Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Case of the Vagabond Virgin

Out of the more than 100 Perry Mason novels, I think I've read about a dozen. I've yet to be disappointed in them, forgiving the thin characters and the sometimes repetitive dialog. Instead I admire the puzzles and the twists, just like any other whodunit fan out there would. Oh, and not to mention the usually wonderful covers these capers came wrapped in.

Pocket Books, 1953
Published in 1948, The Case of the Vagabond Virgin is sort of a neat little case, in which Mason's client, John Racer Addison, picks up cute little hitchhiker, Veronica Dale (the vagabond virgin of the title) and winds up being charged with the murder of his business partner, Edgar Z. Ferrell. Veronica has a knack for making men fall all over themselves in fatherly devotion to the protection of her innocence, in spite of the fact that she's got this habit of picking up rides with strangers. Addison, a wealthy manager of a department store, is no different. He's a blowhard, pompous, arrogant, pushy, and a dunce when it comes to babes like the "virginal" Veronica Dale. Also in the mix is a sleazy little blackmailer named Eric Hansell, who seems to conveniently know just the opportunity needed to put the squeeze on guys like Addison. The case follows some pretty typical twists, involving forged checks, an impostor, confusing timelines, tricky business transactions, and a couple of dames who have no problem lying through their lipstick. And of course, the neat courtroom shenanigans that these books are famous for.

Mason has been around forever in books, movies, and television. I can't help but see Raymond Burr as Mason whenever reading one of the novels. Same with William Hopper as Paul Drake. But I'll admit that I have to force myself to envision someone besides Barbara Hale when it comes to Mason's assistant, Della Street. Hale never did it for me in the TV shows. Instead I'd rather picture a babe more resembling Modesty Blaise. It's an effort, but I'm up to the task.

Artist Robert McGinnis
Now this would be a Della Street no guy could ignore!

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