the same year as The Case of the Sulky Girl. He went on to write more than 700 fictional stories, 127 of which were novels. (82 were Perry Mason titles.) He also wrote books on travel and nature, as well as hundreds of articles on various topics. He often wrote for Sports Afield, Field and Stream, Popular Photography, Life, PopularScience, Desert Magazine and Writers Digest. He traveled to foreign countries, often journeying to Baja California.

         He purchased his ranch here in Temecula in 1934. He named it Rancho del Paisano, or Roadrunner Ranch. He did much of his writing here, and gave up practicing law entirely in 1940. While at the ranch, he added twenty-seven new buildings on the three thousand acres. He refused to add a telephone for many years, considering it a noisy distraction. He would often type or dictate 66,000+ words a week, employing several secretaries.

         One of his most important contributions to our penal system was The Court of Last Resort, of which he was one of the founders. Here those unjustly accused had a second chance, and the beginnings of forensic science were greatly promoted. In the late 1960's, he was diagnosed with cancer. He passed away on his adored ranch on March 11, 1970, and his ashes were spread over his much-loved Baja Peninsula.


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