Follow TV Tropes


Recap / Columbo S 03 E 05

Go To

Episode: Season 3, Episode 5
Title:"Publish or Perish"
Directed by: Robert Butler
Written by: Peter S. Fischer
Air Date: January 18, 1974
Previous: Double Exposure
Next: Mind Over Mayhem
Guest Starring: Jack Cassidy, Mickey Spillane, Mariette Hartley

"Publish or Perish" is the fifth episode of the third season of Columbo.

Riley Greenleaf (Cassidy) is the owner of a publishing house that, by certain indications in the episode, appears to specialize in erotic fiction. One of his most successful authors, Alan Mallory (Mickey Spillane), has hopes of writing something better than porn. He has written a Vietnam War novel and intends to give it to a different publisher when his contract with Greenleaf runs out in three weeks.

Greenleaf is not happy about losing his best asset and, more importantly, he has a $1,000,000 insurance policy on Mallory. He also has a hitman, in the person of Eddie Kane, a bug-eyed psycho Vietnam vet who is dumb enough to think that Greenleaf will publish his how-to manual on how to build bombs. Greenleaf gets Eddie to kill Mallory, while carefully arranging an alibi for himself. He also sets up a frame of himself to seemingly end all suspicion after it's shown he couldn't have committed the crime. However he doesn't count on the not-easily-fooled Lt. Columbo.


Jack Cassidy's second of three appearances as the murderer on Columbo. A rare acting credit for Mickey Spillane, a Real Life author and creator of the Mike Hammer series of hard-boiled detective novels.


  • The Alleged Car: One of the many Running Gag jokes about Columbo's ancient car. When he gives his old jalopy to the valet the valet says he doesn't need a claim ticket, saying "Listen, mister, I'll remember your car."
  • Bland-Name Product: Eddie's bizarre book idea, "How to Blow Up Anything in 10 Easy Steps", seems like an intentional hat tip to Anarchist Cookbook, published 1972.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Columbo is weary when called to the crime scene because he stayed up late watching a Bette Davis movie with his wife. Bette Davis starred in Pocketful of Miracles with Peter Falk.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The comment about how Mallory's manuscript had been revised to let the main character live, because it had already been optioned to be a Rock Hudson movie, and "you don't kill off Rock Hudson". The outline found in Eddie Kane's apartment, which Kane supposedly wrote nine months ago, has the character survive, when the change was actually made only a week before.
  • Advertisement:
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The courier who takes Mallory's recordings to be transcribed. He shows up at the murder scene attempting to pick up a tape. He's not seen again until the end, when it's revealed that he was also providing transcripts to Greenleaf, which turns out to be crucial to the solution.
  • Complexity Addiction: How Greenleaf's scheme falls apart. Having established an alibi and faked evidence indicating someone was trying to kill him, Greenleaf then kills Kane. He then plants evidence suggesting that Mallory's novel was plagiarized from an outline sent in by Kane. Details involving this story are what provide Columbo's gotcha moment. If Greenleaf had been content to establish his alibi and then publish Kane's dumb book, he probably would have gotten away with it.
  • Continuity Nod: Columbo says he's thinking about writing a book of his own, and mentions some possible material, in a case of his about a U.S. Senate candidate who killed his campaign manager after switching clothes with him. That's Columbo episode 3-3, "Candidate for Crime".
  • Dutch Angle: Used for Greenleaf when he's getting drunk in a bar to establish his alibi.
  • Food Slap: Greenleaf throws his drink over a bartender as part of his attention attracting antics as he carefully establishes an alibi.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: Greenleaf's whole plot. Establish an alibi, then perpetrate a frame job on himself, deliberately putting his prints on the gun Kane uses. So when the alibi proves he couldn't have shot Mallory, he should be off the hook completely—why would he frame himself?
  • I'll Tell You When I've Had Enough!: "I'll be the judge of that!" says a belligerent Greenleaf when the bartender says he's had enough. It's an act.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: How Columbo first zeroes in on Greenleaf as the killer. Greenleaf claims to have been blackout drunk, but he expresses gratitude when "those people" call back about Greenleaf plowing into their car at the exact time of the murder. Columbo notes that he never said how many people were in the car and wonders how Greenleaf knows it was more than one, if he was blackout drunk.
  • Mad Bomber: Eddie Kane is a giggly weirdo who, when he's introduced, is chucking bombs into an abandoned dump and blowing up derelict cars.
  • Orgy of Evidence: Greenleaf arranges for Kane to plant an orgy of evidence against himself while he carefully stages an alibi, to try to convince the police that someone is trying to frame. Unfortunately, he plants too much evidence and some of it doesn't fit (literally).
  • Shout-Out: Rock Hudson was supposedly cast in The Film of the Book of Mallory's novel. Rock Hudson was the star of McMillan & Wife, which rotated in The NBC Mystery Movie along with Columbo.
  • Split Screen: In a scene that recalls 24, a split screen is used to show Mallory working in his office, while Kane approaches for the kill, and Greenleaf is causing a disturbance at a bar to make sure that he is seen elsewhere.
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: Greenleaf claims this when he's setting up his alibi, pretending to have been blackout drunk the night before.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Greenleaf has an attorney that not only bails him out on the drunk charge, but aids him on the sudden murder investigation. Once the insurance company provides Riley with an alibi for the time of the murder, the attorney has a brief discussion with Columbo, and is never seen again despite the ongoing investigation.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: