There are many reasons to like Erle Stanley Gardner’s writing: his distinctive characters, the suave interplay between Perry Mason and his faithful secretary Della Street, the investigative insight from Paul Drake, or the convoluted but carefully-intertwined plot threads. But of all things, it’s the way Gardner has his protagonist Perry Mason think which I like most of all. He has admirable logic that pulls you in just as Arthur Conan Doyle did with Sherlock Holmes.
In chapter thirteen, there’s a very nice example of it. Let’s have a look, shall we?
The central conceit of The Case Of The Drowning Duck is that an insufferably proud rich dude asks Mason to re-open an old murder case from eighteen years previously. One Horace Adams was convicted and executed for murdering his business partner out East, in 1924, and now Adams’ son is about to marry the client (Witherspoon)’s daughter. Adams’ mother told her son a cockamamie  story about him having been kidnapped aged 3, to cover up the murder charge. Witherspoon will not permit his daughter to marry a boy with the mark of Cain, but has hired Mason just on the off-chance Horace Adams was wrongly convicted.
When you write as many detective mysteries as Gardner – and this was number twenty in the Mason series – you get creative. He does a masterful job hopping between the old murder case and modern-day peril. Once the dust is kicked up there’s a tale of blackmail, shakedowns, and new murders. So, halfway through the book, Mason sits down with his regular private eye Drake and discusses the case. Specifically, his methodology of attacking the case.
Mason said, “Let’s look at this thing logically. The big trouble is we get hypnotised by facts and start placing a false interpretation upon those facts because of the sheer weight of circumstances.”
This is somewhat opposed to Sherlock Holmes who, in Scandal In Bohemia, advised:
It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.
Now, I think this comes down to whether the detective is reasoning within an open or a closed system. The Holmes stories are known as “locked room puzzles” meaning they usually involve a sealed crime scene and small suspect list. Doyle sets up a small amount of solid evidence from which a tight chain of deductive reasoning can be made: the footprints near the body are size ten, with a certain distance of stride, and deeper impressions on the right foot, and there is a particular cigar ash. Thus Holmes can walk into the only two tobacconists in London that sell that cigar and ask if a man over 6’3″ with a bad left leg came in to buy some. Holmes will carefully observe a scene to collect facts and then stir the pot to uncover more. However, his stories usually involve close reasoning. Once you’re sure of the key facts, the conclusion is elementary.
Mason never has things so clear cut. His facts are more like Miss Marple‘s: witness testimony and gradually uncovered relationships between characters. When reading Holmes you get the feeling that the crime is a static target that must be gradually uncovered. Mason stories are a blurred moving target as the lawyer tries to keep up with a shifting reality. Thus where Holmes must decide where to look and then observe carefully until he has uncovered sufficient key facts, Mason must manage the psychologies, set traps, and fool witnesses into revealing their secrets. To do that, Mason requires a big picture early. Facts can change it, but he needs to constantly reason out the big picture and try fitting the facts.
Mason said, “When you once get the correct master pattern, every single event fits into that pattern. It dovetails with every other event which impinges upon it. When you get a master pattern which seems to accomodate all of the events except one, and you can’t make that event fit in, it’s pretty apt to mean that your master pattern is wrong.”
It’s this logic which makes me increasingly confident of The Storm, QAnon, and Pizzagate. What are those, you ask? Briefly, The Storm is a theory that Trump is weeding out all the corruption and racketeering from the US Government which will entail taking down the key crime families: Clintons and Obamas. QAnon theorises that the entire world is run by a secret Cabal who pilfer taxpayers money and they attempt to betray the West but the good guys (Team Trump) are fighting a secret war to take them down. Pizzagate theorises that the world is run by a network of Satanic paedophiles of which the Vatican and Hillary’s campaign managers are key nodes.
As it happens, I’m 100% convinced of The Storm because all of the evidence is publicly available and the actions are out in the open too – testimony under oath before Congress and Senate, Trump’s appointments and executive orders, indictments, FISA applications, firings and retirings and so on. The Storm doesn’t rely upon anonymous sources or rumour. You can see all the information in official documents, transcripts, announcements and so on. Much of it involves Government employees or Congressmen acting in their official capacities. The key is how to fit the facts together: having the correct Master Pattern. It’s all hidden in plain sight. I’m rather less convinced of QAnon and Pizzagate because those theories actually require that it’s based on anonymous sources, rumour, and clandestine meetings. Call me wary.
This is why I took great interest in the recent Miami Herald story on convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein. Who is Epstein, you ask?
He was raping under-age girls in Palm Beach, Florida and was cut the sweetest of all possible plea deals in which he was sentence to one year in prison, but let out six days a week for “work release”. Basically, he got off scot-free. Read the Herald story to be brought up to date. Now, given that this happened over ten years ago, why is it a big story now? Why is the biggest newspaper in Florida forcing Epstein and child sex-abuse rings onto the front page. Ignore the Trump reference, this story hits the Clintons hardest of all. Why now?
Now, more than a decade later, two unrelated civil lawsuits — one set for trial on Dec. 4 — could reveal more about Epstein’s crimes. The Dec. 4 case, in Palm Beach County state court, involves Epstein and Edwards, whom Epstein had accused of legal misdeeds in representing several victims. The case is noteworthy because it will mark the first time that Epstein’s victims will have their day in court, and several of them are scheduled to testify.
But why is that going to court now? Could it be related to Trump finally having a 53-47 Senate, and Jeff Sessions handing over the Department of Justice to AG Whitaker?
This represents one of the many “single events” that fit into the Pizzagate “master pattern”. We already know Bill Clinton travelled to Epstein’s “lolita island” in the US Virgin Islands 27 times, including many without his Secret Service detail – that’s all in the publicly available flight manifests filed with the FAA. We already know Trump suddenly banned Epstein from his properties for propositioning an underage girl. We also heard Trump clearly allude to Hillary’s NGO child-trafficking in Haiti following the earthquake (skip to 12:30).
These are all single events fitting into the Pizzagate master pattern. If you want a good breakdown, go check out this blog for a Pizzagate summary.
I doubt Mason would conclude from the currently-available evidence that Pizzagate is the correct master pattern, but I dare say he wouldn’t be able to come up with a better working hypothesis. As each of these single events emerges to reinforce the theory – and none at all to discredit it – I grow increasingly confident that Pizzagate is real. How confident? Currently, about 40%. It’s still a long-shot.
No duck was drowned in the book, by the way.
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 I always wanted to use that word in a blog post.