by Gina Sestak
Looking back to our early influences in the mystery genre, most of us mention Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. Who can forget Nancy tooling around with George in her roadster, following clues that often led her into danger? Or Frank and Joe working together to find the murderer? Then I remember Perry.
I didn't read the books by Erle Stanley Gardner until adulthood, but I watched the black and white tv show religiously. Aided by his secretary Della Street and private detective Paul Drake, attorney Perry Mason fought to prove his clients' innocence. He always prevailed, despite the best efforts of Police Lieutenant Tragg and District Attorney Hamilton Burger. [Ham Burger! How's that for a character name?]
I've been rewatching some of those early episodes, courtesy of Netflix, trying to figure out what makes them so appealing, even after all these years. Variety came through the clients themselves, who ranged from elderly miners to shapely fan dancers, and the details of their particular situations, but the interaction between the regular characters also helps to hold interest, despite the fact that there is little development over the years. We never learn much about Della's backstory, or Paul's. They are stereotypes - the faithful secretary, the dogged detective, filling their niches.
Maybe that's the key. We really don't have to find a new and different plot or unusual characters. We can rewrite the same tired story time and time again, using the same stock characters and, with a few minor tweaks, make it work.