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University at Buffalo Libraries

George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

The Case of the Grinning Gorilla

cover image By: Gardner, Erle Stanley (male)
Publisher: Pocket Books, Inc. (1121)
Place of Publication: New York, NY
Catalog #: Kelley Box 250: PS3513 .A6322 C2483 1956
Contributor: N. Williamson


Era: 1950s Author as on Cover: Erle Stanley Gardner Geographic Locale: California (the city is not named) Date of Publication: 1956  |  Original Date: 1952 Setting: urban Motives: theft, murder

Plot Summary

After purchasing at auction a package containing photos and diaries of a beautiful young woman named Helen Cadmus, Perry Mason begins investigating the circumstances surrounding her sudden disappearance and presumed death. Mason soon discovers that Cadmus was employed as the secretary to Benjamin Addicks, an eccentric millionaire with a mysterious past, who conducts psychological research involving the hypnotism of gorillas. When Addicks is murdered, Mason is retained by another of Addicks' former employees, Josephine Kempton, who has been accused of committing the crime. Mason must work through Addicks' inner circle of business associates to unlock the secrets of Addicks' past and solve the murder.

Major Characters

Perry Mason "Chief," adult male, physical characteristics are not described, defense attorney

Nathan Fallon adult male, high bulging forehead, short pug nose, thick glasses, balding, employed by Benjamin Addicks

Mortimer Hershey adult male, tall, slender, large gray expressionless eyes, Benjamin Addicks' business manager

Herman Barnwell adult male, middle-aged, chunky, powerfully built, Benjamin Addicks' brother

Benjamin Addicks adult male, middle-aged, barrel-chested, heavy jaw, short black hair, heavily bandaged face due to gorilla attack, businessman involved in mining, eccentric millionaire, involved in psychological experiments with gorillas

Della Street adult female, attractive, Perry Mason's legal secretary

Paul Drake adult male, tall, cadaverous, solemn-looking, private investigator and owner of the Drake Detective Agency

Josephine Kempton adult female, middle-aged, spare, poker-faced, with a tired, patient smile, housekeeper for Benjamin Addicks

Helen Cadmus adult female, attractive, good figure, secretary to Benjamin Addicks, presumed dead

Sidney Harwick adult male, middle-aged, tall, bony-faced, long nose, sharp chin, bushy eyebrows, gray eyes, Benjamin Addicks' attorney

Lieutenant Tragg adult male, tall, affable, good-looking, police lieutenant

Hamilton Burger adult male, physical characteristics not described, district attorney


knife, gun; two alleged gorilla attacks

Level of Violence

the discovery of the body of Benjamin Addicks contains a brief description of his injuries; he died from stab wounds. There is a brief description of Addicks' injuries from an alleged gorilla attack. There is a bit of gun-waving and an attempted murder with a knife and a gun at the end of the book. The murder itself is not described, just the discovery of the body. The description is not particularly graphic or gory. The other incidents of threatened violence are not graphic or detailed. The most violent scene described in the book is the one at the end in which Herman Barnwell and Mortimer Hershey attempt to murder Perry Mason. There is one murder, a couple of minor incidents of violence, and the fight at the end.


when we discover that Helen Cadmus is really alive and has secretly married Benjamin Addicks, we discover that she had become pregnant with his child, but there are no intimate scenes in the book. There is some flirtation between Perry Mason and Della Street, but they are always interrupted before anything intimate happens. There is no explicit sexual content in this book.

Gender Roles

traditional; the women are secretaries and housekeepers, the men are detectives, lawyers, policemen, or businessmen. The characters are portrayed as typical men and women of the time period.


there is no mention of race or non-white characters in the book; the characters are all presumed to be white.

Alcohol/Drug Abuse

liquor was forced into Benjamin Addicks to cause him to pass out before he was killed. Other than that, alcohol and drugs do not play a role.

Law Enforcement

Perry Mason, a lawyer, and Paul Drake, a private detective, do all of the work that results in actually solving the murder. The local police and the district attorney are involved in investigating and prosecuting the accused, but they are unable to uncover what really happened.

Added Features

all of the violence in the novel is committed by humans, but the people are all afraid of the gorillas. The murderers try to make it look like the murder was committed either by Josephine Kempton or an escaped gorilla; they don't care which way it goes as long as they get away with it.

Subject Headings

California/ Mason, Perry/ Murder/ Gorillas/ Theft/ Law and Lawyers/ Public Prosecutors

Psychological Elements

Benjamin Addicks supposedly keeps gorillas and conducts psychological experiments with them because he has committed an unspecified murder years before, and wants to understand the roots of this unforgivable act, to make peace with himself.