Rediscovered: Et Tu, Erle? — or, Another Lost Atlantis

When Tom Krabacher came to town the other day to hang on a feedbag filled with gooey duck, he brought along a copy of a book he helped assemble, Woodland, in Acadia Publishing’s sprawling Images of America series. I was interested, since that burg has a lot of knockout Victorians — I’ve even been to the tractor museum there, long before I encountered Tom.

Holding the book, I wondered aloud, Have they done a volume on Paradise?

If they did, it’d be like a little guidebook to lost Atlantis, since almost the whole town went up in the fire.

As reported here, Hammett fan Mike Humbert barely made it out alive.

Since the town as-it-was is flat-out gone, would such a book become a sudden collectable?

Tom said he’d been curious enough to order a copy of Paradise, by Robert Colby. The package finally rolled in, and he says, “I haven’t looked through that many in the series but it’s one of the better ones I’ve seen so far. (The worst I’ve come across so far, btw, is the one for Isleton). It’s nicely organized chronologically, the photos are clearly reproduced (some of them delightfully off-beat), and are nicely captioned.  Not a necessary ‘must have’ but worth glancing through next time you’re in a bookstore, if only to see what’s no longer there as a result of the blaze.”

I don’t know, I think the disaster gives Paradise a distinct edge in the interest department.

And reading through Tom came across a nice Mean Streets sort of tidbit on page 119, where it is noted that Erle Stanley Gardner bought 20 acres of land in Paradise around 1952, and then in his Perry Mason novel The Case of the Runaway Corpse from 1954 gave specific instructions on how to get to his place — only who among the millions of his readers would have thought the directions led to Erle’s hideaway, usually blurbed generically as “somewhere in the mountains of Northern California”?

The directions read: “The address in Paradise is on Crestview Drive. . . . Take the main street through town, then turn left on Oliver Road. At the foot of the grade, make a sharp left onto Valley View for a very short distance, then turn left again onto Crestview Drive, and it’s the last place on the right-hand side.”

If Erle’s original layout was still standing after all these years, I wonder if it got burned out like Mike?

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