When Erle Stanley Gardner( 1889 – 1970), the famous American crime novelist, began contributing stories to pulp magazines in the twenties, he used his own two fingers to type. However, realising that self-imposed targets of 1,200, 000 words a year were unlikely to be achieved in this primitive way, he took on what eventually became a ‘ team ‘ of secretary/typists. In this press photo of 1943 from the El Mundo archive we see two of them, Jean Bethel and Henriette Trilling, on either side of the ( ) year old novelist. The two women seem to be performing different tasks. Bethel is possibly taking notes on plots and characters for the novel that her partner is typing out from Gardner’s dictation, for future novels or for the travel books that the prolific writer also published. Gardner’s secretaries also acted as temporary corpses—assuming positions on the floor for added verisimilitude.
Over the years Gardner must have become very attached to Jean Bethel in particular. In 1968, following the death of his first wife, he took his ‘ faithful secretary’, then aged 66, as his second. At his death in 1970, aged 80, Jean became his literary executor and twenty years later, at 88, she was still administering his estate, which included a huge archive. [R.R.]