Opinion

New behind-the-scenes Columbo book on sale now!

Get behind the scenes of Columbo like never before!

HUZZAH and HURRAH! The most significant Columbo book in decades is now available to purchase and is a title that every serious fan of the Lieutenant will want to own.

Due for official general release on 15 September to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the first airing of Columbo Season 1 opener Murder by the Book, advance copies of Shooting Columbo are available now, and the book becomes the first to truly dig in to the show’s archives and reveal the real secrets behind its production.

A project more than 10 years in the making, Shooting Columbo author David Koenig was given unprecedented access to original production notes and studio materials to gain a glimpse of the show never previously revealed to the public. On top of that, David was able to secure several interviews with high-ranking cast and crew members, including producers, directors, writers and actors, who shared their own Columbo recollections.

I was lucky enough to read an excerpt of David’s book some moons ago regarding the production of Now You See Him and that brief taster was enough to have me utterly intrigued and trembling with anticipation for the final product to be slotted in to my Columbo book shelf. David was even pivotal in providing information that confirmed the identity of the mystery nude model from Suitable for Framing late last year (read more about that here).

Research for the book uncovered the identity of the mystery model from Suitable for Framing

California-based David Koenig is the Editorial Director of 526 Media Group and the author of eight books, including the best-selling Mouse Tales: A Behind-the-Ears Look at Disneyland and Danny Kaye: King of Jesters. David was kind enough to take some time from his schedule to answer a few of his questions about his research and the book itself, which I feel certain will be of interest to my dear readers…

David, the book sounds BRILLIANT. Can you tell us a little bit about your own history of Columbo appreciation?

When I was growing up in the 1970s, Columbo was my mom’s favorite TV program and, since we had just one television set in the house, my whole family became Columbo watchers. Even though the show was targeted for an older audience, I soon came to love it for both the mystery aspect and Peter Falk’s lovable character. And it remained one of my favorite shows in reruns.

How did the book come about in the first place?

As with every book I’ve written, the idea for Shooting Columbo started simply with my desire to read such a book, only to discover the one I was hoping for did not yet exist. I certainly devoured and enjoyed The Columbo Phile book, but I was left with the impression that there was a lot more going on behind the scenes than author Mark Dawidziak let on. So about 10 years ago, I did a little preliminary research. I soon moved on to another project after learning that a university professor, with a close relationship to Bill Link, was about to publish a book on Columbo. In 2015, I resumed my Columbo research, until once again I learned that the professor’s book was just about to be released. After a couple of years with still no new Columbo book, I figured I would have to do it myself.

Accessing the production notes must have been like the Holy Grail for a Columbo fan. What was it like to be able to dig into the background info like no one has done before?

Yes, poring over the original studio materials was the highlight of the adventure. I also received a tremendous amount of invaluable insight from interviews, but my subjects could share only their side of the story, looking back up to 50 years later. The production reports, on the other hand, were not dimmed by memory or colored by bias. They just reported the facts of exactly what happened on the set or at the story conference.

What are the most memorable unanswered questions the research was able to satisfy for you?

I certainly entered this project with dozens upon dozens of mysteries I hoped to solve. I can’t say my research answered every single question, but certainly all of my major ones. Like, was Columbo’s careening down the hill in The Greenhouse Jungle pre-planned? Whatever happened to Tanya Baker in Double Exposure, who received billing but no screen-time? Who was the mysterious double for Peter Falk in Dead Weight and Lady in Waiting when he was off set in dispute with the network? Why does Shera Danese’s character suddenly disappear midway through the finale of Murder of a Rock Star? What was the unproduced Columbo’s Last Case supposed to be about? And, most famously, my research was able to confirm the identity of the nude model in Suitable for Framing.

What were the most jaw-dropping revelations?

