cover image Honest Money: And Other Short Novels

Honest Money: And Other Short Novels

Erle Stanley Gardner. Carroll & Graf Publishers, $18.95 (204pp) ISBN 978-0-88184-683-6

First published in 1932 and 1933 by Black Mask magazine and starring the young crime-fighting lawyer Ken Corning and gutsy secretary Helen Vail, the six stories collected here provide the prototype for the late author's astoundingly successful Perry Mason crime novels. Action-heavy and loaded with archaic slang (a woman is a ``jane''; a gun is a ``rod''; an order to shut up is ``can the chatter''), these unsatisfying stories are typical of the hard-boiled pulp once cranked out by Gardner as well as Hammett and Chandler. Too slight to merit the designation of ``short novels'' bestowed by the publisher, the tales are based mainly on tricks that newcomer Ken pulls in order to hoodwink the corrupt York Citystet political machine. Another early Gardner Black Mask character, Ed Jenkins, the ``Phantom Crook,'' appears in the collection Dead Men's Letters , published last year. (July)