Erle Stanley Gardner Crossword Puzzle

If you’re searching for an answer, be sure to read the previous blog about Erle Stanley Gardner. You’ll find the answers for this crossword puzzle within that blog. Solution will be posted in a couple of weeks.


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Erle Stanley Gardner

Mention the name of actor, Raymond Burr and most people will immediately respond− “Perry Mason.” Burr made his acting mark playing this television lawyer.  But ask this same audience the name of the writer of the Perry Mason stories and many people will struggle to remember −Erle Stanley Gardner.

Erle Stanley Gardner

Gardner is the prolific writer who created over eighty Mason stories along with two other lesser known mystery series Cool and Lam and Doug Selby and numerous other works.

Gardner’s Legal Background

Gardner attended law school in Indiana but only lasted about a month. He had an interest in boxing which included organizing illegal boxing matches. This endeavor resulted in his suspension from school.

He came home to California where he secured a job as a typist at a law firm. Without any formal schooling, but with the knowledge he learned at the law firm and self-study he passed the bar in 1911. He opened a law office in 1917, but soon closed it for a better paying sales job. By 1921 he returned to the practice of law and was a partner at the firm of Sheridan, Orr, Drapeau and Gardner where he remained until 1933.

As a lawyer, Gardner preferred case strategy and courtroom tactics and was bored by other elements of law. His preference for strategy and tactics are clearly found in his stories.

Gardner’s and Pulp Magazines

The existence of Pulp Magazines helped launch many a Golden Age mystery author and Erle Stanley Gardner was no exception. He produced hundreds of stories for the pulps. Long before the Perry Mason stories became popular Erle Stanley Gardner was considered the “King of the Pulps.”

As the Mason novels became more popular Gardner reduced his contributions to these magazines. Of course, by the 1950’s the pulps were also on their way out.

Gardner’s Perry Mason

The Perry Mason stories are the largest body of work that Gardner produced. And the Mason books rank third in the top ten list of best-selling series.

As a young boy in Massachusetts Gardner read a magazine called the “Youth’s Companion” which was published in Boston by the Perry Mason Company. It was from this company that Gardner took the name for his Perry Mason character.

Gardner’s Perry Mason Stories

The Mason stories tend to follow a set formula with a wrongly accused client seeking Mason’s help. Then Mason and Drake investigate.  The guilty party is usually revealed during the preliminary court proceedings. In addition, other crimes like blackmail, embezzlement, missing persons and fraud are often discovered along with the solution for the current murder.

Although most of us probably picture someone who looks like Raymond Burr when we think of Perry Mason, very few descriptive details are presented in the stories. He leaves the true description of Mason to the reader’s imagination. We also know very little about Mason’s private life. He lives alone in an apartment and his only romantic interest seems to be Della, although this relationship is never fulfilled. We actually know more about Mason’s food likes because many scenes take place in restaurants.

Mason is also a very good detective. In The Case of the Caretaker’s Cat, District Attorney Hamilton Burger says “You’re a better detective than you are a lawyer.” It’s not enough for Mason to simply get his client off.  He needs to solve the crime.

Perry Mason−Early Films

In the 30’s Warner Brothers purchased the film rights for several of the Mason novels. However, Gardner was not thrilled with the results. In one film the emphasis was on Mason as a Latin lover. In another, film he marries Della Street. In all the films, Mason acted as a lighthearted detective solving the crime with no courtroom trials. Some of the actors portraying Mason in these films were Warren William, Ricardo Cortez, and Donald Woods. These films were purely entertainment without emphasis on the legal element.

Perry Mason Radio

Even though his experience with Perry Mason movies was not a positive one, Gardner decided to put Mason on the radio. The Perry Mason shows were developed as part of detergent giant Proctor and Gamble’s afternoon soap operas or as they became known − “The Soaps.” These shows were extremely popular and built a large audience.

Perry Mason Television

By the time audiences were switching from radio to television, Perry Mason was at the top of the radio ratings.

CBS approached Gardner about turning Perry Mason into an afternoon soap opera for television. Gardner refused, but CBS did create the long running soap, The Edge of Night starring John Larkin. Larkin had been the voice of Perry Mason on the radio and later had guest appearances on the Mason television series.