For me, it was just the sheer amount of each episode that Peter Falk himself wrote. Now, in a sense, he “wrote,” or at least rewrote, almost every line he delivered in every episode for 35 years. He would learn each scene on the fly, put the dialogue into his own words, rehearse it every which way, and then shoot dozens of takes until he found the exact phrasing that he thought was most natural for the character. As time went on and his trust in his writers waned, he would rewrite entire scenes himself. A lot of great character scenes that don’t offer much in the way of plot — the visit to the Maestro’s mansion in Etude for Black, the visit to the art gallery in Playback — those are from the mind of Peter.

What interviews were you able to conduct for the book, and what sort of sense did you get from those involved that Columbo was a truly special project to be involved in?

I was blessed in that almost everyone I asked for an interview consented, including producers, writers and directors from every episode, such as Dean Hargrove, Peter S. Fischer, and Everett Chambers. The pandemic even helped in the sense that not only did I have more time to commit to the project, but so did working directors and others in the industry whose lives were on pause. Every single one of them stressed how fortunate they felt to have been part of the show and especially to work alongside Peter Falk. They all loved him, even if he drove them a little crazy. I must say the biggest thrill was interviewing Mrs. Falk herself, Shera Danese. It’s not a coincidence so many of her witty, sharp-tongued characters on Columbo sound similar — that’s really her!

Shera’s on-screen sass is all part of her own personality

How to get your copy of the book

Although the general publication date of Shooting Columbo is September 15, keen fans can get their hands on an advance copy from publisher Bonaventure Press right here. The cost is US$25, plus shipping (rates vary). These first editions will come signed by the author and anyone who orders in advance will be sent an exclusive, in-depth downloadable article on the magnificent locations used in the series.

Shooting Columbo comes in hardcover and features 248 riveting pages, so get amongst it, because this seems certain to be the best Christmas and/or birthday present available in years for those seeking a fresh perspective on the greatest show of them all.

You can also order the book via Amazon in the US (will ship globally).


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53 thoughts on “New behind-the-scenes Columbo book on sale now!

  1. I just received David’s book and can’t put it down. As David frequents this site and responds to posts, I thought I’d pose a question to him:

    Every account I’ve seen of the “gotcha” in “Suitable for Framing,” including in a lengthy Television Academy interview of William Link, describes it as: the detective’s fingerprints, not the murderer’s, solves the crime. David’s book does the same: Jackson Gillis’ brilliant final clue is that “the murderer was identified not by his own fingerprints, but the fingerprints of the detective”; “the pilfered paintings … bear Columbo’s” fingerprints.

    But this is not what makes the ending of “Suitable for Framing” so great. If the final scene had ended with the identification of Columbo’s prints on the Degas pastels, and Columbo asking Kingston, “If Mrs. Matthews is guilty, how could my fingerprints get on paintings that she stole?” — but with Kingston then simply dropping his head in defeat — we wouldn’t have the great ending we got.

    It’s what happens next that we remember: Kingston fighting back, accusing Columbo of adding his fingerprints just then, and his reaction when Columbo takes his gloved hands from his raincoat pockets. That additional moment is what makes the scene.

    So my question is this: If you know, was the gloved-hands coup de grâce always in the “Suitable for Framing” script? Was it part of the “fingerprints of the detective” final clue from the initial draft? Or was it added later, as icing on the final clue’s cake? And if so, by Gillis? By Levinson and Link?

    It’s such an iconic moment, but not one I’ve ever seen explicitly credited to Gillis when the writing of this episode is discussed. Just curious.

    Thanks.

     
    • Hi, Richard. I’m glad you’re enjoying the book.
      You’re absolutely right. The coda is what transforms a superb clue into the best ever.
      I have to think this was Gillis’ intention from the beginning, although the definite answers lies at the Writers Guild Foundation, which holds his papers and unfortunately has been in lockdown far too long! Among the collection is his first draft, called The Crimson Frame.

