Wednesday, August 9, 2017

When Mysteries Become Political


Sometimes mysteries take on the major political issues of the day. Strangely, among that list I don't include most of le Carré's cold war thrillers. While some of his world-weary characters are true-believers and act out of a political consciousness, most are just doing their jobs or, often enough in le Carré's world, finding ways to avoid doing their jobs. It is the apolitical nature of several of le Carré's novels that make them so unsettling. Spies spy because. . . they are spies. Through the books' POV, we have the perspective of the British spies and they become our heroes out of familiarity, not out of noble purpose.

In The Little Drummer Girl, le Carré takes on Israeli-Palestinian conflicts and pro-Palestinian terrorism as it spills over into Europe. An actress is recruited to infiltrate a Palestinian terrorist group and is indoctrinated in both Israeli and Palestinian points of view with her sympathies (and the readers sympathies) whip-lashing between allegiances. Le Carré doesn't flinch when looking at the violence by both sides in the conflict and the constant need to strike back. The actress-protagonist-recruit is taken to the brink of a nervous breakdown by the conflicting worlds where everyone is right and everyone is wrong. The need to stop a terrorist seems almost minor in the enormous scale of the conflict. She escapes, barely, with her life and with her mind only partially intact.

The story is harrowing, enlightening, and is loaded with the thousands of details and human insights that make le Carré a world's-best craftsman of the novel.

Author: John le Carré (David John Moore Cornwell)
Book: The Little Drummer Girl
Publication: 1983.
Rank: #68 on the MWA list.
Word Count: 184,686
Age of author at time of publication: 52
Previous novels published by this author: nine.
Opening line: It was the Bad Godesberg incident that gave the proof, though the German authorities had no earthly means of knowing this.
Significance: Another masterwork from a master writer.


Which is the best le Carre novel? at the New Yorker.

If le Carré writes the apolitical East-West espionage thriller, then Tom Clancy writes the political one. In Clancy's The Hunt for Red October, the United States is the beacon of freedom and the Soviet Union the land of oppression. I've never read Clancy beyond his first novel. Perhaps his later characters have more nuance. In The Hunt for Red October, the Russian characters were cut out of one of two cardboard stocks: the hero and his supporters who are hijacking the submarine, and the bureaucratic zealots who seek to stop him. The Americans are cleft-chinned and brave.

Nevertheless, this is a pulse-pounding read. The real star, perhaps, the real main character is the military technology which is made believable by the attention to details as is evidenced in the first sentence (presented below).

Author: Tom Clancy
Book: The Hunt for Red October
Publication: 1983.
Rank: #84 on the MWA list.
Word Count: 151,091
Age of author at time of publication: 37
Previous novels published by this author: first novel.
Opening line: The Red October captain first rank Marko Ramius of the Soviet Navy was dressed for the Arctic conditions normal to the Northern Marine submarine base at Polyarnyy.
Significance: Launched the career of an author who helped define the modern espionage thriller.


The Four Just Men is an unusual book in that it takes the point of view of the terrorists who are represented as vigilante heroes. The just men of the title are an international league who commit murders to right injustices and kill off the dishonest. This concept is stretched to the realm of the political when they plan to murder a Cabinet Minister to prevent the passage of what they see as an unjust law: one that will expel aliens. The story proceeds following the police's attempts to thwart their plan and the tension comes from whether it will be successful. The target of the assassination is depicted as heroic.

Perhaps the real story of The Four Just Men is that the novel, self-published, came with the promise of an award of five-hundred pounds to whomever could solve the locked-room mystery central to the case. The book and the promise of a big payout (about 56,000 pounds in today's currency), became a sensation. Unfortunately for Wallace, he did not stipulate that the reward should go only to the first person who solved the mystery. And, in fact, the mystery was not difficult, and when the solution came out Wallace was driven to bankruptcy by the crowd of supplicants.

The book does not hold up for me. I'm not a fan of the vigilante genre in general and The Four Just Men seemed to me to be neither that clever nor just. The police never seemed to ask the right questions and it is by their lack of sensible actions that allows the plot to advance. On the other hand, it is a short novel, a novella by most standards, and made for a brisk read, and was a welcome relief after having downed several 200,000-plus word novels.