In 1957, CBS again approached Gardner for a television show featuring Perry Mason. Gardner along with actress Gail Patrick (Jackson) and her husband, Thomas Jackson (Gardner’s literary agent) formed a production company. This provided Gardner with the creative control he wanted.  Burr as Mason

Canadian actor, Raymond Burr, was chosen for the starring role. Burr had originally auditioned for the role of Hamilton Burger. However, once Gardner saw Burr he said Burr was the character he had in mind when he created Mason. Paul Drake was played by William Hopper, the son of Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. Della Street was played by Barbara Hale who also appeared in several Falcon
movies. And many future stars had early appearances on the series including Burt Reynolds, Robert Redford, Cloris Leachman, Leonard Nimoy, Dick Clark, Angie Dickinson and even the genie herself, Barbara Eden. In the final episode of this series, The Case of the Final Fade-Out, even Gardner had a cameo appearance as the judge

[Note: Barbara Hale was the last remaining star from the original series and just passed away in January (2017) at the age of 94.]

Perry Mason Continues

For one season from 1973-1974 a second television series was produced featuring Monte Markham as Mason. Then in 1985, thirty new episodes were created. The series once again featured Raymond Burr as Mason with Barbara Hale as Della Street and ran until 1995. Barbara Hale’s son, William Katt played Paul Drake. For new generations of viewing audiences, the original and the later series featuring Burr can still be seen on television. And HBO recently announced the possibility of a new series featuring Robert Downey Jr. So, stay tuned for more Perry Mason.

Other Gardner Crime Series

Gardner’s Doug Selby

Doug Selby is on the opposite side of the legal system from Perry Mason. He is a newly elected District Attorney who works crime cases with the newly elected Sheriff, Rex Brandon.  In the first book, The D.A. Calls It Murder, Selby must not only solve the murder with reluctant witnesses but face constant criticisms from a hostile and corrupt press. The-D-A-Calls-It-Murder-FE

His antagonist in many of the stories is Alphonse Baker (A.B.) Carr. Unlike Mason, he’s a shyster whose clients are usually guilty.  There are nine Selby books, a radio episode and a television film. The television film starred Jim Hutton who also played Ellery Queen in the television series.

Gardner’s Cool and Lam,

Cool and Lam was a series about a detective agency that Gardner wrote using the pseudonym A.A. Fair. He produced twenty-nine books featuring Bertha Cool and Donald Lam starting with The Bigger They Come (1939).

Bertha Cool takes over the detective agency after her husband’s death. She is described initially as being overweight with white hair, miserly, but persistent.  In the first novel, she hires Donald Lam as an operative who does the leg work for the agency.

Lam is not your typical hardboiled detective. He doesn’t weigh much and is constantly getting beat up. He doesn’t carry a gun for fear of losing it during a fight. However, like a true hardboiled detective he has his own code of justice which doesn’t always include following the normal legal process. Although, he wants a partnership in the agency, Lam doesn’t receive it until after he leaves the team and Bertha finally realizes how valuable his skills are to solving the crimes.

One final note about this series. The Knife Slipped which was written in 1939 as the second book in the series was lost among Gardner’s papers. When it was discovered it was finally published in 2016.

Still More Gardner Writings

Gardner did a great deal of radio work where he created characters such as Christopher London in 1950 (played by Glenn Ford) and characters for a Life in Your Hands which aired from 1949-1952.

Gardner also spent many hours working on a project called the “Court of Last Resort.” Working with legal, forensic and investigative experts, the project reviewed criminal cases and sought to reverse miscarriages of justice. Gardner wrote a book about the project’s work and won an Edgar Award in the Best Fact Crime category. The project was also made into a television series.

In addition to his fiction work, Gardner wrote documentaries about his travels through the Baja California peninsula. He loved the area and traveled extensively writing about his explorations. When he passed away on March 11, 1970 at age 80, his final instructions were that he was to be cremated and his ashes scattered over his beloved Baja peninsula.