       
      • By the way, let me add my compliments on how well you branded Gillis’ trademark: the “Act Two Switcheroo.” Great phrase. I was much less poetic, calling him “the master of the mid-episode twist” (see my 11/8/20 comment on “Murder in Malibu”). It took me a while to realize the pattern — that all of these additional twists were Gillis’: Rudy’s will in “Suitable for Framing”; the intended victim mystery in “Requiem for a Falling Star”; the appearance of Norman Paris in “Double Shock”; the murder of Charles Clay in “Last Salute to the Commodore”; shooting the corpse in “Murder in Malibu”; the hit-and-run death of Big Fred in “A Bird in the Hand …” Even his subpar scripts had something to admire.

         
        • And there’s some of Gillis’ Perry Masons, too. In his “Case of the Singing Skirt”, the victim was shot in the heart by two bullets from two different guns, and neither could be positively identified as being the murder bullet. In “The Case of the Flighty Father”, there are two people claiming to be the defendant’s dad, and they each hire Perry to defend her. In “The Case of the Dead Ringer”, Raymond Burr has a dual role, as he also plays a British sailor doppelganger of Perry’s who is hired to impersonate and discredit him (Yikes, that sounds terrible!)

          In his “Man From UNCLE” episode “The Galatea Affair”, Joan Collins plays 2 parts. In his Superman episode “The Face and the Voice”, George Reeves has a dual role. He wrote a 1973 movie called – wait for it – “The Man Who Died Twice”.

          And there’s the unproduced Gillis “evil twin” Columbo script that David writes of, in which a woman murders her sister and takes her place. Bette Davis’ 1964 “Dead Ringer”, for one, got there first (and is pretty decent itself), but I’m sure Gillis would’ve put his own spin on the trope.

           
  2. I have a side hobby of tracking down online articles about Columbo’s popularity during the pandemic, and here’s the newest (9/9), this one with a British spin from BBC Culture (https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20210909-why-the-world-still-loves-1970s-detective-show-columbo).

    I’ve now found 10 such writings across the interwebs since March 2020, and while this one doesn’t have any particularly groundbreaking insights, it does feature David Koenig, with a high-profile plug for “Shooting Columbo”, and British entertainer Stephen Fry (who I confess to only have passing knowledge of, but I understand that over in Britain, he’s a ubiquitous BFD).

     
  3. Ordered the book….was delivered in 5 days….and the inscription by Mr. Koenig is absolutely Columbo-worthy. Thanks for giving the information on the book, this site (which I have placed on my FB page), and all things Columbo. Wishing you and your family all the best, Columbophile!

     
  4. After a Kafkaesque 2-week journey bouncing back-and-forth between 2 Post Office Distribution Centers, my copy of “Shooting Columbo” finally arrived last weekend. It’s terrific!

    This is one for the hard-core Columbophile readers, with plenty of behind-the-curtain details and drama, which David recounts quite well. Note: Do not be expecting an opinion-based flurry of witty commentary on which Gotcha did or didn’t work, or how the episodes rank. That’s for Mark Dawidziak’s “Columbo Phile” and CP’s ep reviews. David does offer some opinions, and you can hear others echoing between the lines as you read. But what struck me were the many might-have-beens scattered through the history of the show, and Peter Falk’s increasingly stifling influence on the final product. Falk’s control of his character and some of the show elements is of course not new news. However, David paints a much more complete picture of how Falk came to overwhelm the final product. In the early years, I think we can agree that this was often to Columbo’s benefit. As the years passed, not so much, as Falk also began to entrust key decisions to people who had their own visions (not really a spoiler to call out Patrick McGoohan on that, but there are others).

    If you’d like, you can read the book skipping through episodes to cherry-pick the ones you want some inside poop on. But that would be doing a disservice, as this is really an episode-by-episode narrative that weaves in the backstage dramas and Falk’s role in the output through the years. For me, it was with a sense of regret that I realized that Falk was his own worst enemy, firmly in control of his character but not of his insecurities. He seems to have sabotaged himself with increasingly questionable demands, judgements, and personnel choices that served his own self-interest, but – perhaps – not the greater good of the show. As with the best Columbo villains, the very qualities that make them popular, powerful and prosperous can also trip them up.

