Following last week’s end of the first season of HBO’s Perry Mason reimagining, I decided to turn to the original source material for the first time. The Case of the Velvet Claws is the first of 82 Perry Mason novels by Erle Stanley Gardner, first published in 1933. In it, a woman hires Mason, wanting to keep a scandal rag owned by her husband from discovering she was out with another man. When the husband turns up dead, she tries to keep the police away from here by pointing the finger at Perry, manages to avoid being double-crossed and still fights to free her from the charges.
The beginning of the series introduces us to mainstays Perry Mason, Della Street, and Paul Drake, but doesn’t do much in the way of giving them any sort of discernable character or background. All you learn of them is the job that they hold, lawyer, secretary, and investigator, respectively. If I wasn’t coming in to this with an existing knowledge of, and a certain fondness for, the property, I don’t know if that would have been more of a problem. As it is, the Mason of the novel is a little rougher around the edges than the Raymond Burr version and a little more in line with the Matthew Rhys version.
If I manage to come across more of the Mason novels at a decent price, I’d be willing to go back for more. To be honest, I’m somewhat surprised they aren’t being republished to capitalize on the publicity of the new series.