Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Book Review! The Case of the Alliterative Attorney: A Guide to the Perry Mason TV Series and TV Movies


I admit that I have a mostly casual relationship with the long running Perry Mason TV series. This association was so informal, in fact, that the only guest star I could rattle off the top of my head was Bert Convy, which is a surprise to no one, I’m sure. However, when MeTV began re-airing the Mason movies in 2013, I fell hard for the telefilms (and a handsome bearded Burr), even though I think they may be a bit like the 90s Columbo reboot in terms of being considered a step down in quality. But, there was drama, mystery and intrigue, William Katt and William Moses, and a whole lot of Raymond Burr commanding the screen. In short, I couldn’t get enough!





















There’s been a few books on the Perry Mason television series, but to the best of my knowledge, there is little writing about the run of telefilms that graced our small screens from 1985-1995. C’mon, that’s ten years of courtroom shenanigans, and oodles of amazing guest stars. I’m still working through those TVMs, but was thrilled when I saw that someone had included them in their Mason book. And spoiler free, no less, so I could sit down and read about a TVM without worrying about it taking away from what I had not seen yet. This awesome tome is titled The Case of the Alliterative Attorney: A Guide to the Perry Mason TV Series and TV Movies. When I recently acquired my copy, I couldn’t wait to dive in. But then, like any good Perry Mason mystery, there was a twist – I could barely turn myself away from the section about the original series, even though it was originally of secondary interest to me.

OK, not the most suspenseful twist, but work with me. 

Perry Mason and Hamilton Burger working with me.
That’s just a long way of saying The Case of the Alliterative Attorney is an immensely enjoyable, page-turning read. The amount of research that co-authors Bill Sullivan and Ed Robertson put into this book is head spinning! There is not only lots and lots of fantastic trivia, but there’s quotes from those who were there to help make the series and films a success, including the incomparable Barbara Hale, and actress turned producer Gail Patrick (an intriguing woman who deserves her own book!), as well as a fairly in-depth look at how the show was put together, while also working as a tribute to the profound friendship Hale and Burr enjoyed until his passing in 1993.

These are my people.
And, for the record, this book is huge! At well over 600 pages, the authors incorporate as much as they can into each episode synopsis, spotlighting guest stars, important dialog quotes, and pieces of interviews with some of the people who worked on that episode. And, as mentioned earlier, all spoiler free.

Monte Markham > Not a terribly great idea for a series
Also, working like a good commercial break, there are sections titled Exhibits located throughout the book, highlighting interesting aspects or themes from the show. For instance, there is a list of episodes featuring jury trials, as well as a compilation of episodes where the court meets in a non-traditional location. In short, you are bound to be a Mason expert by the time you finish the book. Despite the fact that it’s throwing loads of info in the reader’s direction, Sullivan and Robertson's style is casual, energetic and breezy. The authors really go the extra mile too, and Mason gets his full small screen due, so expect a section on The New Perry Mason Mysteries too! Go Monte!

Hal Holbrook, the badass.
As a newbie to the main content of the book, I can say that it has a little something for everyone, and may well bring in new fans (i.e. me). My one minor nitpick is that the four Perry Mason Mysteries, filmed after Burr’s passing in 1993, deserve more attention. They can be looked at as a simple novelty to keep a brand going, but they are also entertaining in their own right and wonderfully preserve Mason and Burr while attempting to develop their own cozy mystery niche. Also, seeing a pushing-70 Hal Holbrook riding a Harley is just the best. True story.

The verdict is in: The Case of the Alliterative Attorney wins!
But as I said, that’s just a TV movie freak being a bit fussy, and perhaps that just comes from wanting the book (and the Mason telefilms) to go on forever. I highly recommend The Case of the Alliterative Attorney to anyone with even a passing interest in the show who is also drawn to getting a deeper behind the scenes perspective on a golden age of television.

Available through Amazon.

PS: Raymond Burr is everything.

3 comments:

Mitchell Hadley said...

That's a great review, Amanda! I'm just the opposite of you; a big fan of the series, not so much the movies. But it's nice to have the show get a proper treatment like this. Sure, it might not be as "realistic" as newer legal dramas (however realistic they might be), but there's no better example of what I've called the "single combat warrior," the lawyer who goes into the courtroom in a one-on-one fight for his client's life. The stakes don't get much higher than that, and if you were on trial for your life is there anyone besides Perry Mason you'd want defending you?

Whether I was a Mason fan or not, I'd buy this book based on your recommendation!

Caffeinated Joe said...

Sounds like quite the amazing book! I hadn't watched the original show until MeTV was airing it. I watched all the original series and loved it - what an awesome show! I have only watched three or four of the later films of the series, but what fun that must have been at the time for people who had watched the show originally. And they got a bunch of films in those ten years. Wish we had gotten more Murder, She Wrote films, post-series.

Mike Doran said...

Hey Mitchell -

Just for fun, would you care to go back over your past blog posts, and see if you can find a comment I sent you several months ago, in which I called your attention to this very book?

My recommendation's not good enough for you?

Really, this stings ...

OK, kidding.

But remember, I also mentioned that Alliterative Attorney is a tad pricey, which now that I think about it, might be the reason you forgot ...