Author K.B. Owen on One of Her Favorite TV Detectives – Columbo

Like most of the other writers I adore today, I first met Kathy “K.B.” Owen on social media back in 2011.  We hit it off… talking about writing and pop culture, particularly Survivor.

Author K.B. Owen

Author K.B. Owen

But Kathy and I share something greater than our minor obsession for the popular “Outwit, Outlast, Outplay” reality television program—we both LOVE mysteries.  I keep an eye on Kathy’s blog because I know I can count on her publishing some fabOoolous posts, featuring some of the literary and television sleuths I grew up reading and watching… like Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, Perry Mason, and even Scooby Dooby Doo.  She has also introduced me to a few 19th century historical facts, from clothing, to holiday celebrations, to true crime.  I’ve never been one who’s big on the past, but the stories Kathy shares are fascinating!

However, Survivor, mysteries, and 19th century facts aside, Kathy is also a wife and mother, who squeezes in gardening where she can between writing and taking care of her beautiful family.  She’s one of the most genuine and supportive people I have met and I’m lucky to call her a friend.

Since it’s technically Tele-Tuesday here at The Ooo Factor, Kathy is here to talk about one of her favorite TV detectives of all-time (and one of my dad’s) – Columbo.

But Kathy is also here to share a tad about her latest release, Unseemly Pursuits.

Before we jump into Kathy’s TV guest post, check out the blurb for her latest historical mystery:

A deadly secret that won’t stay buried…

UnseemlyPursuitsCover 266x400It is the fall of 1896, and Miss Concordia Wells is hip-deep in the usual tumult of a lady professor’s life: classes, clubs, student pranks, and the unending drama generated by the girls she lives with on campus.  Complicating this normality is the new Lady Principal, whom the students have nicknamed “the Ogre.”  The woman seems bent on making Concordia’s life miserable.

And then there’s the exotic spirit medium, Madame Durand, who has befriended Concordia’s mother and has started a “Spirit Club” on campus.  Madame’s prognostications of doom are at first only mildly irritating – until events take a sobering turn.  An ancient Egyptian amulet donated to the college mysteriously disappears, the donor is found murdered, and his daughter – Concordia’s best friend – confesses to killing him.

Desperate for answers, Concordia unravels a 20-year-old secret, closely guarded by men now dead.  But such secrets can be dangerous for the daughters left behind, including Concordia herself.  Can she make sense of the mystery that has bound together their fates, before it’s too late?

*****

Hi Tiffany, thanks for having me! I’m so glad you asked me to talk about one of my favorite tv detectives:

Columbo

Publicity photo 1973, Margie Korshak Associates. Wikimedia Commons.

Publicity photo 1973, Margie Korshak Associates. Wikimedia Commons.

Some interesting facts about Peter Falk and the Columbo series:

1.  Bing Crosby was first offered the role of Columbo, but he didn’t want to commit to a series.  He joked that it would interfere with his golfing.

2.  In 1968, the first 90-minute pilot (Prescription: Murder) aired, co-starring Gene Barry. The regular tv series ran from 1971 to 1978, and was part of the NBC Mystery Movie anthology, which included McCloud and McMillan and Wife.  Columbo was brought back in 1989 (this time for ABC) for 5 more continuous seasons.  The 13th and final season aired 5 episodes between 1998 and 2003.  It has won multiple Edgars, Emmys, and Golden Globes. There were 69 episodes in all, directed and written by different talent over the years.

3. The first regular episode was directed by a young Steven Spielberg. As Peter Falk later told Spielberg’s biographer:

Let’s face it, we had some good fortune at the beginning. Our debut episode, in 1971, was directed by this young kid named Steven Spielberg. I told the producers, Link and Levinson: “This guy is too good for Columbo” … Steven was shooting me with a long lens from across the street. That wasn’t common twenty years ago. The comfort level it gave me as an actor, besides its great look artistically — well, it told you that this wasn’t any ordinary director.

