Terry Clane

Created by Erle Stanley Gardner

San Francisco’s TERRY CLANE is yet another of Erle Stanley Gardner‘s pulp characters, a two-fisted lawyer and adventurer with plenty of friends and connections in that city’s Chinatown. But unlike most of Gardner’s more pulpy characters — and Terry’s plenty pulpy — he didn’t appear in the pulps at all, but two novels.

When we first meet him, in Murder Up My Sleeve (1937), he’s just back from a trip to China, where he picked up a nifty bamboo sleeve gun — which also makes a dandy piece of evidence when he becomes the prime suspect in the murder of Jacob Mandra, a bail bondsman and blackmailer. Who was killed with a similar gun.

What’s a poor boy to do? Naturally, he’s got to clear his name.

In the sequel, The Case of the Backward Mule (1946), Terry’s stepped into it again, this time on behalf of Cynthia Renton, an ex-girlfriend whose current fiancé is on Death Row.

These are pretty much prime slabs of pure pulp from Gardner, full of action and pleasantly head-spinning plots, but they’re definitely showing their age. The descriptions of the many Chinese characters in the books (Terry is something of a Sinophile) are cringe-worthy at best, speaking pidgin English and overdoing the inscrutable bit, as if they just got off the boat — from another planet.


  • “Erle Stanley Gardner’s Terry Clane series, what little there is of it, is delightfully cheesy, including his Disney-esque take on Chinese philosophy.”
    — Noah Stewart in Vancouver, BC
  • “The master has done it again! A plot that never lets down from beginning to end, human and fascinating characters, a story told with authentic punch. Terry Clane, a quiet fellow, just back from China where he has been working on a secret government mission, runs into murder when he walks into San Francisco. Whisked straight to the police, he puts to use the result of his experiences in the Orient in order to beat the lie detector. It’s certainly excellent mystery fare.”
    — Montreal Gazette on The Case of the Backward Mule



Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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