A tribute in prose to television's greatest detective.

Wanna join in? E-mail me with your story .

     It was the spring of 1979. Disco thankfully was on the decline, I was still having a bad hair day, and L.A.'s finest had quit publicizing his homicidal triumphs (I held the conviction that somewhere, in that parallel universe where TV cops continue to clear cases outside the public eye, the good lieutenant was still breaking perfect alibis and finding that one piece of irrefutable evidence).

     I was studying the communicational sciences at Indiana State University under one Warren Pease (I assume his folks were Tolstoy fans), an obi-wan of the radiowave who remained fascinated by the so-called Theater of the Mind. Although the heyday of the radio drama was long past - with the exception of CBS Mystery Theater, which in coming years would divert me from arduous drives to basketball games throughout rural Indiana - Pease felt the magic of creating suspense and spinning characters without the benefit of a screen or TV tube. When Pease put to his collegiate charges the task of recreating that magic, what else could I do? Like an adolescent Dr. Frankenstein, I set out to revive the greatest detective of all TV times.

     The job of portraying the cat-and-mouse tension of vintage Columbo actually proved easy: The murderer revealed his motivations and methods through simple narration, and the lieutenant was able to sneak up and unnerve both his prey and an audience unprepared for his entrance. Finding the right clue was a much tougher task, but a routine trip to the grocery tipped me off, and the rest is lost college radio history (I won't reveal details, because I used the clue in one of the tales proferred to the right). Who donned the imaginary raincoat of the rumpled sleuth for this live drama? Need you ask?

     The point is, where Columbo is uniquely a creation of television - and indisputably its greatest and most influential detectival creation - the lieutenant lives on, in sitcom parodies, in bad office impersonations, and on the written page. From poor early novelistic attempts like Columbo and the Samurai to the late William Harrington's intriguing if misguided novels pitting Columbo against the mysteries of JFK's assassination, Charles Manson's continued mystique, and Jimmy Hoffa's disappearance, authors have tried to recapture the full-bodied, chili-tinged flavor of Columbo.

     And that's the purpose of this fanfic anthology - to offer Columbo devotees just one more taste, one more tales of the greatest and most humbling cop to stumble onto a crime scene. I hope these stories, and those you may feel inspired to contribute yourself, will provide stimulating theater of the mind. If you find yourself casting the killer with your favorite thespian, or humming Henry Mancini's haunting Mystery Movie Theme as you read, then we've done the job. Enjoy.

Martin Ross, editor
Disclaimer: Columbo is the property of Universal and ABC and the brilliant creation of Richard Levinson and William Link and Peter Falk. The works on this site are merely fictional homages or pastiches, and are not intended for any commercial application or profit.


Just as Sherlock Holmes is credited with inspiring nearly every Great Detective of the past century and Rockford, Spenser, Magnum can all trace their lineage to legendary private eyes like Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe, the Good Lieutenant has influenced a whole generation of dogged investigators including Law and Order:Criminal Intent's Robert Goren, obsessive-complusive savant Adrian Monk, and Patrick Jane, the former fake psychic-turned-deceptive detective known as the Mentalist.

There may never be another like Columbo. But the Columboesque "inverted" mystery, pitting schlogging sleuth against an adversary of (seemingly) equal mettle, is still a treat dished out regularly by a flock of televisic 'tecs.

Keep an eye out for these inverted eps on your favorite cable network:

“The Judge” – Matlock
Columbo surrogate: Ben Matlock
Villain of the Week: Judge Carter Addison, murderous magistrate

When Andy Griffith returned to the public spotlight as the folksy Southern lawyer, NBC played him as the successor to the Great Lieutenant. So who better to go up against in the first series ep than Columbo murderer extraordinaire Dick Van Dyke. Van Dyke plays haughty to the max as Judge Carter Addison, leveraging his bench seat to thwart our cornpone sleuth. The key clue smacks a bit too much of Etude in Black, but the story was a promising start to a show that soon would grow very, very old for me.
“Hungry” – X-Files
Columbo surrogate: Special Agent Fox Mulder
Villain of the Week: Rob Roberts, cannibalistic burger-flipper

