Ken Corning

Created by Erle Stanley Gardner

Erle Stanley Gardner, the creator of Perry Mason, was one of the leading writers for Black Mask, the legendary hard-boiled crime fiction magazine.

Although Mason never actually made it into its pages, in the early 1930s the pulp published a string of six short stories starring a slick, crusading lawyer — not unlike Mason himself, named KEN CORNING who fought against injustice in a corrupt city. His clients tended to be innocent (naturally), framed by crooked police and even crookeder city officials, but Corning fought the good fight, protecting “the rights of the underdog while relentlessly pursuing the guilty through a maze of violent subterfuge and sinister intrigue.” And like Mason, at least at first, Corning took a decidedly hands-on approach to investigation.

In 1991, Carroll & Graf finally collected all six Ken Corning short novels in book form as Honest Money. According to contributor Monte Herridge, “These are good tight mysteries with lots of action — the kind of stuff that made Erie Stanley Gardner justly famous. As a collection, they rank right up there with both Dead Men’s Letters and The Blonde in Lower Six (two other Gardner collections).”


  • “Honest Money” (November 1932, Black Mask)
  • “The Top Comes Off” (December 1932, Black Mask)
  • “Close Call” (January 1933, Black Mask)
  • “Making the Breaks” (June 1933, Black Mask)
  • “Devil’s Fire” (July 1933, Black Mask)
  • “Blackmail With Lead” (August 1933, Black Mask)



Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith, with a big tip of the fedora to Monte Herridge for cracking the case.

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