    I don’t want to ruin the Tuba story for you, but…..yeah, go ahead and have a look. As outstanding as Columbo was in the 70s, as the book progresses, I can only see the missed opportunities for continued and sustained greatness.

    Thanks for your efforts on this David! I do fear that the casual Columbo fan won’t be as fascinated by the inner workings of the show as I am, but the Columbophile regulars should find it all very interesting.

     
  5. This may seem un related but me and my dad love johnny cash , swan song and its a good episode and ida lupinob and its a very good aviated themed episode

     
  6. Hi i would like columbophile to know
    That every sunday my dad who has arthirutis watches 5usa columbo from 9 am till 12 , very good episodez such as swan song , try and catch me ,etude in black , troubled waters , agenda for muder is often thrown in
    ,etc however im very dissapointed regardless of all this brilliance that cp has only dine 2 reviews this year

     
  7. Hi , while theres nothing happening on columbophile lately but loads of good episodes on 5 usa ,very relianlyunderstandebly and while reviews are non existent and murder of a rock star which is actually quite good and far in the distance and never going to be reviewedi think its better than that butterfly rubbish with an older shatner ,we never choose to wTch

     
  8. Just finished “Shooting Columbo” book. I found it to be enjoyable & informative. You don’t realize how much is involved in television & how everything is all about money.
    Thanks CP for the head’s up on the book. Continued prayers going out to you and your daughter.

     
  9. My copy arrived! I ordered it on the 9th of this month and it turned up on my doorstep on Thursday. And I’m in Australia, so I’m very impressed with the mail services that got it here.

     
  10. I’m curious about the story of Billy Connolly getting told off my Patrick McGoohan for being drunk on the set of Murder with Too Many Notes, I’m doubting it’s true as Connolly has been teetotal since 1985 and I’ve not read anything else about him to the contrary.

     
  11. Delighted to have another excellent Columbook! Ordered and saving a space on my shelf next to my 1989 edition of Dawidziak’s The Columbo Phile. Thank you for cluing us in and all that you do for the fans. And sincere hopes that your daughter is growing stronger and happier each day.

     
  12. This is as good a place as any to butt in with an update on “Enough Rope”, the first iteration of Columbo on television. It was recently uploaded in CP’s “Columbo: An Origin Story” comments section (https://columbophile.com/2018/02/17/columbo-an-origin-story/comment-page-1/#comment-53578) by a reader who embedded it from youtube, unaware that the show was a protected property that is not available for public viewing. As I thought might happen, the youtube video has since been flagged and taken down, so the embed is also now gone.

    Chris, you expressed some reservations about viewing, but I hope you (and CP) and other CP readers who were following the thread were able to get a look at the program before it was yanked. It’s a piece of pre-“Shooting Columbo” history!

     
  13. In advance of getting the book, does anyone know if “By Dawn’s Early Light” gets any coverage?

    Specifically, I’m always baffled by Columbo’s/Peter Falk’s reaction at the end of the companionable chat, in which he looks possibly confused/incredulous/baffled/bewildered, then mentions the cigar and leaves.

    What was that all about?

    Star Trek had a few of these moments which made no sense. Over the years, with the archives having been made available, and countless interviews, some of the answers were as follows for the strange and confusing moments e.g.

    – A mistake which wasn’t spotted in time
    – An episode timing overran and had to be edited
    – actor’s ego i.e. line counting. During the line count, lines were removed.

    For “By Dawn’s…”, are previous drafts of the script available which shed light on this scene, or something in the production notes showing what guided Peter Falk’s performance?

    Does this new book help?

    Thanks

     
    • Here is my take on that moment: Rumford’s statement about when he’d be willing to hang up his uniform and retire — not yet, but perhaps one day — makes Columbo think of the blueprint (which, he’s figured out, is for a non-military, co-ed facility). He doesn’t want to raise the issue until he has the blueprint in hand, so he lets the line of questioning peter out and leaves, telling Rumford that he has something he wants to show him.

