Columbo: The Game Show Killer

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9780812550801: Columbo: The Game Show Killer

For over twenty-five years, Columbo has been the most popular , and persistent, detective on television, drawing millions of viewers a week. William Harrington's compelling new novel pits the famous TV detectives against one of the most brilliant and flamboyant lawyers in the country. It may seem like the perfect murder, but if there's the tiniest flaw, the famous Lieutenant Columbo will find it.

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Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Tuesday, April 4--7:58 p.m.
The stools in the dimly lit bar of the Pacific Club were upholstered in tan leather. They had arms and thickly padded seats. When Grant Kellogg lifted himself onto one of them just before eight o'clock he was emotionally drained and physically exhausted. He was acutely conscious of his fatigue. He told himself he could not remember a time when he had been so tired.
"Congratulations, Mr. Kellogg."
Emily, the petite topless barmaid, put in front of him a Beefeater martini on the rocks with a twist. She didn't have to be told that was what he wanted.
The sight of the girl was enough to lift a man's spirits. She was delicately, youthfully beautiful, with dark-brown hair neatly brushed back, and with an innocent, open face dominated by wide blue eyes. It was a strict rule of the club that a girl who worked there would be fired if she accepted any sort of proposition from a member--and that he would lose his membership. It had happened. It was the only reason he did not offer her a thousand dollars. Well...five hundred.
"There's been nothing but you on television all evening," she said.
He nodded. "Price and I," he sighed.
"I knew he wasn't guilty. I just knew he wasn't. And when he got you to defend him--Well, the poor DA never had a chance, did he?"
"I wouldn't say that, Emily. I was never sure we'd get Price off. When that jury came back--" He shook his head. "You can't imagine the tension."
"I can imagine. I was watching. And, hey, when I said to some friends of mine that I'd probably be serving drinks to Grant Kellogg tonight--Hey! Anyway, congratulations, Mr. Kellogg."
"Thank you. You're very kind--besides being a lovely girl."
It was said that Grant Kellogg's appearance, presence, and manner were major elements of his success as a trial lawyer. He was a big man with broad shoulders. His hair had turned white before he was thirty-five, but it had never thinned. His complexion was ruddy--the result maybe of his consumption of thousands of bottles of Beefeater gin. His eyes, peering out from narrow slits, were pale blue and focused in a hypnotic stare. He wore perfectly tailored suits with white shirts and striped ties. He favored French cuffs and heavy gold cuff links.
Lawyers who thought his success was dependent on his rhetorical flamboyance in the courtroom were the lawyers he most often overpowered. The truth was that Grant Kellogg was a hardworking lawyer who came into the courtroom thoroughly prepared to try his cases. He came prepared with meticulously researched law and with total mastery of the facts. Besides having an almost-photographic memory, he came to court with a laptop computer, which one of his associates used to check law and facts as the trial progressed.
Jim Price was a film producer, a handsome man, a notorious womanizer, a gossip-column-and-tabloid celebrity, and a Hollywood iconoclast. More than a few in the community had been amused and pleased when he was charged with the murder of his wife. The whole nation had been obsessively fascinated with every detail of his case. Acquitted at four this afternoon, he would be in bed with Bonnie by now, laboring to make up for eleven months in jail. He had signed a contract to produce a book about his experience. It would be a tissue of lies. It had better be. Whatever he wrote--or had written for him--he'd make a fortune from it.
Emily had served a man and woman down the bar, and now she returned. "If I ever get accused of anything...," she said with a wide smile.
"Don't ever get accused of anything, Emily. But if you do, I'll defend you."
"I couldn't afford you, Mr. Kellogg."
"Would you, really?"
"Of course."
"Another martini?"
He nodded. He hadn't finished the first one, but he knew he'd want another. And maybe a third. Then he'd go down-stairs for dinner.
"Hello, Grant!"
Now he knew he'd want a third drink. If there was anyone he didn't need to see, it was Chalmers Willoughby.
"Congratulations, Grant. Another brilliant performance."
"Thank you. Pull up a stool." There was no point in not welcoming Chalmers; he was going to sit down anyway. "I think I lost ten pounds trying that case. Do my clothes look funny?"
"Your clothes never look funny. You always have about you that certain je ne sais quoi. Style, I guess it's called."
"I try."
"Black Label, Mr. Willoughby?"
Willoughby nodded at Emily. "On the rocks. You're looking beautiful, as usual."
"Thank you."
No matter if he tried or didn't, and no matter how hard he tried, Chalmers Willoughby could not appeal to a girl like Emily or put her at ease. In her case, he stared too hard. With other women, he spoke with too much intense sincerity and said clumsy things. He was dull. He had no élan. Fifty years old, with thinning black hair but big bushy eyebrows, he was not an unattractive man, but his want of grace put him in distinct contrast to Grant Kellogg.
Emily put his drink in front of Willoughby, then moved down the bar to allow the two men to talk privately. Willoughby watched her. His appraising eyes chilled her.
"I suppose she wants to get into show business," he said to Grant.
"Don't they all? I'd say she's already in show business."
"Yes. She surely is. Well...congratulations again."
Willoughby stared at his drink for a moment, then stared at Emily again, and finally looked at Grant. "I don't suppose this is the best time or place to mention it, but sometime we're going to have to talk about your notes."
"I have no doubt," Grant said dryly.
"I think you'll agree that the bank has not been demanding."
"No. The bank has been Very fair."
"You must have gotten a tremendous fee from Price."
