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University at Buffalo Libraries

George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

The Case of the Howling Dog

cover image By: Gardner, Erle Stanley (male)
Publisher: Pocket Books, Inc. (116) - 6th printing
Place of Publication: New York, NY
Catalog #: Kelley Box 251: PS3513 .A6322 C24875 1942
Contributor: M. Moran

General

Era: 1930s Author as on Cover: Erle Stanley Gardner Geographic Locale: California; Santa Barbara is mentioned as the city from which the Cartrights and Foleys came (could be Los Angeles, although not identified as such) Date of Publication: 1942  |  Original Date: 1934 Setting: urban; a large city in California Motives: revenge, jealousy, fear of being caught

Plot Summary

Attorney Perry Mason is hired by a distraught young man named Arthur Cartright to handle his will, leaving his money to a neighbor, Mrs. Clinton Foley, and to defend the beneficiary if it is necessary. He also wants to complain about Mr. Foley's howling dog. Cartright disappears, and the woman named as his beneficiary is accused of the murder of the husband who deserted her. Mason, with the assistance of detective Paul Drake and secretary Della Street, successfully pursues a verdict of "not guilty" for his client.


Major Characters

Perry Mason adult male, broad shoulders, a lawyer who describes himself as "a paid gladiator. I have to go in and fight, that's what they hire me for....Everything I got in the world I got through fighting." Throughout this case, Mason comes close to the line dividing legal and illegal actions. Paul Drake and Della Street warn him over and over that he's skating on thin ice, but brash and bold, Mason continues on his way. He constantly paces restlessly, and at one point, he says, "I got a couple of hours sleep and a good Turkish bath and a shave. That's all I need while I'm working on a case."

Paul Drake adult male, detective who assists Mason with his cases; described as being the opposite of Mason, often with a grin on his face or a "lazy twinkle" in his eye. He is a "tall man, with drooping shoulders, a head that was thrust forward, eyes that held an expression of droll humor. Long experience with the vagaries of human nature had made him take everything, from murder down, with a serene tranquility." Although Drake warns Mason about his activities, he seems to admire the other man. As a detective, Drake has other men in his employ, and does a lot of investigating with the telephone.

Della Street adult female, savvy legal secretary; she often looks at her boss with "eyes wide and starry." She is in her late twenties, and obviously awed by and smitten with her boss
Clinton Foley: (a.k.a. Forbes), adult male, rich, 30s, womanizer who has run off with a friend's wife, deserting his own wife, and brought along his former secretary to be his housekeeper and mistress

Thelma Benton adult female, was Foley/Forbes' secretary, runs away with him to be housekeeper for him and Paula Cartright

Bessie Forbes adult female, Mason's client, she is accused of killing the husband who deserted her

Arthur Cartright adult male, "broad-shouldered, rather heavy-set man, of about thirty-two, with haunted brown eyes" whose hands tremble. He approaches Mason with the expression of "a very sick man looking at a competent physician;" disappears from the story after setting it in motion


Weapons

guns. When Drake urges Perry Mason to carry a gun when he confronts Foley/Forbes, Mason says, "I carry my two fists and my wits. I fight with those. Sometimes I carry a gun, but I don't make a practice of it. It's bad training. It teaches one to rely entirely on a gun. Force should only be a last resort."


Level of Violence

minimal; the murder scene is described, but not the actual murder


Sexuality

although the reader is led to believe that the underlying cause of the situation is sexual attraction, people falling in and out of love, and Foley/Forbes' womanizing, we are shown no scenes as proof. The closest we come to a romantic moment is when Della congratulates Perry for winning his case. "She stared at him for a moment with her lips quivering with words that she could not express, then suddenly flung her arms wide apart, and embraced him once more." Earlier, when she declared, "Chief, I doubted you once. I just want you to know that I'll never do it again. I'm for you, right or wrong." Perry Mason responded with a smile and a pat on her head.


Gender Roles

traditional, reflective of the 1950s era in which the novel was written


Ethnicity

Chinese characters are referred to as "Chinks." Foley's cook has "glittering, beady eyes," and speaks in the most pathetic broken English. "Heap no savvy....maybe so you callum somebody make int'plet whassa malla." In another instance, Mason speaks of someone being "free, white, and 21."


Alcohol/Drug Abuse

most of the male characters smoke cigarettes; Drake also smokes cigars.


Law Enforcement

the police are portrayed as rough, mean-spirited, and not very intelligent. The state prosecutor, Claude Drumm, gets similar treatment. Judge Markham uses an air of complete detachment to cover "the wary watchfulness with which he filtered the proceedings through his mind." He presides fairly during the trial.


Added Features

Mason's reiteration of his role and vocation is of interest, especially as the story is somewhat open-ended and justice is not meted out according to the letter of the law. "I have repeatedly told you," says Perry Mason, "that I am not a judge; nor am I a jury....I acted only as her lawyer." When Della accuses her boss of being a cross between a saint and a devil, he responds, "All men are," and waits for his next client, "his eyes sparkling with keen interest."


Subject Headings

California/ Trials/ Revenge/ Greed/ Jealousy/ Law and Lawyers