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University at Buffalo Libraries

George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

The Case of the Terrified Typist

cover image By: Gardner, Erle Stanley (male)
Publisher: Pocket Books, Inc. (6108)
Place of Publication: New York, NY
Catalog #: Kelley Box 253: PS3513 .A6322 C29 1962
Contributor: K. Quinlivan


Era: 1950s Author as on Cover: Erle Stanley Gardner Geographic Locale: Los Angeles, California Date of Publication: 1962  |  Original Date: 1956 Setting: urban; law offices, homes and offices of witnesses, courtroom Motives: jewel theft, smuggling, murder

Plot Summary

The frightened young woman hired as a temporary typist by attorney Perry Mason is suspected of breaking into the South African Gem Importing and Exploration Company whose offices are located in Mason's building. Soon after the break-in, Mason is hired to defend Duane Jefferson, a partner with the gem importing firm, on a charge of murdering diamond smuggler Munroe Baxter. Despite the fact that no body has been recovered, Jefferson is accused of murdering Baxter after supposedly assisting him in a faked suicide on board a cruise ship. Mason squares off in court against district attorney Hamilton Burger, and contends with a maze of lying witnesses as well as a complicated scheme of international double-crossings before the final legal showdown.

Major Characters

Perry Mason adult male, defense attorney/detective

Ann Riddle adult female, tall, blonde, operates the cigar stand in Mason's office building, keen observer of those who pass by

Della Street adult female, attractive, efficient, helpful, Mason's personal legal secretary

Paul Drake adult male, owner of the Drake Detective Agency, provides the legwork to support Mason's case

Walter Irving adult male, partner in a gem importing firm; likes to be seen in the company of attractive women, fond of gambling and the nightlife in Paris

Marline Chaumont adult female, attractive, "party girl" reputation but seemingly devoted to the care of her mentally ill brother

Duane Jefferson adult male, aloof, reserved, unwilling to reveal the true details of his case to anyone

Munroe Baxter adult male, diamond smuggler whose murder sparks the arrest of Duane Jefferson

Mae Wallis Jordan adult female, terrific typist, her correspondence with Duane Jefferson forms an important piece of the puzzle

Hamilton Burger adult male, middle-aged, overconfident, district attorney who would like nothing better than to claim victory over Mason in this trial

Judge Hartley adult male, middle-aged, calm, competent



Level of Violence

brief second-hand description of the murder scene by witnesses; little overt violence


several female characters act in a flirtatious manner while on the witness stand. Mason and Della Street share a personal as well as a professional relationship, but this is not explored in any detail.

Gender Roles

reflect 1950s attitudes and culture; female characters are primarily office clerks, receptionists, or secretaries. There are several brief references to female characters as a "babe" and a "dish".


all characters are presumably Caucasian; there are several references made to the uninhibited nature of French society as opposed to the more conservative attitudes of American culture.

Alcohol/Drug Abuse

several characters smoke cigarettes (minor description); alcohol is mentioned briefly and drinking occurs in social settings.

Law Enforcement

the city police force (presumably the L.A.P.D.) is depicted as competent and efficient, but plays a very minor role, only called upon when necessary. The judge in the case is fair-minded and willing to grant each side an equal chance to prove its case.

Added Features

humor is evident in Mason's dry, rather sarcastic wit. The legal system is well documented by means of the verbal interchanges which occur during the trial. Relies heavily on dialogue rather than description, and is full of complex plot twists and turns.

Subject Headings

California - Los Angeles/ Public Prosecutors/ Law and Lawyers/ Mason, Perry/ Murder/ Theft/ Smuggling/ Trials

Psychological Elements

a lobotomy was performed on one of the characters.