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George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

The Case of the One-eyed Witness

cover image By: Gardner, Erle Stanley (male)
Publisher: Pocket Books, Inc. (Cardinal edition C-320)
Place of Publication: New York, NY
Catalog #: Kelley Box 252: PS3513 .A6322 C269 1959
Contributor: J. Adams-Volpe


Era: 1950s Author as on Cover: Erle Stanley Gardner Geographic Locale: Los Angeles, California Date of Publication: 1959  |  Original Date: 1950 Setting: urban, residential areas; post World War II Motives: murder to protect an adoption and blackmail scheme which feeds on prejudice against Japanese

Plot Summary

Perry Mason receives a telephone call from an unknown terrified woman asking him to expect a package to be delivered to him, and begging him to contact a man named Medford D. Carlin. Since a retainer is included, Mason follows instructions and meets with Carlin. He then involves his detective friend Paul Drake in the case, and they discover that their client is Myrtle Fargo, whose husband is soon murdered. Convinced his client is responsible, but in self defense, Mason attempts to establish an alibi for Myrtle, placing her on a bus at the time of the murder. A witness, Mrs. Newton Maynard, swears that Myrtle got on the bus at a later time. Mason uses optometric science to discredit the witness and unravel a case centered around an adoption blackmail scheme run by Myrtle's husband and Carlin in which they convinced adoptive parents, including Myrtle, that their children had some Japanese blood, and then demanding money to be silent about the ethnic heritage. The novel reflects cultural prejudice against the Japanese following World War II. The witness, Mrs. Maynard, turns out to be Carlin's girlfriend, and she murdered Fargo when he began to get cold feet about their operations.

Major Characters

Perry Mason adult male, robust, strong, lawyer

Medford D. Carlin adult male, late middle age, heavy set, poor vision, retired, relationship with Mrs. Newton Maynard, interested in printing and photography

Mrs. Newton Maynard adult female, middle-aged, poor vision, relationship with Medford D. Carlin, widow who lives on insurance

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

Paul Drake adult male, attractive, fit, private detective who works for Perry Mason

Arthman D. Fargo adult male, robust, well-built, real estate agent

Pierre LaRue adult male, late middle age, heavyset, works in a night club

Myrtle Fargo adult female, attractive, wife and mother, framed for the murder of her husband

Celinda Gilson adult female, very attractive, works in night club, Fargo's girlfriend

Percy R. Danvers adult male, witness, parking lot attendant

Dr. Carlton D. Radcliffe adult male, aged, frail, witness; optometrist

Hamilton Burger adult male, prosecuting attorney

Lieutenant Tragg adult male, police investigator


knife, fists, fire

Level of Violence

very little description; two acts are related to the reader in a straightforward manner with little description


the relationship between Perry Mason and Della Street is often implied, but little romantic or sexual activity occurs; Celinda Gilson is depicted in graphic sexual manner -- naked at one point.

Gender Roles

roles of both male and female characters are strictly traditional


prejudice against those of Japanese heritage is central to the plot. The novel was originally published shortly after World War II.

Alcohol/Drug Abuse

cigarettes are smoked steadily throughout the novel by most of the characters, including Perry Mason and Della Street.

Law Enforcement

police and prosecutors are less than effective although they are efficient. Lieutenant Tragg is the investigating officer, and Hamilton Burger is the prosecuting attorney -- Mason outsmarts both of them.

Added Features

Gardner acknowledges information from experts in optometry and from Dr. Robert P. Brittain, a Scotsman who is an expert in forensic medicine. American prejudice toward those of Japanese heritage in the years closely following World War II is central to the novel.

Subject Headings

California - Los Angeles/ Law and Lawyers/ Mason, Perry/ Murder/ Trials/ Adoption/ Japanese - United States/ Blackmail/ Prejudices