Season 3 Episode 5

Publish or Perish

Aired Unknown Jan 18, 1974 on NBC
out of 10
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Episode Summary

Publish or Perish
A publisher hires a Vietnam vet to kill his star author, and thus give himself an alibi before the writer can defect to another publisher.

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  • Jack Cassidy is back for Round 2

    The late, great Jack Cassidy is my favorite "Columbo" villain, and he does not disappoint in his second of three appearances. Here, he is dastardly publisher Riley Greenleaf, who is desperate to prevent his star author (played by "Mike Hammer" scribe Mickey Spillane in a nice bit of casting!) from defecting to another firm.

    We are guessing from the opening moments, when we find Greenleaf at a junkyard watching an obviously disturbed man demonstrating his homemade bombs. Where is the story going from here? How does Cassidy's drunken behavior at a nightclub play into the plot? Writer Peter S. Fischer went on to run "Murder, She Wrote" for several years, and with the 90 minute episode canvas to play with, he creates an elaborate mystery that ranks among the best of the original "Columbo" episodes.

    Cassidy is the ideal "Columbo" killer with his arrogance and suave menace. He would truly pull out all the stops for "Now You See Him" in Season 5, but he delivers another ace performance here. Actors like Cassidy, Robert Culp and Patrick McGoohan who had great chemistry with Peter Falk are a delight to watch in their multiple appearances on the show.moreless
  • Spoilers

    The superfices of Peter S. Fischer's script are impeccable. It develops that a publisher (Jack Cassidy), whose titles include My Home Was A House and Modern Aztec Courtship Practices, is about to lose his "pocket-sized Hemingway" (Mickey Spillane) to a rival (Jacques Aubuchon). Cassidy has taken out a standard million-dollar life insurance policy on his author, and plans to kill him. A rather frayed demolitions expert (John Davis Chandler) will do the job in exchange for a publishing contract (his book is titled How To Blow Up Anything In Ten Easy Lessons).

    The essence of the plot is Cassidy's careful incrimination of himself and simultaneous provision of an alibi. Butler films the murder with the screen split twice and then thrice so Cassidy, Spillane and Chandler are all seen at once.

    The dialogue is pristine. At Aubuchon's party announcing the signing of Spillane, the former looks up from a conversation and says, "Did somebody arrive? I invited Norman Mailer." Cassidy, drinking and belligerent, opines that "sex is our only mystery in our age of new illiterates." Drunk, and getting himself thrown out of a bar in the San Fernando Valley while the murder is taking place downtown, he hands the bartender money and says, "Here, buy yourself a personality." Furthermore, "You, and this place, DESERVE to be in the Valley."

Peter Falk

Peter Falk

Lieutenant Columbo (no first name)

Jack Cassidy

Jack Cassidy

Riley Greenleaf

Guest Star

Mickey Spillane

Mickey Spillane

Allen Mallory

Guest Star

Mariette Hartley

Mariette Hartley

Eileen Macrae

Guest Star

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (1)

    • Columbo is suggesting to publisher Riley Greenleaf (Jack Cassidy) that he might try his hand at writing. He refers to "a guy down at the department, -wrote a couple o' books, -maybe you heard o' him, -what's his name?". This reference, of course, is to Joseph Wambaugh, who by the time this episode was shot had written the novels "The New Centurions" and "The Blue Knight". Wambaugh would go on to write many more novels, including "The Choirboys" and "The Onion Field."

  • QUOTES (7)

    • Columbo: In this synopsis which you gave me which you claim Eddie Kane wrote nine months ago, the hero saves his men and he goes off to live in a monastery. I hate to tell you this, sir. There is no way that Eddie Kane could have had that idea. It wasn't even Allen Mallory's. It was given to him by his agent Miss McRae. And for the life of me I cannot figure out how Eddie Kane could have written an ending nine months ago that was only invented last week.

    • Columbo: For $100,000 you don't kill off Rock Hudson.

    • Columbo: He's involving you in murder. Was that part of the deal?

    • (Waiter hands Columbo a check)
      Columbo: $6.00? Excuse me, uh, no, I think there's a mistake. I had the chili and the iced tea.
      Waiter: Oh. (adjusts figure)
      Columbo: $6.75?!
      Waiter: I forgot the iced tea.

    • Eddie Kane: Oh hey, I made some drawings today for a chapter on Bouncing Betties. You did find them?
      Greenleaf: What's a Bouncing Betty?
      Eddie Kane: Antipersonnel mine. You gotta really plant these things just right. Now you see, you lay it down six inches, no more, and you leave the pressure plate with just about a half inch of dirt and leaves and the guy steps on it. Whammo! You get the legs! It's beautiful.
      Greenleaf: (looking at Kane like he's nuts) Oh yeah, that's, that's beautiful.

    • (Intercom buzzes)
      Riley Greenleaf: Yes, Betsy?
      Receptionist: Mr. Greenleaf, there's a strange man wondering around the editorial section. I thought you should know.
      Greenleaf: Well, what do you want me to do? If you want to get rid of him call the police.
      Receptionist: That's just it, sir. He says he IS the police.

    • Columbo: Oh Mr. Chase! Uh, one thing. About that accident, do you happen to know who else was involved?
      David Chase: It's a couple from Del Monte. Mr. and Mrs. Morgan. Why?
      Columbo: Well, you see, I didn't know, uh, I just wasn't sure whether it was just one person in the other car or whether there was more than one and, uh, when, uh (looks over at Greenleaf) You know, I was just telling your attorney that I wasn't sure whether there was just one person in the other car or whether there was more than one and when you said that you were relieved that THOSE people, more than one, that those people called your insurance man I thought maybe the blackout was starting to clear up and you were beginning to remember what happened.
      David Chase: Perhaps he is. Subconsciously.
      Columbo: That's probably it. His subconscious.

  • NOTES (3)


    • The Senatorial candidate that Columbo refers to in this episode was obviously Nelson Hayward from episode #20, "Candidate for Crime"