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A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Hermeneutics of Perry Mason


These are the rules, gleaned after a weekend-long Perry Mason marathon on cable.


Da Man

  • When you have gone to meet someone and you knock on the door, it will swing open.  Do not enter that room.  
  • When you enter a room and find the dead body of your enemy on the floor and a weapon lying beside it, do not pick up and handle that weapon with a I-wonder-what-this-is expression on your face.  
  • If Perry Mason takes the weapon you have picked up and gives you another he has taken from a different source and the police collect the substitute weapon, that substitute will turn out somehow to be the actual murder weapon.  
  • If you are the actual perpetrator, do not attend the hearing or trial, since at some point you will blurt out your guilt.
  • When you hire Perry Mason as your attorney, do not lie through your teeth about where you were or who you were with or your background.  
  • Never, ever get angry enough to say "I could kill him," or any similar phrase.  The police will infallibly learn of it and will never regard it as either jocular or hyperbolic.  
  • Lt. Tragg. Old School detective and
    self-describes hipster, daddy-o.
  • If you are Lt. Tragg or any other police investigator and Perry Mason is involved, you can save the County time and expense by immediately arresting the least likely individual peripherally related to the case. 
  • If you do this, you will be wrong precisely once.  
  • If you are a young, innocent female, you will be arrested.  
  • If you are a young, innocent female and someone asks you to do something that seems to make no sense, do not do that thing.  It is a set-up.  
  • No one said 'set-up' in the 1960s.  They said 'frame.'
  • If you need to place a long-distance call, you must make arrangements with an operator, who will track down your party and call you back when a line becomes available.  
  • All the witnesses will be in the courtroom, listening to one another's testimony.  
  • Courts martial are an exception to this rule, and specific mention will be made of this point.  
  • Perry Mason is permitted to practice law in any jurisdiction in the world, including Communist East Germany.  
  • If any murder takes place in rural California (which evidently still existed at the time), there will be at least one colorful old codger involved.  
  • He will have a mule.  
  • In half the cases, he will be the perp.  
  • In the 1960s, no one said "perp."  
  • They also did not "read you your rights," except in courts martial.  
    Paul Drake, clueless with all the clues
  • When you hire the most competent private investigator in LA, Paul Drake, he will never actually crack the case.  He will not understand the significance of the evidence he gathers. 
  • Corollary: Do not employ other private investigators: 80% of them are blackmailers, and a significant fraction are the perp.
  • At the end of the trial or hearing, the great investigator will need to have everything spelled out for him.
  • At some point in a preliminary hearing or a trial, the judge will discover that it is almost lunchtime (or end of day) and will call a recess (or adjournment).  This will nearly always happen at the same time during the episode.
  • Sometimes the time will be noticed by Perry Mason and he will ask for the adjournment.  
  • All crucial evidence will be discovered during recesses or adjournments.  
  • Everyone smokes.  No one says, "Do you mind if I smoke."
  • If at any time a woman takes out a cigarette, the nearest man will light it for her.
  • No woman has ever opened a car door for herself, but will wait for the man, the driver, to come around the car and open it for her.
  • During any hearing or trial, Paul Drake will enter the courtroom at a crucial point with some bit of evidence vital to the case.  
  • Della Street.  Hubba-hubba.
    Della Street can do more acting with her eyes than most actresses can with their whole bodies.   
  • She has placed more calls than Uhuru in Star Trek TOS.
  • She will do anything Perry asks of her.  Anything.
  • She is also hot.

    Hamilton Burger, Bull-goose Loser
  • If your name is Hamilton Burger, do not bother running for district attorney.  You will be the bull-goose loser. 
  • At some point in every hearing, Hamilton Burger will object to a question as being "incompetent, irrelevant, and immaterial."
  • At some other point, he will object to "improper cross-examination."   
  • If you are an actor playing Hamilton Burger, do not attend rowdy nude marijuana parties.  Hollywood will actually find this objectionable in your day and age.  
  • What sort of parents would name their kid Ham Burger?

    David Gideon, teen idol?
  • Young teen heartthrobs hired as legal assistants will add nothing to the show and will appear as bizarre as Kookie from 77 Sunset Strip












    scene from alternate universe

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