Author: Edgar Wallace (Richard Horatio Edgar Wallace)
Book: The Four Just Men
Publication:  1905.
Rank: #100 on the CWA list.
Word Count: 37,586
Age of author at time of publication: 37
Previous novels published by this author: first novel.
Opening line: If you leave the Plaza del Mina, go down the narrow street, where, from ten till four, the big flag of the United States Consulate hangs lazily; through the square on which Hotel de la France fronts, round by the Church of Our Lady, and along the clean, narrow thoroughfare that is the High Street of Cadiz, you will come to the Café of the Nations.
Significance: A unique novel/contest that made quite a splash and launched the productive career of Edgar Wallace who, among other works, gave us King Kong.


The Four Just Men and its reward.


Finally, one of the most direct shots into politics by a mystery, came in the form of Rex Stout's novel, The Doorbell Rang. The novel follows a businesswoman, Rachel Bruner, who was so impressed by the anti-FBI non-fiction book, The FBI Nobody Knows, that she sent out a copy to every U.S. Senator and Member of Congress. The FBI responds by tailing her and tapping her phone. Bruner goes to Nero Wolfe and his co-investigator Archie Goodwin for help to stop this harassment. The investigative pair goes after the FBI and wins. The story ends as the two directly humiliate J. Edgar Hoover.

The FBI Nobody Knows
was an actual book. As can be imagined, although he already had an FBI file, Rex Stout was placed under intense investigation after the book's release. Always an activist, maybe he was old enough that he didn't give a damn. Adding to Stout's mystique was his rich billy-goat beard. He wrote artisanal mystery novels before the term artisanal became art is anal.

Rex Stout speaks about the FBI and Hoover, here.

Rex Stout in his later years.

I've read that one of Rex Stout's talents is that he conveys a sense of fun in the investigation, and even more, that he had fun writing the book. This is evident in The Doorbell Rang.

I was young in the sixties and I remember the time when Hoover was worshiped. I remember gathering around the television to watch The FBI, most especially fixed in my mind was when my mother's first cousin was a guest star. Being Latino, he played a Cuban terrorist.

How on earth could J. Edgar Hoover deny the existence of organized crime for thirty-years when it was the national crime story? Some say blackmail. Maybe it was incompetence that had the FBI touting villains like Machine Gun Kelly and tailing Einstein and virtually everyone else who didn't fit their narrow political views.

Author: Rex Stout
Book: The Doorbell Rang
Publication:  1965.
Rank: #66 on the MWA list.
Word Count: 50,728
Age of author at time of publication: 78
Previous novels published by this author: #41 in the Nero Wolfe novel series.
Opening line: Since it was the deciding factor, I might as well begin by describing it.
Significance: At a time when mystery novels were mostly apolitical, at a time when the FBI was held by most in high esteem, this novel by an established master took on the FBI, portraying them as corrupt, as planting evidence, and as political zealots. Stuck the finger out at J. Edgar Hoover. As The Nation stated: No doubt about it — the best civil liberties mystery of all time.



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 Martin Hill Ortiz is the author of Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press.




Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press

Never Kill A Friend is available for purchase in hard cover format and as an ebook.
The story follows Shelley Krieg, an African-American detective for the Washington DC Metro PD as she tries to undo a wrong which sent an innocent teenager to prison.

Hard cover: Amazon US
Kindle: Amazon US
Hard cover: Amazon UK
Kindle: Amazon UK
Barnes and Noble 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

A Review of Ruined Stones by Eric Reed


England during World War II possessed all the elements a mystery writer could hope for. Thick fog mixed with coal dust cloaked the streets. With the air raids and blackouts, a single lit candle could invite destruction and one building ablaze could become a beacon to summon more bombs. Death was intimate: family and neighbors died on the battlefield and ofttimes on the home front. Who would care about the death of an unknown woman, her corpse found among the ruins of an ancient Roman temple?