Personal life

Gardner married Natalie Frances Talbert in 1912 and they had one daughter, Grace. Gardner and Frances separated in the early thirties, but never divorced. After her death in 1968, Gardner married Agnes Jean Bethell who had been one of his secretaries since 1930.

Gardner typed his stories on a typewriter using only two fingers.  Of course, as he became more famous he dictated his writing to a team of secretaries.  Jean had two sisters Peggy and Ruth who also worked as Garner’s secretaries. It is said that Jean, Peggy and Ruth inspired Gardner’s creation of Della Street.

Earl Stanley Gardner’s Contribution to Mysteries

The massive volume of work produced by Gardner makes him stand out from other crime and mystery writers. At the time of his death, he was the best-selling American writer of the 20th century.

With his courtroom stories, Gardner established a format that has continued to influence legal dramas through today. Gardner’s lawyers were more than the legal arm of the law. They were detectives who helped solve crimes. More importantly they insured that justice was done for both the innocent and the guilty. And like his Perry Mason TV series Gardner’s work continues to live on for new readers

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Erle Stanley Gardner Book Titles #1-Solution

A couple of weeks have passed since I posted this first word search puzzle of Perry Mason titles. Did you discover all of the key words? If not, here is the solution so you can check your work.


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Erle Stanley Gardner Titles #1 Word Search

Over the next several blogs, we’re going to take a look at Erle Stanley Gardner’s writings. Let’s start with a word search puzzle. This list represents the early Perry Mason titles through 1953. As always, search for the words from the titles in capital letters.


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Raymond Chandler Crossword Puzzle-Solution

Here’s your chance to see if you are a Raymond Chandler expert. Below are the solutions to the crossword puzzle.


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Raymond Chandler Crossword Puzzle

Hopefully, you have read the previously published Raymond Chandler blog. Now it’s time to test your knowledge about Raymond Chandler with this crossword puzzle. Solution will follow in a few weeks.



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Raymond Chandler

What do you do when you’re a top executive with a large oil company and you lose your job during the depression. If your Raymond Chandler, you become a writer of hardboiled detective fiction. He may have started his writing career late in life −at the age of forty-four− but he created one of the most iconic detectives of all time in Phillip Marlowe.


Chandler was born in 1888 in Chicago, Illinois to Florence and Maurice Chandler. He spent his early years living in Plattsmouth, Nebraska near relatives of his mother’s family. However, life was not easy for him and his mother. His father was an alcoholic and then abandon the family. His mother, who was originally from Ireland, made a decision that the best place to raise Ray was to return nearer her home. They arrived in London in 1900 where they lived with her mother while one of her Irish uncles supported them.

Chandler’s Education

After his early education, Chandler continued at Dulwich College in London.  Other famous authors who received their education at this institution were C.S. Forester and P.G. Wodehouse. He did not go on to attend university but spent time traveling in Germany and France. In 1907, he was naturalized as a British subject.  This allowed him to take the civil service examination and get a job with the British Admiralty. Also during this time he published his first poem.

Chandler soon discovered he did not like civil service and disregarding family objections he resigned. He next worked as a reporter for both the Daily Express and the Bristol Western Gazette. He was not considered a particularly good journalist, but he published reviews and continued writing poetry.

In 1912 he returned to the US and his mother joined him at the end of the year. In 1913 they moved to the city of Los Angeles.

In 1917 when World War I started he enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force and he did see action in France. He had just started flight training in the Royal Air Force when the war ended.

Chandler’s Personal Life

After his military service, he returned to Los Angeles and fell in love with Pearl (Cissy) Pascal. She was 18 years his senior, married and the step mother to one of the men that enlisted with Chandler. Cissy divorced her husband but Chandler’s mother was still not happy with her son’s choice of a partner. Chandler waited and in the interim supported both woman. Then after his mother’s death in 1923, he married Cissy.

Chandler was totally in love with Cissy. When Cissy died in 1954 Chandler was absolutely heartbroken. His loneliness after her death along with his increased drinking led to bouts of depression. He attempted suicide in 1955. He even forgot that Cissy’s ashes were stored in the basement of Cypress View Mausoleum. It wasn’t until 2010 through the efforts of lawyer, Aissa Wayne (John Wayne’s daughter) that Cissy finally joined Chandler at his grave site in Mount Hope cemetery. On the gravestone are the words “Dead men are heavier than broken hearts.”

