Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Case of the Macabre Mansion: Final Reflections and New Story Ideas

I was debating what to write about this week. I have several topics stowed away, including the season 5 overview, the post for The Fatal Fetish, and one concerning some assorted Perry projects I’ve been tinkering with. In the end, I decided that I would instead write a bit more about my story The Case of the Macabre Mansion, as I am bringing it to a close this weekend. I have only to finish and post the epilogue now, which I will likely do tomorrow or Tuesday.

This has been a very interesting project. It has been, so far, the longest Perry mystery I’ve written. Each one is longer than the previous one. This one stands at 16 installments, including the epilogue. I’m not sure whether it’s because the plot took up this many chapters or because I’m growing more comfortable writing for the characters and want to tell more about them.

Andy did indeed become very important to the plot, as those who have been following the story can attest. And he has been a joy to write for. The Hateful Hero in particular brought his character to life in a glorious way. I have tried to capture that three-dimensional portrayal in The Macabre Mansion.

The solution to the mystery is, perhaps, the most twisted mess of my Perry stories so far. I have honestly confused myself with each one and have to write out multiple notes to keep everything straight and make sure I don’t contradict myself. For the explanation in the prior story, The Memento Mori Murderer, I actually had to draw myself a family tree to remember all the characters’ relationships with each other.

For this mystery, Hamilton took center stage. Mignon went to him for help and the investigation was originally his alone before everyone else became involved too. Though Perry of course is a prominent character as always, he is undeniably not the main lawyer here. He is absent from two or three chapters. And just as the story opens with Hamilton and Mignon, it will close with them in the epilogue.

This mystery has a bigger cast than the other two, which is another reason why some characters did not always appear in certain chapters. I had to do some serious juggling and rotating to keep the focus on everyone. Not only is Andy very important, so is Mignon Germaine. Both are likely to be part of the main cast in future mysteries.

The supporting cast also needed to have room. Andy’s cousin Jimmy, their surrogate mother Mrs. Norden, her son Otto, and even Lieutenant Drumm have all played their parts in the tale. They, especially the first three, became critical to the last few chapters.

One thing I find very fun while writing stories is to have cameo appearances by characters from other shows. Officers Reed and Malloy from Adam-12 appear briefly in several chapters throughout the middle portions. Since they’re in Los Angeles too, it worked perfectly.

I also threw in Officer Johnson from Highway Patrol. Those familiar with this fifties classic know that they were always very careful to never say what state they were in. And there were a couple of throwaway comments in episodes that indicated they were not in California. But in spite of those remarks, I feel that the show most likely does take place in California. The beautiful and unique palm trees visible in many episodes narrow the location to California, Nevada, and perhaps Arizona. And it can’t really be ignored that the uniforms were based on the real uniforms of the California Highway Patrol at the time, and that the California HP operates as a full-scale police force, unlike most Highway Patrols in other states.

Officer Johnson’s presence means that three characters are present in the story who were played by William Boyett—Pete Kelton and Otto Norden being the other two. Although Pete’s and Otto’s resemblance to each other is a semi-important plot point, I decided it was better to not bring up that Officer Johnson resembles both of them!

I ended up breaking two of my rules for writing Perry stories while working on this one. I ended up revealing that Tragg’s wife is dead, as it turned out that I needed to mention what had become of her (if she existed at all). And the supernatural has been introduced. To me it doesn’t feel the same as outright fantasy elements; it’s more along the lines of my short story The Case of the Captain’s Ghost. But regardless, the supernatural parts in The Macabre Mansion are quite vital to the plot.

I also have more ideas for the future. I have just finished an exhilarating and intense role-play story with my good friend Crystal Rose of Pollux. It is part of a series of role-play stories we have been writing out involving characters from several sources, including Perry Mason. The plot involves a supernatural being wanting to stop some of his followers from going to trial. He enacts a spell across Los Angeles County that causes everyone involved with the trial to lose their memories. Many end up in different occupations in the pseudo-world he creates for them. Others retain their jobs but still have no memory of their ties with certain people.

But a monkey-wrench has been thrown into his plans. Hamilton Burger did not forget. I’m tentatively assuming that is because he so staunchly disbelieves in such things that the spell could have no hold on him. But that’s mostly a tongue-in-cheek explanation.

