I’m about halfway through reading the very first Perry Mason novel, “The Case of the Velvet Claws,” published 1932. Perry has virtually no inner life. The same for his supporting characters. Supposedly it’s this way throughout the series. We never learn Perry’s backstory, his hopes and dreams, his anxieties and fears. He just solves crimes and protects clients.
Perry Mason seems similar to Nero Wolfe. You get more backstory from Nero Wolfe. But as with Perry Mason, neither Nero, nor his little created family of employees and allies, suffers the kinds of doubts, fears and neuroses the rest of us do. They’re singularly focused on their work.
Today we’d consider that a terrible writing flaw. I’m enjoying it. If I want neurosis and anxiety my own brain keeps me in good supply.
In the Perry Mason novel, we’ve already had a scene where Perry’s femme fatale client throws herself at him. That’s mandatory in any noir novel. She’s gorgeous and sexy and lets it be known that she is fully available to him. I’ve seen that scene a few times in the Spenser novels, where Spenser was always tempted but able to muster the strength of will to resist. Perry isn’t tempted the least little bit. (Maybe he has a thing with Paul Drake. Heh.)
Perry Mason in the novels has little relationship with the recent HBO TV series and I’m OK with that.