In their atmospheric novel, Ruined Stones, Eric Mayer and Mary Reed (Eric Reed) exploit another aspect of the war: women brought in to fill traditionally male posts. Grace Baxter, a policeman's daughter, is recruited from a small town to serve in the Newcastle-on-Tyne police force. She is less-than-welcomed by those who see her as a poor replacement for the real police who have been called off to war. Newcastle itself is unreceptive: peculiar in its Geordie dialect and insular in its ways. The mood is tense: angry at Hitler but far off from the battlefront, the townspeople can only shake fists at one another.

Grace is given what is considered a trivial job. She is assigned to talk to prostitutes to discover the identity of a corpse. The body had been discovered at an old temple, with her arms and legs spread out in the form of a reverse swastika. Soon, however, a second body appears at the same site and posed in the same manner. With the very nation under attack, both the small police force and Grace feel overwhelmed, unable to get the support they need for a proper investigation.

With the setting of the ancient ruins, its history of pagan rituals, and the constant presence of local superstitions, the story takes on an eerie tone. Indeed, Grace comes from a family of "wise-women:" witches in a different age. She maintains her skepticism while recognizing, even within herself, the attraction of such ancestral creeds.

Among those under suspicion is Mr. Rutherford who tends to ruins and believes he can summon their power. Spiritualism is thriving: this is a time when everyone has someone dead to talk to. This includes Grace's boss, who has sunk into alcoholism since the loss of his wife and children.

The tone and sense of time and place are near perfect. The town suffers from despair and loss, of plodding ahead because the past is ruined. One of the authors, Mary Reed, grew up in Newcastle and knows its eccentricities. The novel is sprinkled with just the right amount of dialect to give flavor.

The married mystery-writing team of Eric Mayer and Mary Reed (that can't be as cool as it sounds -- do they solve local crimes in their spare time?) have penned one prior Grace Baxter novel, The Guardian Stones, along with an award-winning series set in sixth century Byzantium. With this so-cool it chills suspense novel, they may have another success on their hands.



Mary Reed and Eric Mayer blog.

---------------------
 Martin Hill Ortiz is the author of Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press.






Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press

Never Kill A Friend is available for purchase in hard cover format and as an ebook.
The story follows Shelley Krieg, an African-American detective for the Washington DC Metro PD as she tries to undo a wrong which sent an innocent teenager to prison.

Hard cover: Amazon US
Kindle: Amazon US
Hard cover: Amazon UK
Kindle: Amazon UK
Barnes and Noble 

Friday, June 30, 2017

A Complete Ranking of Mystery Television of the 1980s

Having previously undertaken to present the rankings of television mystery shows of the 1960s and 1970s, I thought I'd complete this quixotic quest by taking on the 1980s. This will be the last decade. I believe a number of the series presented below were down-rated because they debuted at the nexus of the availability of the internet in the 1990s. (IMDB was launched in 1990, an early online presence.)

Among the sins of the internet is that people who have strong, often uninformed opinions have come to believe that all opinions are equal*. Anonymity helps give voice to vitriol and I believe the recent past has suffered. Everyone wants to express their opinions and those views for good or bad are exaggerated.

*All carefully weighed, well-thought-out, and informed opinions are equal.

Edward Gorey


In contrast to the 60s and 70s lists, here you will find a number of much beloved programs scoring lowly. Cult programs score highly. Of course, ofttimes cult status is deserved and some of the most highly-rated cult programs on this list are quite good. I have not seen many other high-ranking entries but have become intrigued by their descriptions.

My cut-off for the 1980s were those with at least 150 votes, and even with this higher number, the list greatly expanded over the 60s and 70s. As before, I left off TV movies, and mysteries with fantasy or sci-fi elements. I did include miniseries even when the total episodes were two.

There was a painful number of shows with a technologically-advanced car or helicopter helping to solve the crime. I cut these out. Beyond bordering on science fiction, they seemed to be mostly adventure rather than mystery. For this decade I grouped together series with multiple entries such as Miss Marple.

Two worthwhile trends in the 1980s. A lot of the classic mystery detectives made their debuts or were reincarnated, Marple, Dalgliesh, Marlowe, Morse, Holmes, etc. Gangster-themed shows are among the highest-rated. Perhaps this is a carryover from the popularity of The Godfather.

