I do love a bit of Columbo creative writing – as hopefully this blog is a testament to. So seeing others getting kicks out of their own Columbo writing is a beautiful thing.
It’s therefore a genuine pleasure to be able to share some of the best entries from a recent short story competition, that invited participants to deliver a Columbo tale of any description in no more than 200 words – no easy feat!
The competition was launched via the lively ColumboTV Facebook Page (why not join ’em?) in October and ran until just before Christmas. And with 130 entries, the competition really got Columbo fans’ creative juices pumping. Having read them all as one of the judges, I can state firsthand that the variety was really quite something.
We were given ‘cut scenes’ or alternative endings from existing Columbo episodes, snippets from clever new mystery stories and even examples of Columbo being inserted into real world crimes. We were put into Columbo’s shoes, the minds of killers and even got the perspective from Dog and the battered Peugeot. There were also some cheeky crossovers featuring the likes of Poirot, Jessica Fletcher, Bat-Man and the cast of Are You Being Served!
With so many entries to choose from, selecting the top entries was never going to be easy – particularly with the high standards in evidence. It’s also very subjective, so the top entries we’ve identified may differ greatly from your own. Such is life, but hopefully there’ll be no major quibbles. We’re all Columbo fans, after all…
The top 7 entries, as assessed by judges, can be read below. Please note, these are in no particular order, except for the winning entry! Readers can also download the full list of entries at the end of the post. It’s well worth it.
“We were given ‘cut scenes’ or alternative endings from existing episodes, snippets from clever new mystery stories and even examples of Columbo being inserted into real world crimes.”
Gorgeous Wayne, by Richard Jenkinson
Wayne Jennings woke up. He loved the morning. It was the time of day when he could look at himself in the mirror, uninterrupted.
Theresa was so privileged, Wayne thought to himself. She got to look at his face often. Wayne ran a hand through his hair, then sprayed a can of hairspray on it. ‘Perfect!’ he thought to himself.
Wayne blew a kiss at the mirror and then looked one last time at his reflection for 50 minutes. Wayne couldn’t be late today. He had two things planned: looking at himself in shop windows and planning to kill Theresa Goren…
Judges’ comments: A short but sweet offering, and one of several poking some playful fun at Wayne Jennings – one of the most lampooned Columbo killers of all! This one raised genuine laughs with us, which is why it makes our favourites’ list.
Columbo Takes the Stand, by Rich Weill
“Before I close this inquest,” said the Coroner, “is anyone here assigned to the Chadwick case from the Los Angeles Police Department?”
Columbo raised his hand and rose slightly from his seat in the spectator section. “Would you please step forward?” said the Coroner. “You are?”
“Lieutenant Columbo. LAPD. Homicide.”
Columbo took the witness stand. The clerk administered the oath. “Have you evidence that Bryce Chadwick’s death was not accidental?” asked the Coroner.
Columbo thought a moment. “Evidence? I wouldn’t say ‘evidence.’ Just loose ends.”
“What are ‘loose ends’?”
“Things that keep me up at night. Like the late-edition newspaper on the hall table. How did it get there? No one in the house could have brought it, except Mr. Chadwick, and he was never in the hall.”
“Is there always a reason?”
“Things don’t appear, disappear, or move around on their own.”
“People say they forgot,” said Columbo. “But don’t worry, sir. I’ll keep digging. I’ll find the explanation. I always do.”
“Should I adjourn this inquest for a week?”
“No, go ahead and rule Mr. Chadwick’s death an accident.” Columbo leaned over and whispered to the Coroner: “I prefer it when everyone’s off their guard.”
Judges’ comments: We loved seeing here what we never saw in an episode – Columbo on the witness stand in a highly plausible alternative scene from Season 1’s Lady in Waiting. Columbo’s voice and tone are spot on.
Just four words, by Joe Pritchard
“Ahh, I’ll be sorry to see you go.” Gilhooley put down his coffee and poked Officer Columbo in the chest. “You’re a good copper. You like folks, for Pete’s Sake, which is hard in this job. I’ll miss you.”
“Fred thinks it would be a good move for me… have you met Fred? Fred’s my cousin. He’s always going on about what it’s like out there. Says the weather’s better. There’s more space… how much space does a man need?”
