SECRETS OF THE WORLD'S BEST-SELLING WRITER: The Storytelling Techniques of Erle Stanley Gardner by Francis L. & Roberta B. Fugate Fugate

SECRETS OF THE WORLD'S BEST-SELLING WRITER: The Storytelling Techniques of Erle Stanley Gardner

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Overblown title for a lot of nothing. The hyperbole-spouting authors have culled extensively from the Univ. of Texas' Erle Stanley Gardner Papers (""the most remarkable collection of literary archival material in existence""), but they don't tell us anything that wasn't covered very nicely in Dorothy B. Hughes' Gardner bio, The Case of the Real Perry Mason (1978). Here again are Gardner's persistent self-education as a pulp writer, the creation of Perry Mason, the operation of the ""fiction factory"" on wheels (""Someone had to keep track of all the automobile license numbers he used in his books and stories and maintain a log to avoid duplication""), the tetchy correspondence with editor Thayer Hobson. And, as for Gardner's much-touted ""secrets,"" they're the stuff of any low-level creative-writing class. ""Don't Be Hackneyed."" ""Get Your Reader's Sympathy."" ""Action! Action! Action!"" He had a basic law: ""Purpose, expressed or implied, opposing Obstacle, expressed or implied, yields Conflict."" He had nine steps to a mystery plot. (""1. The act of primary villainy/2. Motivation for the act of villainy."") And he had a theory that ""certain activities and appetites are basic human motivations: desire for sex, wealth,"" etc. True, these banal generalizations did work for Gardner. And some of the specific workbook notes here are mildly intriguing, while his obsessive charts and outlines and lists are mildly amusing. But, unlike Robert Barnard's perceptive study of Agatha Christie (A Talent to Deceive, p. 477), this amorphous mishmash provides no real illumination of Gardner's best-selling success; stick with the Hughes biography, and call this one the Case of the Padded Potboiler.

Pub Date: Sept. 22nd, 1980
Publisher: Morrow