Not having seen Froutopia, the show with the number one ranking, I will not dismiss its status. I will say, that there were no other programs from Greece which made the list. Similarly, the number seven spot is held by an Iranian series. Iran has certainly made an international splash in recent years for their film-making.

Popular American series did poorly in the rankings in this decade.

This is a decade in which I personally watched little television. I was busy getting my PhD for several years and had little time for outside interests. I still have yet to see an episode of MacGyver, the show with the most votes.

I plan to do another post, to sort out the 60s through the 80s and separate American and British and look at the leaders of the three decades combined.

1. Froutopia (1985–1988) 9.1, Votes: 266
Greek. Puppets act out topical mysteries in this obscure show with a fanatical following.

2. Masterpiece Mystery (1980–continuing) 9.0, Votes: 583
British mysteries and Edward Gorey. This series showcased a lot of other great productions some of which are ranked individually below.

3. The Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes set of series. Two series were in the eighties (listed below) and two were in the nineties (not listed). The novels became TV movies (not listed).

  a. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1984–1985) 8.8, Votes: 14,897
  Jeremy Brett and David Burke in the canonic of the Holmes television series.
  b. The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1986–1988), 8.8, Votes: 6,396
  Each of the Jeremy Brett series is worth watching.

4. The Singing Detective (1986) 8.8, Votes: 3,615
Unique, hallucinatory, musical episodes of the reminisces of a mystery writer hospitalized with a crippling disease.

5. Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980) 8.8, Votes: 3,194
German. A criminal can't put his past behind him.

6. La Piovra (The Octopus) series. Four series in the eighties, ten in total.

  a. La Piovra. (The Octopus) (1984) 8.8, Votes: 2,293
  Italian. An inspector fights the mob. Popular, iconic Italian series.
  b. La piovra 2 (The Octopus II) (1985–1986) 8.5, Votes: 802
Man versus the mob, part two.
  c. La piovra 3 (The Octopus II) (1987) 8.6, Votes: 714
Man versus the mob, third installment.
  d. La piovra 4 (The Octopus IV) (1989) 8.8, Votes: 763
The fourth part in the series.

7. Hezardastan (1988) 8.8, Votes: 688
Iranian. Political intrigue, assassins and a jewel thief.

8. The Beiderbecke series. All three series were in the eighties.

  a. The Beiderbecke Affair (1985) 8.8, Votes: 417
  A jazz-lover and an environmentalist stumble into evidence of corruption and a lot of eccentric characters.
  b. The Beiderbecke Tapes (1987) 8.7, Votes: 254
  A jazz-lover and an environmentalist stumble into evidence of corruption and a lot of eccentric characters.
  c. The Beiderbecke Connection (1988) 8.7, Votes: 224
  A jazz-lover and an environmentalist help a refugee and stumble on to more eccentric characters.

9. Smiley's People (1982) 8.7, Votes: 2,758
George Smiley finally bests Karla.

10. Cuna de lobos (Cradle of Wolves) (1986–1987) 8.7, Votes: 166
A popular Mexican novella follows the treachery of the heirs to a pharmaceutical company.

11. Dobrodruzství kriminalistiky (1989–1998) 8.7, Votes: 154
Russian. The history of criminology, dramatized.

12. Edge of Darkness (1985) 8.6, Votes: 2,958
Environmentalism and murder in 80s England.

13. Traffik (1989) 8.6, Votes: 1,308
Inspired the Oscar-winning movie. Drug-trafficking, international.

14. Monaco Franze - Der ewige Stenz (1983) 8.6, Votes: 543
German. Police officer likes to chase women more than chase criminals.

15. The Men Who Killed Kennedy (1988–2003) 8.6, Votes: 464
A conspiracy-laden documentary look at JFK's murder.

16. Mother Love (1989) 8.6, Votes: 288
Problems with the mother-in-law. With Diana Rigg and David McCallum.

17. Shang Hai tan (1983) 8.6, Votes: 191
Hong Kong. Two friends grow up: one with the mob.

18. Mathnet (1987–1992) 8.6 , Votes: 177
Mathematicians work to solve crimes. From the Children's Television Network. The Sesame Street of math detectives.

