Book Review: Shooting Script and Other Mysteries
By: Chris Chan
William Link and Richard Levinson are best known for their work in television, such as the classic crime shows Columbo; Murder, She Wrote; and Mannix; as well as a number of classic television movies. While nearly all mystery fans have at least a passing acquaintance with one of their shows, their short fiction is less well-known. The mid-twentieth century was a boom time for crime short stories, with many magazines publishing a wide variety of creative tales, but unfortunately, lots of wonderful stories never got anthologized, and so plenty of terrific mysteries were lost to general readership.
Fortunately, Crippen and Landru has just released an anthology of some of the writing team’s best short stories. Most of these are quite short, about ten pages each. A lot of the stories are “twist” stories, with a final paragraph or line that flips the narrative into an unexpected direction. A seemingly benign figure turns out to be a malevolent villain. A sudden twist of fate leaves someone with the opportunity to commit the perfect crime. And presaging Columbo, sometimes a killer plots the perfect murder, only to be undone at the end by an unexpected turn of events.
The story that served as the genesis for Columbo is included in this collection. This tale became the inspiration for the Chevy Mystery Show episode “Enough Rope,” which eventually became the stage play Prescription: Murder, before finally reaching its ultimate incarnation as the pilot episode of Columbo. The ending and twist are much different in the short story– indeed, the short story is really just Prescription: Murder’s first act with a different ending.
In the introduction, authors like Ellery Queen and G.K. Chesterton are cited as inspirations for Levinson and Link. This is particularly evident in a pair of stories, which take Chesterton’s famous Father Brown tale “The Invisible Man” and put a new spin on Chesterton’s insightful and influential solution.
Shooting Script and Other Mysteries is a must-read for fans of Levinson and Link’s television shows, as it provides a terrific look into the development of their greatest creations. Fans of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Tales of the Unexpected will also enjoy these twisty stories.
Shooting Script and Other Mysteries
By William Link and Richard Levinson
Crippen and Landru