"Do you want to know? You're my banker; you're entitled to know. He has paid me a million dollars."
"My god, then--"
Grant nodded. "'My god' is right. I'd be glad to have you go through my books and see where that money went. To start with, I paid Duke $4,000 a day to sit with me as co-counsel at trial--also to spend his evenings with me, going over the testimony and all the rulings, which is not an unreasonable amount for a lawyer who can make $400 an hour with no trouble. And he was worth it. We were in trial for fifty-eight days, which cost me $232,000. Besides that, he billed me for eight days of trial preparation--another $32,000. Lila, my young associate, gets $85,000 a year, and her time was wholly devoted to the case for eight months. There's $56,000.1 had to hire a law student to do research and write memoranda of law for me. She cost me $12,000.I had the court reporter delivering tapes to us at the end of every day of trial, which tapes we put in computer memory so we could review testimony. For fifty-eight days, that process cost me something like $40,000. LEXIS and NEXIS computer research is invaluable, but not cheap. I paid artists to make charts, messengers to run documents back and forth, and so on. I had more than $382,000 in expenses."
"I had to guarantee the fees and travel expenses of the expert witnesses, eleven of them. Price is supposed to pay those fees and expenses, but he hasn't been able to so far, so I'm out more than $150,000 that I may or may not get from him. Besides that, he is supposed to pay for the jury-research outfit we used. That's $30,000 more that I won't get until he gets his book out."
"To keep my office, just to have my office: building space, secretaries, phones, equipment, insurance, and all the rest--Say, $28,000 a month, minimum. I had the Price case for eleven months, and it averages out that eight months were exclusively devoted to his defense. That makes $224,000 office costs."
"Attributable to the Price defense: about $786,000. The million doesn't look like so much now, does it?"
"I gave eight months of my professional time to the case. So I've got, say, a little more than $214,000 left for eight months of my professional life. Out of which I've got to pay income taxes. So I'm a fuckin' millionaire?"
Emily detected a break in the conversation and approached to ask if either man wanted another drink. Both agreed to another round.
Willoughby shook his head. "What you're telling me is that Price paid you a million dollars to defend him, which is going to leave you not very well fixed, but he's going to sell his story for so much that he'll wind up very well fixed."
Grant tossed back the last of his second martini. "You've got it. He killed his wife and--"
"He did. We may as well say it. He's been acquitted and can't be tried again. He killed his wife, and he's going to make more money from the story than he could have made producing films during the months he was in jail. I mean, god almighty, nothing sells better than an accused and acquitted celebrity. Besides the book he's gonna do, he'll be appearing on television--not just tabloid TV, but on supposedly respectable news shows--and...Christ! I sometimes think I should kill somebody myself. There's no better way to make really big money. Of course, I'm not a celebrity in the way Price is. Damn it!"
"Why don't you write a book on the Price trial?"
"I'd like to, but Price and his publisher and ghostwriter went to work on it five months ago. You know what? I was approached. But, damn it, Chalmers, you can't prepare and try a case and write a book about it at the same time! Do you have any idea how many witnesses and potential witnesses I had to interview? How many motions I had to prepare and argue? How many preliminary hearings I had to attend? Christ, man! I put in twelve- and fourteen-hour days on the Price defense, before we went to trial--sixteen-hour days when we were in trial. Even if I'd had a ghost, I didn't have time to put my thoughts together and give the guy something to work on."
"I think I understand."
"I think you do. Most people think handling big criminal cases is glamorous and lucrative." Grant paused and sighed noisily. "Try it, my friend." He shook his head. "It's a trap. I wish I could get out of it and work on accident cases, property cases, and so on. I can't. Before the week is over, somebody with more money than good sense will commit some awful crime and offer me what looks like big money to defend."
Chalmers Willoughby sipped Scotch and nodded sympathetically. "I will welcome the opportunity to do anything I can to help you, Grant. But...We must sometime begin working out a payment plan to retire your notes."
"I am well aware of that."
Copyright © 1996 by MCA Publishing Rights, a Division of MCA, Inc.

From Publishers Weekly:

Everyman's detective is just as dogged as ever in his pursuit of justice. Grant Kellogg, the most successful defense attorney in L.A., comes to the annoying realization that a million dollars doesn't go as far as it used to. In fact, after his last acquittal, it's the defendant who inks a book contract and makes out like a bandit. So Kellogg decides to build his own trial of the century?but this time, he'll have a piece of the action. Six years earlier, game-show hostess Erika Bjorling's daughter, Tammy, was kidnapped and murdered and the culprit was never found. The glamorous Bjorling is now hurting for money. Sharklike, Kellogg tells her the killer was Tammy's father, beloved western star Tim Wylie, whose indiscretions have been one of Hollywood's best-kept secrets. Next, Kellogg tells her his plan: she kills Wylie, gets caught, goes to trial, is defended by Kellogg and acquitted, after which the two of them clean up on a book deal and some pay-per-view. As it turns out, Columbo is the steepest slope of all in this lightning-fast read. Still clad in his rumpled raincoat, still endearing and untroubled, he takes on greed and cynicism in his droopy, inimitable way. The prose is thin?Harrington doesn't waste time on complex characterizations?and there's barely a whiff of suspense, but readers will come away as satisfied as the tourists who gather to watch Old Faithful spout.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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