19. Police Squad! (1982) 8.5, Votes: 11,121
Sometimes failure leads to success.

20. The Russian version of Sherlock Holmes. Two other installments of this series appeared in the 1970s, along with five made-for-TV movies. One more installment would appear in 2006.

  a. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson: The Treasures of Agra (1983) 8.5, Votes: 1,831
  The well-regarded Russian series which began in the seventies, continues.
  b. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson: The Twentieth Century Approaches (1986) 8.1, Votes: 1,663
  More of the popular Russian Sherlock series.

21. The Jewel in the Crown (1984) 8.5, Votes: 1,570
Follows the story of a man unjustly arrested for rape.

22. Duarte & C.a (1985–1989) 8.5 Votes: 184
Portugal. A wild comic detective show.

23. Crime Story (1986–1988) 8.4, Votes: 1,884
Dennis Farina as a Chicago detective versus the mob.

24. The Gangster Chronicles (1981) 8.4, Votes: 163
The story of organized crime in America.

25. Reilly: Ace of Spies (1983) 8.3, Votes: 1,071
Real-life spy gets a mini-series telling of his exploits.

26. Hill Street Blues (1981–1987) 8.2, Votes: 5,311
Bochco's groundbreaking police series set in a very busy precinct.

27. Jane Eyre (1983) 8.2, Votes: 2,544
Who knows what evil lurks in the attic of your employer?

28. Chiefs (1983) 8.2, Votes: 1,236
The changes in a Southern town as seen through three generations of police chiefs.

29. Philip Marlowe, Private Eye (1983–1986) 8.2, Votes: 263
British series of the iconic L.A. private detective.

30. Inspector Morse (1987–2000) 8.1, Votes: 7,048
A police inspector solves baffling and twisty cases.

31. Cover Up (1984–1985) 8.1, Votes: 353
Fashion photographer and ex-soldier solve crimes, world-wide.

32. Maelstrom (1985) 8.0, Votes: 320
UK and Norway. It's a smorgasbord of murder and violence.

33. Harry's Game (1982) 8.0, Votes: 313
Undercover soldier versus IRA.

34. Bangkok Hilton (1989) 7.9, Votes: 3,801
Australian. Nicole Kidman is imprisoned after being tricked into smuggling drugs.

35. Lovejoy (1986–1994) 7.9, Votes: 2,143
Ian McShane as an antique dealer/detective. Ian McShane!

36. Wiseguy (1987–1990) 7.9, Votes: 1,520
Undercover takedown of the mob.

37. If Tomorrow Comes (1986) 7.9, Votes: 1,307
Sidney Sheldon and jewel thieves and con men and lots of etc.

38. Joan Hickson as Miss Marple. Three were mini-series (listed below), several were television movies (not listed) and several more were part of Masterpiece Mystery (not listed).

  a. Agatha Christie's Miss Marple: A Murder Is Announced (1985) 7.9, Votes: 1,280
  A newspaper announces a murder.
  b. Agatha Christie's Miss Marple: The Body in the Library (1984) 7.6, Votes: 1,274
  Miss Marple knows where to find the bodies.
  c. Agatha Christie's Miss Marple: The Moving Finger (1985) 7.6, Votes: 1,057
  The moving finger, having written, writes another installment.

39. Fatal Vision (1984) 7.9, Votes: 693
Did his son-in-law kill his daughter? From a true story.

40. The Inspector Dalgliesh series. Five of the Roy Marsden series were in the eighties. Three more were in the nineties. Also TV movies.

  a. A Taste for Death (1988) 7.9, Votes: 216
  Inspector Adam Dalgleish on the scene.
  b. Cover Her Face (1985) 7.7, Votes: 225
  Chief Superintendent Adam Dalgliesh takes on another crime.
  c. Death of an Expert Witness (1983) 7.7, Votes: 224
  More Dalgliesh.
  d. Shroud for a Nightingale (1984) 7.6, Votes: 231
  Yet another adaptation of the well-regarded Dalgliesh series of books.
  e. The Black Tower (1985) 7.5, Votes: 233
  Another Dalgliesh mystery.