Chandler and Pulp Fiction

Chandler explained that he started reading pulp fiction because he never cared for the short stories found in women’s magazines. Chandler said he taught himself to write pulp fiction by reading and studying the stories from Erle Stanley Gardner.

The Black Mask magazine, which was featured in a previous blog, published Chandler’s first story, “Blackmailers Don’t Shoot” in 1933. In his first stories the detective’s name was Mallory. However, when Chandler was at Dulwich College he was a member of Marlowe house and it is believed this influenced the name change. The last pulp fiction short story Chandler penned was “The Pencil.” (1959)

Chandler’s Marlowe Novels

The first full length novel that introduce his detective Philip Marlowe was The Big Sleep in 1939. Chandler was 51 when this book was published.

After, The Big Sleep he wrote six more Philip Marlowe novels. The last Marlowe novel that Chandler completed was Playback. He was 70 when he finished this book.

Chandler Plot Summaries:

The Big Sleep (1939) In this first book, Marlowe is hired by aging millionaire General Sternwood. He tells Marlowe that his daughter Carmen is being blackmailed. However, Marlowe also learns that sister Vivian’s husband Rusty Regan has disappeared.

What appears to be a simple case of paying off a blackmailer turns into a complex case of kidnapping, pornography, seduction, and murders. And under Marlowe’s code of justice all the murders must be solved regardless of who committed them.

Farewell My Lovely (1940)  While working a dead-end case, Marlowe spots felon Moose Malloy in a nightclub called Florian’s. He’s  looking for his ex-girlfriend Velma Valento.

Marlowe on a separate case is hired to deliver a ransom to retrieve a set of stolen jewels. The separate searches for the missing showgirl and the missing jewelry merge into a string of related crimes for Marlowe to solve.

The High Window (1942) Marlowe is asked to recover a missing doubloon which is a rare and valuable coin. Is the coin’s disappearance related to the son, Leslie Murdock’s gambling debts? Was the husband’s fall from a window really a murder? Several murders are interwoven with the search for the coin and the players connected to it. the-high-window

The Lady in the Lake (1943) Marlowe is hired by Derace Kingsley to find his estranged wife, Crystal. It’s believed that Crystal has run off with Chris Lavery, until he turns up dead.

There are three women challenging Marlowe’s detecting skills. The missing wife, the daughter found dead in a car with the motor running and of course the lady in the lake. Marlowe needs to sort out stolen identities, the murders and a crooked cop to bring justice to this case.

The Littler Sister (1949) This book incorporates Chandler’s film experience in several scenes, but does not portray Hollywood in a positive light. It focuses on a starlet, Mavis Weld who has a gangster boyfriend and a couple of siblings in her life. The plot includes multiple murders, black mail and family secrets that weave in and out of the plot.

The Long Goodbye (1953) This book was written while Chandler’s wife was dying and is considered his most personal. It concerns two men who are both alcoholics and one, Roger Wade, a successful novelist who now finds it hard to write.

It opens with Marlowe meeting a drunk named Terry Lennox who he later drives to Mexico. When he returns from Mexico, he finds that Lennox is accused of his wife’s murder. Lennox confesses to the murder in his suicide note. However, Marlowe is not convinced about Terry’s suicide.

In the meantime, Marlowe takes a case to keep novelist Roger Wade writing and not drinking. However, when Wade is murdered Marlowe finds the two cases are connected.

Playback (1958) Marlowe is hired by an anonymous client to find Betty Mayfield. She was acquitted of her husband’s murder but her father-in-law does not accept the outcome and wants her tailed. Marlowe finds he’s becoming romantically involved with the woman he is tailing. He must save her from both her father-in-law and a new murder charge.

