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Mondays with Mason: Chapter One

The Perry Mason Recap: Season One, Episode One

Anyone who has spent some time in lending libraries around Chennai would know that Perry Mason was not just a book that you borrowed, but a whole shelf of paperbacks to get through. 

This is how them shelves be labelled and helped boys (at the time) such as me optimize our time within their premises: 

Romance (skip)

Periodicals (10 mins, mostly Cosmo) 

Comics (10 mins, mostly Phantom) 

And bulk of the time…

Agatha Christie

Perry Mason

So you see reader, Perry Mason was not just a set of books, it was a genre, a name that even blocked its author Erle Stanley Gardner out of memory. Maybe it was easy to label it as just Perry Mason. 

Speaking of names, the books had very intriguing titles, almost always a case attached to it; like the case of the velvet claws or the case of the black-eyed blonde (incidentally the black-eyed blonde part was borrowed for a recent Marlowe novel title, there’s our fun fact) and when the first episode  of the HBO TV series dropped, I was quite disappointed when it read ‘chapter one’. 

But the makers make up for the lack of imagination in titles with the richness of the settings. 

It’s 1930s Los Angeles.

The great depression, the cynics utopia, the golden age of pulp that relished the washed-out wit of detectives, the time when Chandler, Hammett (the Maltese Falcon was exactly 1930, there’s another fun fact), Gardner and a whole lot of others wrote their weight in gold. I could go on, because I love this as my literature and it’s there in this updated series from image one. 

It’s one thing recreating the city visually, it’s another recreating what I thought it was from the books. It begins with a ransom call and a baby kidnapping gone wrong, the unspeakable happens in which even a bit of thread could be so diabolical. 

That’s the case, it’s graphic and I understand why they don’t want to put in the title. 

When we meet our hero, it’s raining and he walks through his name credit, styled to resemble the Warner films of yore into a diner. Perry Mason, detective, not lawyer, detective and currently he is on a tail job. Classic. 

If you are a Depression era detective you must have the some of the following 

🔫 a pistol, because you never know what you get on the job

🤣an unhealthy sense of humor, because life’s bad anyway

👮a healthy hatred of uniformed policemen, ex-job maybe

🔬 an eye for detail, every clue counts

🐌a relentlessness search for an end and maybe the truth

👤a perennial love for social distancing

But more importantly, every detective of the time had their own take on life, a running social commentary that walked along with them that when these writers brought it out with the necessary turn of phrase, it became how readers made sense of the world, their own philosophy. 

If Marlowe was the Arthurian Knight, Mason was the one who stood between the underdog and society’s ills and monsters. 

Not in this episode, no, he is a typical detective, his philosophy will hopefully evolve over the course of the show, because there is space in ten episodes to do a lot of character development. 

Here he is quite clueless, when his partner asks him about life and fun and the next few scenes, we uncover layer after layer, his Great War experience, his marriage or lack of it, his diary farm that precariously sits next to a flying club and his general shabby life. Perry seems pretty empty at this point, clearly he has seen a lot and his motivation, although not his only, seems to be to get over with cases and get paid for it. There’s shockingly a streak of unscrupulousness too which comes out when he goes blackmailing, but I couldn’t read greed in him. Again, not typical Mason. 

But what’s typical in these types of stories is that our hero gets hit by thugs and I forgot to add resistance to thugs in my essential detective checklist. 

After much character development, we now have the kidnapped baby case brought to him by the ever terrific John Litgow who plays a senior lawyer (E.B) and our detective. 

That’s all really what I pine for, in a revival like this. 

The case is definitely high profile for Perry, he has to face off with insulting policemen at the crime scene, a shadowy client with deep pockets and deeper faith, a fidgety father who looks good for the killer on paper and a grieving mother who reminds him of his own son, far far away, separated. Oh yeah, there’s Della Street too

As we call to turn the page to chapter 2, our hero literally just has a strand from the case and there are lots of ways in which it could go from here. But is it not the job of the detective to go down the mean streets to get to the truth? 

Stayed tuned, till the next episode of Mondays with Mason. 