41. Widows (1983) 7.9, Votes: 210
A botched job of armed robbery kills the perpetrators. Their widows take on the job.

42. Protivostoyanie (1985) 7.9, Votes: 166
Soviet Union. A dismembered body leads to a war deserter.

43. The Equalizer (1985–1989) 7.8, Votes: 3,244
Edward Woodward as an ex-spy turned P.I.

44. I Know My First Name Is Steven (1989) 7.8, Votes: 1,949
Years after a kidnapping, a child comes home.

45. Midnight Caller (1988–1991) 7.8, Votes: 894
Ex-police officer takes on radio show.

46. For the Term of His Natural Life (1983) 7.8, Votes: 155
A false conviction sends a man to Tasmania, 1830s.

47. MacGyver (1985–1992) 7.7, Votes: 29,305
Who knew that you could make a bomb out of a toothpick, a hair comb,

48. Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1985–1989) 7.7, Votes: 1,324
Remakes of stories from the original series reusing introductions by Hitchcock.

49. Jack the Ripper (1988) 7.7, Votes: 3,542
Michael Caine works for Scotland Yard investigating the Ripper killings.

50. Mystery!: Campion (1989–1990) 7.7, Votes: 532
The Mystery series takes on another classic detective.

51. Tenspeed and Brown Shoe (1980) 7.7, Votes: 289
Ben Vereen and Jeff Goldblum as an unlikely pair of crime-fighters.

52. Masterpiece Theatre: Bleak House (1985) 7.7, Votes: 265
Dicken's mystery masterpiece. With Diana Rigg and Denholm Elliott.

53. Night Heat (1985–1989), 7.7, Votes: 241
Police detective stories as told by a reporter.

54. Fox Mystery Theater (1984) 7.7, Votes: 175
Anthology of twisty mysteries.

55. The A-Team (1983–1987) 7.6, Votes: 27,247
Four misfit vets solve crimes while on the run.

56. Moonlighting (1985–1989) 7.6, Votes: 14,103
Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd play P.I.s at a firm with a shaky fourth wall.

57. Mission: Impossible (1988–1990) 7.6, Votes: 2,602
Still Peter Graves, still impossible.

58. A Perfect Spy (1987) 7.6, Votes: 600
From Le Carré's tome on what makes a perfect spy.

59. Stingray (1985–1987) 7.6, Votes: 520
A mysterious do-gooder helps out strangers.

60. Partners in Crime (1983) 7.6, Votes: 423
Agatha Christie's merry married detectives.

61. The Two Mrs. Grenvilles (1987) 7.6, Votes: 256
Acid-filled rivalries, murder, Ann-Margret and Claudette Colbert.

62. Sidekicks (1986–1987) 7.6, Votes: 222
Karate kid police apprentice.

63. Nero Wolfe (1981) 7.6, Votes: 179
Classic mysteries with the classic detective.

64. Vizit k Minotavru (1987) 7.6, Votes: 178
Soviet Union. A Stradivari violin is stolen.

65. Miami Vice (1984–1990) 7.5, Votes: 17,881
Iconic 80s police series featuring cool and more cool.

66. Magnum, P.I. (1980–1988) 7.5, Votes: 16,556
A-hunk-a-hunk of Hawaiian P.I.

67. In the Heat of the Night (1988–1995) 7.5, Votes: 2,466
Carroll O'Connor calls him Mr. Tibbs.

68. Dempsey and Makepeace (1985–1986), 7.5, Votes: 1,081
Tough NY cop relocates to London force because.

69. Röd snö (1985) 7.5, Votes: 432
Norwegian, Swedish. Intrigue and murder in 1942 near the Swedish border.

70. TASS upolnomochen zayavit... (TASS Is Authorized To Declare. . .) (1984) 7.5, Votes: 236
Soviet Union. Spies and revolution.

71. The Charmer (1987) 7.5, Votes: 170
Killer, magna cum laude, Charm School.

72. 48 Hours (1988–continuing) 7.4, Votes: 1,167
Documentary show investigates true crimes.

73. Return to Eden (1983) 7.4, