cbr square series
Well, now, it’s been a minute, hasn’t it? Man, I love this series, and this one, #23, was just plain fun. Not a courtroom in sight, and instead of Paul Drake putting in a bit of sleuthing footwork for Perry, he gets to be bait. A good time was had by all.
Banning Clarke and Salty Bowers are a pair of prospectors, seeking lost gold mines in Southern California. (Ahahaha, sure, boys.) But Banning got mixed up with a wealthy dame (now deceased) and is currently holed up in her seaside mansion with her family and assorted hangers-on. And his ticker is giving him problems. Not to worry, his buddy Salty has come to save him. He rustles up a little campsite in a cactus garden on a corner of the estate, and as soon as Banning gets some plain camp cooking and a few nights under the stars, Salty is positive he’ll be good to go, and the buddies can resume their nomad life in the desert. But this place is crawling with all sorts of colorful characters, such as Perry’s cattle baron buddy from down the street to the former hash-slinging cook from a Mojave greasy spoon, a Ma Kettle type. Arsenic poisoning seems to be running rampant, although no one dies from that, and there are all sorts of crooked share trading schemes going on. Let just say this place is LIT.
Now one of the fun bits for me with Perry Mason books, is to try to figure out the actual locations. You do have to know a bit about the history of Southern California, and its road system at the time. This was written in 1943 (pre-freeways) and I believe the seaside mansion on the hills is in Malibu. The ranch where Perry and Della get to ride horses with the baron is, I think, King Gillette Ranch in Agoura. The gold was placer gold, the only kind discovered in So. Cal, in Placerita Canyon (now Santa Clarita), and they were traveling there from San Bernardino via the south rim of Antelope Valley, through Pinyon Hills. OK, now I know where we are.
And Paul? Well, his assignment to show up in the above greasy spoon as a drunk prospector with a bit of gold to flash around and tales to tell of where he found it. Lad seems to enjoy his assignment.
Paul Drake lurched forward, peered up at Mason with the intense scrutiny of someone who is having some difficulty focusing his eyes. “Hello, stranger,” he said. “Let me introduce myself. My name’s Drake. I’m half owner of the richest bonanza ever discovered in the whole mining history of the West. I’m happy. You, my boy, look hungry. You look thirsty. You look dissatisfied. You look unhappy. In short, my lad, you look like a Republican on an appropriations committee. . . . let me buy you a piece of pie.” *snicker*
And just for the record, Mason makes another offer to make Della an honest woman, but she is still having none of that. You go ahead and live your best life, girl.