Columbo rummaged in his shirt pocket and pulled out some small change and a bus ticket. “Hmmmmm, thought I’d got a photo of Fred here…”
GiIlhooley smiled. In the time he’d had Columbo under his wing he’d grown attached to the young cop, with all of his little quirks. He wondered what advice he could give him for the future. He smiled as he remembered what his sergeant had told him years before.
“Just a bit of advice for you. Four words that will help you a lot. Throw them in at the end and follow them with the question you really wanted to ask at the beginning.”
Columbo raised an eyebrow and looked up, listening attentively.
Gilhooley smiled. “Just one more thing…”
Judges’ comments: A very nice insight into Columbo’s early career as a cop in New York prior to his move to LA, and the legacy Sergeant Gilhooley left on his career. A fun and believable means of conveying the origin of the the Lieutenant’s ‘just one more thing…’ tagline. Nice work!
The Hunter and the Prey, by Carlos Torres
Henry murdered his mother. Official story, she slipped in the bath tub. Henry was a hunter and that was the kind of stupid death that he wanted for her. Of course, Henry was far away when it happened, on a hunting trip. Perfect alibi.
A police inquiry was no surprise. They had sent the stupidest looking lieutenant in the world, someone called Columbo. He asked some questions, just routine. An accident, Columbo said. Piece of cake.
He was almost out when he stopped. Just one more thing, for the report. Henry smiled. He kinda liked the guy.
Columbo came back the next day. And the next. He asked about silicone lube and hand crafted soap and other details that were too close to comfort. Did Columbo know? Nah… He would finish his report and never return.
Today Henry was at his balcony, cleaning one of his rifles, and then he saw the man with the cheap raincoat, waving at him from the distance. Henry had stared at the eyes of the most fierce animals in the world, never showing fear. Today, he trembled. For the first time in his life, he was no longer the hunter. He was the prey.
Judges’ comments: Carlos did a great job in putting us inside the mind of the killer and succinctly taking us on the familiar journey of a confident killer with nothing to worry about, to one who is firmly in the Lieutenant’s site. The hunter / prey angle works perfectly and could have actually made for a fascinating episode.
A Time to Dine, by Richard Brown
The Maître d watches the front door, he sees a disheveled looking man walking towards him, he thinks he is seeing another hobo looking for a free meal.
A kindly man, he has directed many a similar person to the rear doors of the kitchen, to offer them a bowl of hot soup and a bread roll. He himself was once less fortunate, and required the services of a local mission which offered warmth, food and good company.
“Good afternoon Sir, how may I help you.”
“Hello, My name is Lieutenant Columbo, Los Angeles Police Department, Homicide Division.”
The Maître d is somewhat taken aback. “I see Sir, how may I be of service.”
“Well this may sound a little odd, but I need your help, in a little deception.”
“Deception?” The Maître d’s curiosity is pricked.
Not willing to give the game away completely and perhaps worry anyone with the knowledge there may be a murderer in their midst the Lieutenant continues: “Well you see I have this friend, you may have heard of him, Mr Adrian Carsini…”
“Oh yes Sir, we know him very well, he is an excellent customer of ours.”
“Do you have a wine list………?”
Judges’ comments: Another entry that effortlessly provided us with a believable ‘cut scene’ from a popular episode, Richard’s story gives us the meeting between Columbo and Vito Scotti’s officious Maitre D from Any Old Port in a Storm. We can almost hear Vito’s voice and see his facial expressions just reading this. Great work!
Holy Name Society Newsletter, by Nancy Thompson
PETER’S R.C. CHURCH, HOLY NAME SOCIETY NEWSLETTER, DECEMBER 1974
November was a busy month! The Thanksgiving Formal broke all attendance records since we started it back in 1964, thanks to the hard work of our volunteers and donors. Dance music was provided by the Haynes Academy Military Band, and the 10 Baskets of Cheer donated by the Merino Brothers Winery proved the most popular Silent Auction item, garnering a total of $172.18 toward the 1975 Altar Flowers.
AND THE WINNER IS…
The lucky winner of the Acapulco Cruise Raffle is Mrs. Frank Columbo! She and her husband will enjoy an 8-day trip on the cruise liner Ocean Dream! This prize was generously donated by the Meadis Family Charitable Foundation.