Anyway, Hamilton finds one other person who also remembers. In this person’s case, he remembers because it was thought that he would not be a danger to the plan. The two of them team up, try to find the other people, and tell them of the way things are really supposed to be. Though of course they’re initially met with resistance, the others gradually come around to a recognition of the truth as faint memories begin to resurface.

I enjoyed the role-play story so much I decided I would like to adapt it as a plot for a fanfiction story. It would not be a crossover, however, but instead be done solely with the Perry characters. I was unsure how the fanbase would react to something with such overtly supernatural elements, but I have received an interested response to my pitching of the concept. I’m planning to try working on it once the epilogue of The Macabre Mansion is fully finished and posted.

Hamilton would still be one of the two who remembers, of course. I’m considering that Paul Drake will be the other one. That would open the door for more intriguing interaction between them and force them to work together. Perhaps they both still remember because they’re so disbelieving of the supernatural, instead of it just being Hamilton who might remember for that reason. Paul would definitely be considered a liability, so the one responsible would never deliberately let him keep his memories. He is quite furious that Paul and Hamilton remember.

Perry would still be a lawyer, but he would not remember that he and Hamilton are friends. I’m thinking that Della isn’t working for him, and that a very important plot point is that Hamilton and Paul have to find her and convince her that she belongs as Perry’s secretary.

I’m seriously considering that The Macabre Mansion may end up tying in with this story. The reason as to why and how this might happen is hinted in the epilogue.

Meanwhile, I am very proud of how The Macabre Mansion has turned out. It has been delightful to share it with fellow fans.


  1. Lucky Ladybug,

    I discovered this blog quite accidentally last week, but it caught my eye and I have been reading posts. Of course, it's clear you adore Hamilton Burger as a character and, I think, Bill Talman as an actor.

    I like Burger and Talman's portrayal of him, for sure. The episodes in which he was replaced as LA d.a. are dismal in the courtroom scenes, without a doubt. However, I'd not say I miss him all the time since I have enjoyed the several episodes in the first few seasons in which Perry defends a client in an out-of-town, usually rural, venue.

    I think what stands out about Talman's portrayal is that he manages to win the audience's sympathy, makes them feel his exasperation with Perry while not detracting from the audience's admiration, indeed, love for Perry. Not every actor could pull that off. My father always loved it when Hamilton showed that "oh, not again exasperation."

    Have you seen the 50 year anniversary dvd of Perry? If not, you'd be interested in some of the narration, provided by Barbara Hale and by Arthur Marks, a director of many episodes. Marks says at one point that when Raymond Burr was off the set, Bill Talman could become a real "ass." It was funny. I am not really sure what that meant and it wasn't said in a mean spirit, just a matter of fact one. I took it to mean that Talman argued with the directors about this or that. I had read once that Burr didn't tolerate dissension on the set and that he believed in letting directors do their job so maybe that's what Marks meant.

    Can you expand on the reason you like Burger so much? Talman?

    I might add here that the one character I liked best other than Perry and Della is Tragg as played by Ray Collins. The series was never the same without him.

  2. Thank you for commenting! I'm glad you found me.

    There are some of the out-of-town episodes I like, too. I think I'd be a bit concerned with myself if I flat-out dismissed any episode in which Hamilton is absent. My favorites have been The Clumsy Clown, The Misguided Missile, one from season 5 whose name eludes me (but it had Barbara Stuart in it), The Poison Penpal, and The Lurid Letter.

    I agree about William Talman winning the audience's sympathy. He was highly talented to be able to do that! I think the time I've felt the most sorry for him is in The Shapely Shadow, when he stammers and fumbles for some way to save his case.

    Haha, I have the set, but I hadn't heard Arthur Marks' comment on William. I'll have to look and find that. I know both Raymond Burr and William Talman seemed to be pranksters, all in good fun. Perhaps that was what was meant? It's hard to say.

    Yes, I can! :) I am happy to do so. I wrote this about Hamilton for a community on

    On William Talman himself, I think what I admire most is his devotion to his family. That really appeals to me in someone, particularly an actor, where's there so much corruption and infidelity in Hollywood. I also love his sense of humor. From interviews I've read, he had a very good outlook on life and tried to deal with frustrating situations with a smile and a laugh.

    Ray Collins was wonderful. He never could be replaced. And even though I like both Andy and Drumm very much, there is always a hole when Tragg is absent.