The creator of Perry Mason with two of his team of secretaries

Erle Stanley Gardner 001When 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.]

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Professor Alexandre Lacassagne – a real Sexton Blake

Found in the endless Haining archive, an article cut from The Union Jack Detective Supplement, undated but about 1925. Peter Haining was a collector of Sexton Blake books so this piece on the scientific / forensic detective Professor Alexandre Lacassagne (1843-1924) would have interested him.

A Real Sexton Blake

By Donald Campbell.

They read like improbabilities, the achievements of this real-life Sexton Blake. But we credit them when we see the working methods of Professor Lacassagne, who has recently died.

  A few weeks ago there died at Lyons one of the greatest scientists of his own kind in the world.
This was Professor Alexandre Lacassagne, honorary professor to the Faculty of Medicine, who passed away at the ripe old age of eighty-two. He was the first man in Europe to apply science to detective work. He served as an officer in the army of Napoleon III., and fought through the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71.He was taken prisoner. When released he was attached to the Bataillons d’Afrique, then a species of depot for all the rough characters who came to do their military service, usually very much against their wills.
  First he merely studied characters, but afterwards the real criminals, and specialized offenders who came under his treatment.

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