      Of course, I too would love to see the drafting history of any Columbo episode. My first choice would be “Forgotten Lady.” As I said in my comments to the review of that episode, I strongly suspect that Grace’s medical condition was a late addition — something to make her character more sympathetic and allow for a bittersweet conclusion. Because the meticulous planning and carefully timed execution of the murder of Henry Willis was quite inconsistent with a murderer who cannot remember recent events.

       
    • Happy Thursday! Anyone knows if “Ransom for a Dead Man” – the 2nd pilot, is properly covered? Looking forward to receiving this interesting book…. Thank you, 👍

       
    • My take is it becomes obvious that he is not married… and, well, some things are best left unsaid/ you can fill in the rest/ we don’t have to know all the details — with the blueprint for the restrooms being a well-placed follow-up.

       
  14. Glad to see something positive and a new post from cp there were a few good episodes yedterday on 5usa , Agenda for murder , caution , try and catch me , and death lends a hand all very good episodes and i do know sydney is in lockdown but britain is very much not so i hope i or the british public dont sound rude to the great cp

     
  15. Placed my order just now. Even though the shipping to the UK costs more than the book! I only recently picked up the Columbo Phile book and I read the whole thing in two sittings, I could NOT put it down. Looking forward to more behind-the-scenes info! Love the site CP, hope you are yours are well.

     
  16. This book looks amazing. I just sent my wife the link hinting at my birthday coming up… Hopefully shipping costs to Europe won’t be 45 dollars, that seems a bit much and unnecessary.
    Also, CP, great to see you posting an article again. I hope your daughter is being as well as can be expected.

     
      • Thank you for your reply, that seems reasonable. I’ve been discreetly given to understand that a copy has already, and immediately, been ordered for me…

         
      • Yes, I’ll get it but I’ll wait a little while. Shipping a fair bit to Australia.
        Looks like a great read and best to your daughter Columbophile.

         
    • I just placed my order, 28,25$ to Europe…
      45$! is a lot, seems like you are living on the moon!
      😉

      I already downloaded the map – it’s great!

       
  17. Just bought it, thanks for the heads up! I can’t wait to get it. The PDF was also really cool. Hope your daughter is doing better and keep up the fantastic work on the site!

     
  18. Looks interesting! Presume it covers the most awesome of episodes- Ransom for a Dead Man….. a certain acquisition…thanks for the heads up. Hope your daughter gets better soon…. 🙏

     
  19. A new Columbo book is certainly good news. I have a copy of Columbo Phile, and I’m happy to have it, but one disappointment is that there isn’t much in it about the 1989-2003 episodes. Maybe now we’ll find out exactly who is to blame for that tuba scene. 😊

     
  20. David, you now have my money and I look forward to delivery. I know it’s a going to be a good read because of the creative choice to go with the Classic Columbo font on the cover!

    It was back in the “Murder Can Be Hazardous” thread that David confirmed my suspicions that Peter Falk had a lot to do with creating that episode, credited to three totally green writers who had no credits before or since. That’s one of the first chapters I’ll go to, to get David’s intel on that story.

     
  21. I always had the feeling that a lot of the fantastic Falk/Cassavetes dialogue in the Etude in Black “mansion scene” was ad-libbed – it has an almost musical quality of two great virtuosos. Of course, it also turns out to be the very heart of the episode, since Columbo is in effect saying – I know you did it, and the enormous cost of this mansion and lifestyle is your motive !
    Hardly surprising to learn Falk was difficult to work with – although nevertheless popular with the production staff. A certain amount of creative conflict seems to be a recurring theme in the production of outstanding popular art.

     
  22. I bought the book. It sounds like an amazing read. I’ve never commented on your blog before, incidentally, but it’s wonderful. Thanks for sharing the news on this book, and most importantly, I hope your daughter is feeling better.

     

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