4.  William Link and Richard Levinson, the show’s creators, did something that was unusual for the time in a mystery series:  instead of a “whodunnit” format, where the progress of the episode moves towards the revelation of the murderer, it was a “how’s-he-gonna-catch-em,” where we see right away, in the opening scene, who did it, why he did it, and how, and then the rest of the episode is the detective hounding, questioning, and drawing the net tighter and tighter around the murderer, until he cannot escape.

5.  One of the cool things about the series is the star-studded guest-murderer cast.  Here are a few of the well-known names:  William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy (they were in separate episodes), Robert Conrad, Johnny Cash, Eddie Albert, Anne Baxter, Dick Van Dyke, Dabney Coleman, Faye Dunaway, Janet Leigh, Ricardo Montalban, Roddy MacDowall.

photo from Wikimedia.org, according to Creative Commons licensing

photo from Wikimedia.org, according to Creative Commons licensing

Columbo’s appeal:

1.  The suit: It looked like it was purchased from a thrift shop, and then perpetually slept in.

2.  The car: It certainly stood out among the Mercedes, BMWs, Cadillacs and Ferraris that typified the wealthy and famous of southern California (which seemed to be the demographic Columbo perpetually found himself working with). Columbo’s car was always breaking down, making a clatter when it did run, and had various parts breaking off.

It took me a while to figure out that it was a Peugeot. According to http://www.columbo-site.freeuk.com, Columbo drove a 1959 Peugeot 403 convertible. And Peugeot only made 504 of that body style in 1959. So when Columbo called his wife’s car “just transportation” – implying that his car is special – he was right!

Columbo’s car, via MSNautos

Columbo’s car, via MSNautos

3.  The “dog”:  Of course Columbo had to have a bassett hound, one of the best sniffer dogs out there.  But it wasn’t your typical bassett hound. “Dog” was a shuffling collection of neuroses and odd behaviors.

4.  The cigar:  It rarely seemed to be lit, did it? Columbo certainly chewed on and spoke around it, though.

5.  The game:  Ah, the wonderful cat-and-mouse interaction that goes on between Columbo and the murder suspect.  The persistence, the squirming, the murderer’s initial coolness and control inevitably giving way to exasperation, rage, and mistake(s) that will prove his undoing.  Masterful!

6.  The humor:  Who doesn’t love those odd little personal side-tracks and idiosyncrasies that peek out when Columbo works a case?  The lethargic “Dog”  (yep, that’s his name, “Dog”) Columbo feeds his ice cream cone to; the never-seen but always-talked-about wife and her personal habits;  the expired driver’s license, which requires Columbo to take another road test with a DMV examiner (hilarious!); the police gun certification that requires him to go back to the shooting range (even though he never carries his gun); his car always breaking down…the list goes on and on.

Oh, there’s just one more thing….

Columbo’s demeanor:  fumbling (does the man ever have a writing implement on his person?), self-effacing, overly-polite, rambling off-topic.  These characteristics make an effective smoke screen (to the murderer…not us, of course) for his sharp mind and keen attention to detail.

Here’s a short clip, just for fun:

Are you familiar with the Columbo series? Do you have a favorite episode or feature from the series? Tiffany and I would love to hear from you!

*****

About K.B.

K.B. Owen taught college English at universities in Connecticut and Washington, DC and holds a doctorate in 19th century British literature.  A long-time mystery lover, she drew upon her teaching experiences to create her amateur sleuth, Professor Concordia Wells.

Unseemly Pursuits is the second book of the series.  The first book, Dangerous and Unseemly, was published in early 2013.

K.B. currently lives in Virginia with her husband and sons, and is busily planning the lady professor’s next adventure.

An Unseemly Giveaway

The Unseemly Swag Kit

The Unseemly Swag Kit

During K.B.’s Unseemly Pursuits book tour, which goes through the first week of March, there’s a giveaway at each blog stop (including here!).  The winner, randomly drawn from the commenters at each stop, will get a free ebook copy of Unseemly Pursuits.  At the end of the tour, she’ll hold another random drawing from among the ebook winners for the final prize: a special Concordia Wells series swag package! It includes customized mug, keychain, JellyBelly mini-tin, and signed paperback copies of the first two mysteries: Dangerous and Unseemly and Unseemly Pursuits. You can read, sip your coffee, and snack on candy in unseemly style. Check the sidebar on the home page of kbowenmysteries.com for the full tour schedule and other info.