Chandler’s Unfinished Novel

The eighth Marlowe novel was completed after Chandler’s death. When he died in 1959 he left behind four chapters of a new Phillip Marlowe novel. Robert B. Parker of Spencer fame was tapped to finish the book which was published in 1989. It’s called Poodle Springs and portrays Palm Springs in a negative light. poodle-spring-cover

Detective Phillip Marlowe

The location for most of the Chandler’s stories is the city of Los Angeles. In these stories he takes the reader from the high life of society into the underbelly of the seedier side of the city. However, none of the social groups depicted were free from corruption.

Marlowe follows the general guidelines for hardboiled detectives. He was fired from the D.A.’s office for insubordination, but he maintains his contacts within law enforcement. He doesn’t engage in fights just to prove a point, but he can take care of himself.  When he’s on the receiving end of an encounter, he’s tough and always manages to survive. He’s a drinker of hard liquors like brandy, whiskey and bourbon, but will indulge in cocktails like Gibsons and Gimlets when he’s with the ladies.

However, there’s a softer side to Marlowe.  He is more of a thinker and a man who is fond of poetry and enjoys a game of chess against himself. But true to typical hardboiled behavior he’s a loner and maintains a one-man office with no secretary.

Like Hammett’s Sam Spade, Marlowe is able to avoid the seduction of the story’s femme fatales. In the end his code of moral justice will always win out over the ladies.

Chandler and the Film Industry

The film version of Chandler’s first book, The Big Sleep (1946) is probably remembered more for the two stars that played in the movie rather than the plot of the book. Of course, I’m referring to actors Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. In fact, Bacall’s role was enhanced from the original story in order to give her more screen time with Bogart. the-big-sleep-movie

His second novel Farewell, My Lovely was made into three different Hollywood movies. The 1944 version Murder My Sweet marked the screen debut of Phillip Marlowe played by Dick Powell. Chandler liked Powell’s Portrayal of Marlowe. However, many actors besides Powell portrayed Marlowe including James Mitchum, Powers Boot, James Garner, Elliot Gould and James Caan.

Because of the success of the Marlowe books, Chandler was in demand. He decided to try his hand as a screenwriter. In 1944 he worked with Billy Wilder and adopted James M. Cain’s novel Double Indemnity. Wilder said the dialogue which is the heart of the film was largely Chandler’s contribution. Chandler also wrote the screenplay for The Blue Dahlia (1946). Both of these screenplays were nominated for Academy Awards.

Chandler worked on the film Strangers on the Train (1951) with Alfred Hitchcock. Hitchcock and Chandler did not get along and rumor has it that Hitchcock threw Chandler’s first two drafts in the trash. However, when the screen credits were listed, Chandler was in first position.

Chandler’s Contribution to Mysteries

Chandler’s strength was not in the plots that were often intricate, complex and sometimes incomplete, but in the emotion revealed in his descriptions and dialogue. Chandler was considered to be a more thoughtful writer weaving various style elements into his stories which make the people and places seem real.

Marlowe is also perhaps more romantic than other hardboiled detectives of this period.  He is often seen as a Sir Galahad coming to save the day.

Even though his style was different, Raymond Chandler along with Dashiell Hammett and James M. Cain are credited with creating the standard for hardboiled detective fiction that we continue to enjoy today.





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Mystery TV Shows (#3) –Word Search

Over the years there have been some great TV shows featuring an assortment of detectives. Here is another sampling of those shows. Find the capitalized words from the list below.


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The Value of Clues in Mysteries

It’s hard for me to believe that five years have passed since I started my Dark and Stormy Night Mysteries blog. During this time, I have written about mystery authors, characteristics of mysteries, crime methods, detectives and I even sprinkled in some mystery word search and crossword puzzles. However, the one overwhelming lesson I’ve learned is how many well written mysteries are available for our reading pleasure.

This brings me to one of my pet peeves about my favorite genre. I often read in articles that mysteries are not serious literary fiction. Yet the rules of writing both literary fiction and mysteries require that a story be told. In a mystery there is the crime, most often a murder. Then the author must take the reader from the crime to a solution through story telling.

Sue Grafton asked when being interviewed about literary fiction−”where is the story.” She went on to say that literary fiction often has a “meandering quality” and she only gives a book ten pages to hook her. I agree with her assessment.   So much of literary fiction meanders through scene after scene featuring the main character and their life experiences. Eventually after a wandering path we sometimes reach a conclusion.

