Erle Stanley Gardner (1889-1970) is the master of American mystery fiction. A civil rights lawyer, his mysteries contain intricate, ever-twisting plots. Challenging and full of surprises, these are whodunits in the best tradition. He wrote 146 books, 85 of which feature Perry Mason. The fictional attorney became the basis of a number of television series (reputedly 271 episodes), and achieved an enviable record for winning his cases. Erle Stanley Gardner has an amazing sales record: at the height of his popularity in the mid-1960s he was selling an average of 26,000 copies of his novels a day, making him one of the world's best selling author's, easily outstripping at the time Agatha Christie and Barbara Cartland combined. Born in Malden, Massachusetts, Gardner went on to attend Law School in Indiana, but this only lasted for around a month, being suspended because of various distractions to his studies, especially boxing. He moved to California and became a self-taught attorney before opening his own law office. However, being bored with this he ended up working in sales for five years. Returning to the law in 1921, he created another law firm, but again was not really enthusiastic, other than when acting as a trial lawyer. Writing was his great passion and eventually he gave up the law completely to pursue a full time writing career. In this he was prodigious, setting himself a target of 66,000 words per week. His output under various pseudonyms, as well as his own, went wider than Perry Mason and also extended to non-fiction. He became an expert on the early Mexican exploitation of California. In later life, law did play a significant part in his life once again. With friends, he set up what they termed 'The Court of Last Resort', aimed at investigating and attempting to reverse what they perceived as miscarriages of justice because of poor legal representation, or evidential problems. Gardner himself once wrote: 'I want to make my hero a fighter, not by having him be ruthless to women and underlings, but by creating a character who, with infinite patience jockeys his enemies into a position where he can deliver one good knockout punch.'