Van Dover is an Assistant Professor of English. He picked these authors because they produced books that sold over two million copies for each of their many books. They sold 45 our of the top 55 crime and suspense novels. "Perry Mason" operates through the law, "Mike Hammer" and "James Bond" operate above the law. Each writer shows a moral, social, and political prejudice more obvious in a changed time. Gardner, Spillane, and Fleming were unprecedented successes for their time. Their writing was consistent and predictable, even to a surprise ending. [I don't know who checked his facts, but Erle Stanley Gardner died in 1970 (p.2).] The reason for the rise of detective literature from the 1880s is that it reflects the reality of modern city life. The "Perry Mason" stories educate the ordinary person about legal matters. I found Gardner's novels from the 1950s and 1960s better than his earlier novels; but the sales figures were lower. Bettelheim seems useless; fairy tales are legends from many people and have no identifiable authors. They served as educational stories before radio and TV.
Erle Stanley Gardner (1889-1970) was the most prolific writer (p.15): books, novelettes, short stories, and articles; also films, radio, television, and comic strips. Gardner compared his stories to baseball games: the rules don't change, but people continue to watch games (p.25). Gardner wrote short stories during the 1920s before he wrote his novels. Van Dover claims "Mason a lawbreaking lawyer" (p.32) but presents no citations. In describing "The Case of the Velvet Claws" Van Dover tells of the non-stop action of this story, but concentrates too much on this "pilot" novel. The reader will learn about people and situations that teach a lesson. Are some characters stereotyped (p.58)? Isn't this how people's minds work? While Gardner does not provide much background description, enough slips in to tell about Los Angeles over the decades. Van Dover's criticism of the D.A. series as "the least" seems wrong. They tell quite a bit about small-town and county politics in a way neglected by others. The "Cool & Lam" series lets Gardner write "outside his box" with situations that might be too risqué for the `Saturday Evening Post'. They are a sort of parody on the conventional private-eye story of a rugged detective and a young female secretary. Gardner grew up in a conventional New England family and wrote for a different audience than post-war Spillane and Fleming.
"Mike Hammer" was the war veteran who had seen it all. Van Dover compares Spillane's early novels to one of Hammett and Chandler; Spillane's art is not praised highly. Was Spillane ever the "tough guy" he wrote about (p.151)? Spillane worked on comic books before writing his novels. Gardner was a lawyer whose early career was similar to "Perry Mason". Fleming was a journalist who just happened to step into a high level Naval Intelligence post during WW II. He accompanied Dusko Popov to Washington in July 1941 to warn of Axis interest in Pearl Harbor?
Van Dover seems fascinated with the "James Bond" character, who led a life of comparative luxury. The story in "Casino Royale" is improbable, but it has a surprise ending (p.163). Travel on "trains and ships and planes" provides filler to pad out the story. Van Dover's analysis of Flemings' stories points out the improbabilities. [Like `Beowulf'?] But entertainment is not a rational activity; the story works as long as the action continues. Van Dover notes the films used the novels as a starting point, and were improved to meet the needs of the audiences. The first film "Doctor No" was in 1963, the current version of "Casino Royale" is in 2006. That's a very long time-span for any series. The story of a lone man struggling against the odds to win must resonate with people who will pay to see these stories. Even if they repeat after ten years.