Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, September 9, 2011


Neighborhood Frontiers by Erle Stanley Gardner (1954)

Erle Stanley Gardner was a writing (ok, dictating) phenomenon.  His most famous creation, Perry Mason, starred in 82 novels, plus a few short stories, as well as some novels written by Thomas Chastain after Gardner had died.  I won't even go into the number of radio, television, motion picture,  comic strips, and comic books that featured Perry Mason.  And then there was his Donald Lam/Bertha Cool books under the A. A. Fair pseudonym.  And the nine novels about D. A. Doug Selby. And the Lester Leith, Ed Jenkins, Sidney Zoom, Paul Pry, Bill Elder, Bob Zane, Terry Clane, Gramps Wiggins, Senor Lobo, Ken Corning, Patent Leather Kid, Speed Dash, Bob Larkin, Black Barr, Old Walrus,  Fish Mouth McGinnis, Buck Riley, Sheriff Billy Bales, Dave Barker, Dread Bart, Whispering Story, Yee Dooey Wah, Mr. Manse, Major Brane, Rex Kane, Double Decker, Perry Burke, Steve Raney, Dick Bentley, Dane Scarle, Go Get 'Em Garver, Dudley Bell, El Paisano, Bob Crowder, Jax Bowman/White Rings, The Man Who Couldn't Forget, The Man in the Sliver Mark, Sam Moraine, Win Layton - Girl Reporter, Pete Wennick, Barney Killigen, Ed Migrane (The Headache), Pete Quint, Jerry Bane, and Small, Weston & Burke stories -- along with a gajillion other stories.

     So it's very understandable that, with all the above and with his work on variuous justice issues, that Gardner had plenty of time to turn out thirteen travel books, beginning with The Land of Shorter Shadows in 1948 to Host With a Big Hat in 1970.  Neighborhood Frontiers was the second of these books and covers some of Gardner's wanderings from 1928 on. 

     Gardner loved to travel and one of his favorite spots was the Western desert.  The first part of the book details an encounter he had in the desert with a one-time seaman, which provided the origin of his fantasy/adventure story Rain Magic.  Other parts of the book cover desert lore, lost and cursed mines, and some of Gardner's meetings with desert dwellers.  Underlying all this is Gardner's love for the still, solemn desert.

      The purpose of the book, Gardner says, is to point out areas close to us that still contain adventure -- adventure being used in a very broad term.  To do this, Gardner also takes us to the Puget Sound, the Yucatan, Yaqui River, and Barranca Country.  He gives us stories and legends, history and geography. 
In the end, however, there is more a picture of Gardner than of these neighboring frontiers.  (We deduce, for example that, while Gardner was a hefty man, about 92% of his body weight had to be cholesterol.  I mean, let's put a thick slab of butter on a slice of apple pie before we eat it.  Geez.)

     This is an interesting (albeit dated) book, ladened with over a hundred photographs printed in a Godawful sepia tone.  For Gardner completists and for those who want a peek at the not-so-old West.


  1. Wow, this is news to me. ESG wrote 13 travel books! When did the guy sleep? I'll have to look for this book.

  2. I read in the biography of him that Garner loved to travel - he had a special trailer built for his trips in the desert - and wrote books about it, but have not read any of them. Thanks for this. Oh, and skip the butter on the apple pie, I'll have a slice of cheese, please.

  3. News to me as well. I'm fond of travel books but I'd never heard of Gardner writing any. You live and learn. I too ask: when did this man sleep?

  4. Randomly, I bought an Emily Kimbrough travel book yesterday (though people rather expect that kind of text from her).

    My father used to butter his hamburger, before the last heart attack.