This might be the only inverted mystery with a cannibalistic mutant hamburger-flipper/murderer. This was one of my favorite eps of this tasty trek into the supernatural and scientifically arcane, a black and witty and somehow touching satire of our American obsession with – and self-loathing over – food. There’s something vaguely Kafka-esque about Special Agent Fox Mulder’s ruthless pursuit of hapless shark/man Rob Roberts (Chad Donella of Final Destination), a beleaguered minimum-wager who resorts to appetite suppressants and a (screechingly hilarious) Overeaters Anonymous meeting to curb his taste for human flesh. Kudos to David Duchovny’s Mulder, whose mix of Falkish curiosity and Gorenesque menace almost have us rooting for the maneater. See also Season Six’s “Terms of Endearment,” a blend of inverted homicide and Rosemary’s Baby starring Burn Notice’s Bruce Campbell.
“Mr. Monk is on the Air” – Monk
Columbo surrogate: Adrian Monk
Villain of the Week: Max Hudson, 'roid-rageous radio rat

This was a tough one – Monk is the modern prince of the mano-a-mano deathmatch, and he’s scored on heavyweights like Malcolm McDowell, Gary Cole, Andrew McCarthy, Lolita Davidovich, Howie Mandel, David Straithairn, Adam Arkin, and Jeff Donovan (Burn Notice star and one cold fish as a homicidal astronaut). What adds to the joy of a good Monk ep is the impossible crime element – great howdunit stuff. However, I’m going to give the prize to Steven Weber’s breathtakingly crass, cruel, and cold-blooded shock jock Max Hudson, who pulls a spousicide in How to Dial a Murder fashion, riffs relentlessly on Monk, and then goes on-air to taunt our OCD detective about his dead wife, to the disgust of even his crude crew of radio boothmates. This is one of the most despicably despisable SOBs to grace mystery TV since Robert Conrad or Leonard Nimoy. Bravo, you bastard.
“Major Case” – Law and Order: Criminal Intent
Columbo surrogate: Det. Zach Nichols
Villain of the Week: Dr. Henry Muller, pathological pathologist

While Detective Robert Goren (with Adrian Monk) remains the truest descendant of the Good Lieutenant, the cases he coaxes, prods, and finesses aren’t truly inverted – the killer usually isn’t exposed until 45 minutes of labyrinthine twists transpire. Newbie Det. Zach Nichols (Jeff Goldblum) actually was first to don the Rumpled Raincoat in this recent ep, which echoes A Trace of Murder. Henry Muller is a seriously bent forensic genius and celebrity true crime writer portrayed with sinister geeky goodness by Dylan Baker (Spiderman’s biology prof). We even get a little Seventh Season-style Imminent Detective Danger, as Baker tries to off the quirky Det. Nichols a la Louis Jourdan.
“Extradition: British Columbia” – Psych
Columbo surrogate: Shawn Spencer
Villain of the Week: Pierre Despereaux, comedic cad

Columbo, slacker-style. Shawn Spencer, the underachieving, over-observant fake psychic/real detective and his erstwhile best bud Burton “Gus” Guster usually specialize in whodunits, but in this comic crimefest’s fourth season premiere, Shaen and Gus not only play cat-and-rat with an arch-criminal but offer us a rare inverted theft story. Cary Elwes is elegantly goofy as master art thief Pierre Despereaux, whom Shawn tracks to Canada in the hopes of scoring some righteous reward bucks. Shawn’s off his usually sharp deductive game but still manages to pull the wool over the Canadian blues’ eyes. Until wily Pierre flauntingly pulls off an impossible burglary in front of Shawn, Gus, the B.C. constabularies, and his cop nemesis “Lassie” Lassiter. The confrontations between Shawn and Pierre are terrific parodies of Columbo’s thrust-and-parries, and the solution’s a brilliant piece of misdirection. Five out of five pineapples (watch the show, you’ll understand).