Oh yeah, this is a HBO show and it goes without saying.So there’s already at least two scenes that you cannot watch with family, but there’s a certain fun in solo watching of a show which features a lonely detective. 

HBO’s Perry Mason is streaming on Disney+Hotstar in India.

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The Sea-Snake #1

The Sea-Snake

A serial

 

Author’s note on the writing

I would consider myself a very poor scribe, if these stories are not read far and wide in this world; for it is the failure of the writer and not the subject.

Future generations who by sheer bad luck come across this document will wonder if such  a story ever happened, but that is only because I believe that future generations will not be as smart as us (the present) as how we are the dumber miniatures of our ancestors.

Good luck to you all

Publisher’s note on the publishing of this document

I used to run a small press usually used for publishing marriage invitations on yellow slim cardboards, it is obvious that I was forced to publish this dreary account of events, sometimes I feel i have undergone much physical torture and mental agony while the publishing of this document and I am quite happy to let you (the reader) know that your troubles will be miniscule when compared to mine.

This is my monster.

Go ahead read it.

Origins of an unknown enemy (OR) Chapter One

<1940 Madras, the time when dogs sleep and man is awake>

“For any good story, there must a good villain” the teacher said to the class of three people who sat huddled in a rather large class room.

The smartest of the three could not however speak, deprived of his voice; he wrote down “BULLSHIT” in the corner of the university supplied stationary.

Only later did he realised that this was indeed university supplied stationary and crossed it out with irritation, the pencil lines criss-crossing the paper, generating highly unnatural audio waves for an unusually empty class room.

However, him being the smartest student much of this was tackled by the teacher with a slight raise of eyebrow.

As with every story that begins with three characters and finally funnels down to two; the third of the boys will he happily ignored for now.

 <Inquisitive readers can avail themselves with an extended back story of the third character as time goes by; for now let us say he gets married and becomes rich>

Now that you have removed the third student from mind your minds, let us then proceed to the second student.

<Actually wait; let’s stick to the smart first kid for now>

Small as he might be in age, his mental faculty had been steadily climbing day after day and that is why perhaps he is in this class when the rest of the city had gathered at the beach awaiting a spectacle.

 

<Madras 1940, time concurrent to the above setting>

The newspaper men had never seen such a gathering at the beach in all their small time on earth and it was quite odd as to how a rumour had spread across thousands without their help.

“Do you really think this Raja Naagam is big as they say it is?” one innocent man was heard saying, while the man next to him did not answer; the woman slightly away but still at hearing distance shouted.

“This is exactly what my grandmother said, look for the big snake on the beach and the world will end in 14 days after that”

An English Botanist who was actually an Australian burglar in disguise was also a witness to this conversation, and he saw that time was fit for him to join in, and thus he spoke his first lines in the story.

“My names is James; and I collect folklore”

The woman who appeared to have a speaking knowledge of English nodded at James, as though she had known him before, this irritated James.

“The myth of the sea-snake has been around for a century now” said another elderly man.

As these were great times, people were more vocal about their thoughts; the crowd spitting out opinions randomly and hurting everyone except themselves in the process. Another man with a false beard and half knowledge, who wore dark glasses finally, took to a raised platform; where later a statue of a great leader would occupy.

“I am the official representative of the Office of Disbelief, I assure you there is no humungous snake that is going to wash over the Marina today; please do not waste your time and I request you to get back to your duties, even going by your beliefs it is not safe to be here when a monstrous snake attacks a city, please leave” The bearded man shouted into a megaphone, considerably reducing the enthusiasm across the spectrum of people who had gathered.

“This is the last warning, I cannot shout anymore; if you do not heed we have no other option but to run you down either by horses or let the dogs out on you; both these animals are being readied as we speak”

That however was the catch, nobody wanted to be chased by dogs, and the crowd turned around and started to leave. That was the moment when fantasy had ceased and reality had begun.

It was just at that moment, the waters of the sea gently parted.

Not far away, in the hallowed classroom the boy who could not speak wrote in the corner of a page, “It is here”

End of Chapter One <or so we think>