Perry Mason

I’m not really a Perry Mason guy. I’m just not.

I have fond memories of hearing the famous introductory music for the old TV show starring Raymond Burr, and walking out to the living room and seeing my father watching it. In those childhood memories, I always imagine this happening in the wee hours, after my father returned from his late night shift at work.  I’m not sure that it was all that late. After all, these were the days before we had cable TV, and broadcast TV just was not on all that late.  Nonetheless, I have since watched some of those black and white classics in my adult years. And they are fine, and enjoyable way to spend an hour. I can take or leave ol’ Raymond Burr as Perry, though.

The Erle Stanley Gardner novels are not exactly to my taste either (for the record, I prefer the Cool and Lam series he wrote under the A.A. Fair pen name). If you like your mysteries to stack plot twist upon plot twist upon plot twist upon plot twist (you get the picture), then you will love Gardner’s Perry yarns.

Which brings us to HBO’s new series titled Perry Mason.  It is three episodes into its run, now. Up until episode three I have been in a wait and see mode. Episode three sees me jumping all in.

Della Street is a total bad ass, strong female character. I’ve liked her in the first two. In episode three, she is another level of bad ass female insisting the men up their game.

The Paul Drake character connects with Perry.  Drake in this version of the Mason-verse is a black cop. Now, it would be easy to write this off as a play for political correctness (or whatever they are calling not being a total douche-bag these days). But that would fail to recognize that exploring this character is fascinating storytelling. What would it be like to be an honorable cop, among a den of thieves (LAPD), in 1920’S LA?  What about a black one? It just adds some nice tension to Drake’s story… the pull of his family adding to that tension. That Drake has finally connected with Mason, probably, means we will get to see more of this tension. And I’m looking forward to it.

And more Della!

Perry, on the other hand?  Eh. I should like this Perry more than I do. He’s a gritty, private investigator rather than an attorney. That is my kind of guy. But I’m having a hard time with him, though the acting has been fine. I have to believe that this opening series is meant as backstory, and eventually Perry becomes the attorney behind that booming opening score. I do like the PI stuff. I am just having a difficult time actually liking the guy.

But, I am sold on the show,  because of Della and Drake, and great cinematography, and, yes, a twisty as hell story.

Are any of you watching?  What do you think?

–TD

James Lee Burke

James Lee Burke is my favorite living writer (and he is a writer…he continues to write into his 80s). He’s also my literary hero. Those two things aren’t necessarily inclusive, but  for me Burke is both things.

The hero part comes from his persistence in getting his novel The Lost Get Back Boogie published. Burke was published in his twenties and met with some critical acclaim for his literary novels. Then, he went nearly a decade without being published. Boogie was rejected over 100 times by editors before finding a home with LSU Press. It went one to be nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.  His next novel was The Neon Rain, a literary detective novel which paved the way for his best-selling career. He’s also my hero for being a “literary” genre writer. He is without any doubt in my mind the greatest living  American writer of prose. Seriously, I’d put his craft up against Pynchon, DeLillo, Morrison and McCarthy any day. Burke comes out on top in this reader’s mind.

In today’s environment of ghostwriting and collaborative, Patterson-esque writing, it would be easy to conclude that 80+ year old Burke may go down that path. But only if you have never read his work. His voice (see yesterday’s post) is so compelling, so unique that it simply cannot be replicated.

No, we will know when Burke has stopped writing. Unfortunately, it will be when he has passed.

There are plenty of reasons that he is my favorite writer that has nothing to do with him being my hero, though.

He writes vividly of setting. (One of those settings being lush, south Louisiana)

His characters are colorful, larger than life beings.

He writes unapologetically of the violent tendencies of man. And he does so in a way that makes you realize that the violence victimizes the inflictor as much as the victim.

His explorations of evil are downright Biblical.

He believably covers themes of the struggles of the poverty stricken in the face of greed.

He does all of the above in the mystery/crime genre framework.

 

April Writing Stats

April 1 – 1038

April 2 – 1072

Total – 2110 words