Your editor talks with Illinois' top mystery authors

Hugh Holton
While he was a captain in the Chicago Police Department, Holton's novels about CPD detective Larry Cole often owed as much to The X-Files as to Joseph Wambaugh or NYPD Blue...

Denise Swanson
Swanson's detective creation, Skye Denison, is a school psychologist like her author. Fortunately, Swanson hasn't had to deal with anything more murderous than adolescent angst...

Maureen Tan
The maternal author of the popular Jane Nichols suspense novels is plying her craft in a new world: Cyberspace and virtual reality...

Barb D'Amato
Cops and comedy, issues and imagination -- Chicago's Barb D'Amato has tamed lions, tigers, and mystery...

Raymond Benson
Keeping Bond in business was no easy task -- travel to exotic locales, fame, fortune. But somebody had to do it...

Eleanor Taylor Bland
Like her detectival creation, Marti McAllister, Eleanor Taylor Bland values family, character, and social justice...



Vengeance is Mine
By Eric Paddon
Columbo's first documented case comes back to haunt him in this tale of penitence, retribution, and punishment...

Quality of Death

By Martin Ross
Kent Hawkins was America's most famous innkeeper. But when he helps a guest who overstayed her welcome check out, its up to Columbo to find him a new room at the federal pen...

A Good Cigar

is a Smokescreen

(A Columbo/Rockford novelette)
By Martin Ross
An actor-turned conman graduates to the role of murderer, and its up to Lt. Columbo and P.I. Jim Rockford to out-con him -- and each other...

The Game is Over
By Eric Paddon
When the last and reigning king of the daytime game show takes deadly steps to stay in the spotlight, it's up to Columbo to disqualify him...

Three Strikes and You're Out

By Eric Paddon
When an artful Dodger tries to stage a devious twist on murder, Columbo cries foul and tries to throw him out of the game...

Ice Cold in Aldgate

By John Lane
Columbo returns to Londontown to track down some hot clues in a cold case involving a cool medic...

Bubble Gum Murder

By Sean M. Cogan
When bad boy band boy Justin Timberhitch fell out of 'sync' with his diva du jour, it was time for a pop hit -- the ex. Will 'Columbo' sing Justin's final chorus...

Accessory for Murder

By Martin Ross
Marla Sterling was America's Queen of Clean, its Empress of Entertainment. But when she dabbled in murder, it was up to Columbo to tidy up the case...

Queer Eye for the Straight Killer

By Rei Nakazawa
Kathryn Foster's boss was a man with a cause, but Kathryn had only one major cause -- herself...

If it Bleeds, It Leads

By Rei Nakazawa
Harold Steele was the darling of the six o'clock news, so when a desperate colleague threatens his future, it makes for a killer story...

Murder by Starlight
By Rebecka Persson
Prof. Talman was one of the world's preeminent astrophysicists. But when murder loomed on the horizon, Columbo came into his orbit...

A Matter of Principle
By Eric Paddon
Robert Mallen and George Bulloch are two of the world's pre-eminent experts on Pearl Harbor. But when their views on historical preservation clash, Mallen embarks on a new day of infamy...

Then Fall Caesar
By Sean M. Cogan
When a Shakespearean scholar  directs a fatal balcony scene, it's up to DETECTIVE Columbo to ring down the curtain on him...

The Bicoastal, Bilocated, Fly-By Murder Case
(A Columbo/X-Files mystery)
By Martin Ross
When the reigning Prince of Horror takes a fall, it's up to Columbo and Special Agent Fox Mulder to explain how a killer can be in two places at once...

The Evil That Men Do
By Robert Mirnik
When a villain from the past threatens to destroy the joy and innocence of Christmas present, renowned diva Celeste Angelle puts a coda to his criminous overtures...

Murder With Three Ingredients
By Martin Ross
Billy Shaughnessy was the bad boy of celebrity chefdom. But when he crossed the line from cooking to crime, it was time for Columbo to serve some just desserts...

Heads I Win, Tails You Lose
By Eric Paddon
When a colleague threatens to drop the dime on criminous collector Peter Wolfson, murder ensues. Just wait 'til Columbo puts his two cents in...