Do all literary fiction stories meander? Of course not. There are many great stories being told. Are all mysteries great stories? Well… of course not.

However, there is one major story difference between literary fiction and mysteries. I believe this one difference hooks the reader and makes a mystery story more challenging to write. What is that difference? It’s the clues. clue-image-1

Sometimes in mainstream literary fiction there may be a secret where hints are given about what did occur or may occur within the story. In mysteries there’s no option not to give hints through the use of clues. These clues help to engage the reader.

As Ellery Queen would say it’s the reader’s challenge to see if they have been an astute reader in following the same information that’s presented to the detective. The reader is pitted against the detective with the same opportunity to solve the crime.

What is a clue?

By definition it’s a piece of evidence or information that helps a person find something or discover something which solves the mystery. A secondary explanation is that it is something that guides one through an intricate procedure or maze.

This explanation about helping a person through a maze comes from the origins of the word. The word clue is a late Middle English variant of ‘clew.’ The original meaning of clew was ‘a ball of thread.’ It referred to the idea that a string is used to guide a person out of a maze by tracing backwards following the string.

The most famous example of the word clew is that of the Greek hero Theseus. He killed the monstrous bull-headed Minotaur in its lair and then escaped from the Labyrinth. He was able to escape because the princess Ariadne gave him a ball of twine. He unraveled it as he went in and followed the twine back to find his way out again. From this original example the definition of clue was broadened to mean anything you follow to solve the problem or find a solution.

Clues have a dual purpose

Clues are designed to help the reader solve the murder. They put the reader on an equal playing field with the detective. If the author plays fair−and mystery authors should always play fair−the reader has the same information as the detective. There can be no surprise suspects that pop up in the last chapters, no finger or foot prints that are overlooked or no information that the detective forgets to mention.

Remember that clues can also serve to misguide the reader and the detective. When first presented an item could appear to be a legitimate clue but ends up sending the reader and the detective down the wrong trail. When this happens this clue becomes what is known as a red herring.

Types of Clues

Forensic Clues

These are the clues we all know because of TV shows that emphasize this type of evidence. They include footprints, fingerprints, blood splatter, strands of hair, pieces of fabric and all the other items that lend themselves to scientific analysis.  footprints3

Visual Clues

These clues are the items that are observed by the detective as they pursue the case. It may be the photo on the mantle of someone not seen for years or presumed lost. It might be an item spotted in the room at the time of the murder that has now disappeared. It might be observing that the lady who vanished filled a suitcase full of clothing and jewelry but forgot to take her underwear.

Verbal Clues

This may be one of the hardest clues for the reader to spot. They really have to be paying attention. It is usually slip of the tongue that no one but the detective notices. The suspect may say he never knew the victim. However, later a book in the library is discovered with an inscription from the dead man to the suspect. Or it might be the time table given by the suspect of their activity around the time of the murder.  The time table is very close but there’s just enough of a gap for the person to have committed the crime.

Behavioral Clues

These clues of course bring to mind Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple. There was always a person from her village of St Mary Mead that’s a mirror image of someone involved in the current crime. She knows the psychology of how people behave and this is the clue that always leads her to the solution of the crime. For Quill in Lillian Jackson Braun’s cat mysteries there is the behavior of Koko, the Siamese cat, who provides a clue to what has happened or is about to happen.

Yes, it’s the clues that helps solve the crime. But more importantly, it’s the clues that help guide the reader through the story. It’s the clues that take the detective and the reader in a certain direction. They are not meandering through experiences but checking out specific locations, doing dedicated research or interviewing potential suspects.

I do read literary fiction all the time and there are many books and authors that I have enjoyed and recommended to others. However−you knew there would be a however −I love a book with a delicious murder and a story that challenges me to solve the puzzle. This challenge is enhanced by a series of clues and yes, even some red herrings woven cleverly into the story. For me, clues make mysteries a literary story worth reading.




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Mystery Crossword Anniversary Puzzle Solution

Thanks for participating in our anniversary crossword puzzle. Below are the answers. Hope you had as much fun solving the puzzle as we had creating it.


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