The regular Wednesday night meeting of the Tommy Brown Sobriety Club has been moved to Thursday next week, due to the Christmas holidays.
St. Peter’s HNS office has recently been informed of the death of former member Mrs. Lily LaSanka.
Mrs. LaSanka left Oxnard in 1967 for Lake Menifee, where she ran a local General Store until her sudden death in 1971. A St. Peter’s parishioner who recently vacationed there passed on the sad news.
Judges’ comments: A unique entry in terms of its approach, this is a delightful and authentic-feeling Church missive packed with Easter Eggs for knowledgeable Columbo fans. Full of subtle references to many episodes (and of course the pre-cursor to Troubled Waters), this is a fun and rewarding read.
And the winner is…
Columbo Moves Out, by Russell Flowers
The landlord watched Columbo stuff his clothing into an old army duffel bag. “You know, you should stay. I could go week-to-week. Hang around, a cop might be good for the place’s reputation.”
Columbo chewed on the stub of his cigar. “No. Thanks, but no.” He looked up. “I got a family to get back to. I was just using the room to crack a case.”
The landlord nodded toward the door, where most of the police had just left. “That guy? What did he do?”
“Murdered his wife. And helped cover up another murder, probably. Hell of a thing.” Columbo cocked his head. “You know he’s my boss? Was. Deputy Commissioner.”
“You don’t say?”
“Yeah.” Columbo raised his hand to the back of his head. “And you know – I’ve got a problem now.”
The landlord looked back as he was walking away. “What’s that?”
Columbo wore a thoughtful expression. “I can finally finish my report now. I’m just not sure who to turn it in to.”
Judges’ comments: A completely believable outro to A Friend in Deed, this entry shows us what happens immediately after Commissioner Halperin has been taken down. Writer Russell has nailed Columbo’s language and mannerisms and this could easily have been a closing epilogue to a novelisation of the episode. It also addresses the query that keen Columbo fans have: did the Lieutenant really plan to live here, or did he hire it just for the sting operation?
We couldn’t let this article pass without referencing these other entries, which really were from the top drawer:-
- Suitable for Promotion, by Neal Maidment
- The Lustful Sinner, by Andrew Gooch
- Reprint, by Lisa Marie Trump
- The Sports Fan, by Vincent Spinochia
- Columbo: Model Behaviour, by Terry Waters
- A Flash in the Pan, by Jonathan Rogers
Hats off, too, to Gary Kevin Ware and Mary Manuilidu, who were suitably inspired to contribute more than 30 entries between them. That’s some serious dedication to the cause!
All the entries have been thoughtfully compiled into one document by competition organiser Ian Baxter – including my own, which featured a never-before-seen moment when Sergeant Wilson was assigned to work with Columbo in Greenhouse Jungle.
A big thanks to all those who took part and congratulations to winner Russell Flowers, who wins a life-time contract to write ‘anthropology novels’ for Greenleaf Publications (pending the publisher’s own court proceedings). Should Riley Greenleaf be sent to jail, the below bag will be Russell’s prize instead!
Congratulations to Ian Baxter, whose excellent idea did so much to capture fellow fans’ imaginations, and helped make for a very nice tribute to the show for its 50th anniversary in 2018.
Thanks to all contributors: Ian Baxter | Michael Martin | Richard Brown | Alan Louis | Frank Columbo (that’s me!) | Catrin Jones | Debbie Greenfield | Warren Rigby | Carlos Torres | Ben Ramsey | Mary Manuilidu | Lisa Marie Trump | Joe Pritchard | Terry Waters | Neal Maidment | Zac Baxter | David Steer | Vincent Spinochia | Gary Kevin Ware | Philip Wilson | John Shields | Anna Stella | Toby O’Brien | Naomi Baxter | Andrew Gooch | Neil Robertson | Richard Goodwin | Mary Lowe | Ruth Williams | Robin Roy | Tricia Carr | Russell Flowers | Ash Preston | Tim Donovan | Richard Schwindt | Dina Di Mambro | Nancy Thompson | David van den Bosch | Lorraine Middleton | Steve Behling | Richard Jenkinson | Kathy Dreher | Rich Weill | James Feldman | Owen Kowalski | Jonathan Rogers | Phil Openshaw | Jim Rhoads