But if you can’t wait to win, here’s where to buy Unseemly Pursuits:

Kindle

Paperback

Nook

Smashwords

Kobo

iBooks

*****

Tiffany A. White is the author of the YA mystery Football Sweetheart series available on Kindle and Nook.  She is available for contact via Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or via email at tiffany {at} tiffanyawhite {dot} com.

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18 Responses to Author K.B. Owen on One of Her Favorite TV Detectives – Columbo

  1. I’m a huge Columbo fan. I grew up watching him pretend to fumble around while being a genus investigator/interrogator. When I did my own investigations, I occasionally threw out that last “Just one more question…” as I neared the door. You’d be surprised how often that worked. 😉

    Great post, K.B. It brought back a lot of memories. I always enjoyed watching this and some of the other shows you mentioned as a kid with my family. 🙂

  2. K.B. Owen says:

    Tiffany, thank you so much for the fab kindness, sweetie! It’s always such fun to hang out with you. And thanks for hosting me today, too! 😀

  3. Pingback: Just one more thing: Columbo’s Ooo Factor

  4. Hi ladies! I absolutely love Columbo, from original series to those movies which is where I likely first encountered the character. Glad you referenced Mrs. Columbo. Always get a kick out of how he talks about her even though she’s never seen. Didn’t know Spielberg directed early episodes. That’s a great fact.

    • K.B. Owen says:

      Hi Clay! How great to see you here. Never seeing Mrs. Columbo is a great running joke…I even remember when I first saw the episode where they are on a cruise ship (a trip that Mrs. Columbo had won in a raffle) thinking: “surely we’ll see her now!” Nope! There’s also the running joke of not knowing Columbo’s first name…

  5. I’d forgotten about his crazy car. So cool that you found a picture.

    Best of luck with Unseemly Pursuits. I’ve read it and it is a fab book!

    • K.B. Owen says:

      Hubby and I would watch it back in the day and wonder what the heck make/model it was! It took us forever (no internet back then) to figure out it was a Peugeot. And I even owned a Peugeot Alliance at one point, but of course it didn’t look anything like that (although it was a wreck in its own way). Thanks for the compliment, too, Kass!

  6. I always loved the way his seeming ineptitude pushed the perp into a rage that caused him to do something to give himself away. Great series and great post about it. Thanks, K.B. and Tiffany.

  7. John Holton says:

    My wife and I were in our teens in the 70’s when the show was brand new, and we still get a charge out of it. Mary usually loses patience with reruns that she’s seen a million times, but Columbo is the exception. It was a unique concept, and Peter Falk made the character come alive. God help Hollywood if they decide to do a Columbo movie, because they’ll never get it right. Great post!

    • K.B. Owen says:

      Thanks John! I know just what you mean…I’m not a big fan of re-runs, but the Columbo episodes are one of the few exceptions for me. And I agree: how could anyone substitute for Peter Falk?

    • Hi, John!

      I agree with you… if they ever decide to do a movie, it won’t be the same without Peter Falk. That said, CONGRATULATIONS! You are the lucky winner of Kathy’s giveaway. She will be contacting you directly at the email you provided when leaving this comment to make arrangements. 🙂

  8. I loved Columbo! Now I want to watch it. I wonder if it’s on Netflix….

  9. Wow, thank you so much Kathy for the reminders. I loved watching Columbo! It was an amazing show. The writing, the character flaws. It just sucked you in. Fabulous post. I hope your book tour is still going strong Kathy. And than you Tiffany for being such a wonderful host! 🙂

    • K.B. Owen says:

      Karen, so nice to see you! Wouldn’t it be terrific to create a character as memorable and loved as Columbo? The book tour is going well – almost wrapped up now! I’ll be announcing winners soon. 😉

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