NEW -- Death Goes Viral
By Martin Ross
Annie Park was one of the country's top disease mappers. But when the Diseease Detective decides to commit the perfect crime, Columbo must cure an advanced case of homicide...



Murder at Yule Tide
By Martin Ross
You better watch out; you better not cry. Santa got shot, and Columbo knows why ...


Death on the Doorstep
By Martin Ross
One hot homicide, a tasty puzzle, a tantalizing clue, and one again, Columbo delivers ...


Murder With A Future
(A Columbo/X-Files mystery)
By Martin Ross
When Columbo arrived on the scene with two paranormally talented FBI agents on his heels, the homicidal Hollywood psychic should have seen what was coming...

A Stake in Murder

(A Columbo/Night Stalker novella)
By Donald Allen Kirch
Columbo has come up against some real cold customers in his career, but when he teams up with reporter Carl Kolchak, he finds himself taking on a real bloodsucker...


A Port by Any Other Name

(A Columbo/Quantum Leap adventure)
By Donald Allen Kirch
A moment of anger, a sibling rivalry boiling over, and Adrian Carsini's life was altered irrevocably. Or was it? Join Sam Beckett, Al, and the Lieutenants Columbo (?) in a time-hopping effort to put what was wrong right...

NEW -- Forgotten Lady Remembered
(A Columbo/Quantum Leap adventure)
By Eric Paddon
In Hollywood, they say, anything can happen. Even the occasional temporal rewrite. Sam Beckett leaps into LaLa Land to reboot the tragic tale of one Grace Wheeler...



Gilhooley and the Foul Tip
By Martin Ross
1958: The Cold War was frosting over, racial tensions were heating up,  the Yankees were in the Series, and Sgt. Gilhooley and Det. Columbo, were up to their necks in the murder of a pitcher-turned-Mob mouthpiece...

Discharge by Death

(A Columbo/M*A*S*H* story)
By Martin Ross
1952: During the heighth of the Korean War, Private Columbo investigates a murder at an Army hospital that no one seemingly could have committed and seeks a helping hand from one Hawkeye Pierce...


A Case of Deja Vu
(A Columbo novel)
By A.J. Avila
1967: A deceptively brilliant young cop named Columbo takes on the case of a dead Hollywood mom and a ruthless stage mother who scripts the "perfect" murder...

If you like this story, read A.J. Avila's Rain from Heaven, at  ajavila.angelfire.com/

A Single Rose
(A Columbo novel)
By A.J. Avila
1984: A pioneering gamer makes himself a widow in a perfectly programmed murder. Will he outscore Columbo, or can our Good Lieutenant pull the plug on his ploy?

If you like this story, read A.J. Avila's Rain from Heaven, at  ajavila.angelfire.com/

Alan Galpert's
The Colossal COLUMBO Quiz Book: A Plethora of Perplexing Questions About Television's Greatest Detective Show

Columbo Quiz Book

More than 600 questions covering topics including: the producers, directors and writers of the series; awards won by the show; details about the star, Peter Falk, and his character, Lieutenant Columbo; background on the many famous guest stars; the motives behind the murders, and the methods used; the occupations of the killers, and the relationships between them and their victims; bogus alibis, frame-ups, and other deceptions employed by the murderers; the clues that enable Columbo to solve the crimes; general trivia questions, and a crossword puzzle. Plus an extensive commentary on what made Columbo such a unique piece of television history.

Buy a copy at https://www.createspace.com/4454300, password peterfalk, or at Amazon.com


Columbo Trivia

"Welcome to Chicago, Lieutenant" - A police convention brings together a killer, Columbo, and the boys of "Due South.".

Remington Steele Fanfic
"Steele Bars and White Lace" - Jim Rockford and Lt. Columbo join forces with dashing '70s private eye Remington Steele to catch the White Lace Slasher.

Trauma Center
"The Invisible Women" - "Emergency" meets "Columbo" as Mrs. Columbo (not that Mulgrew woman) finds mystery under the hair dryer.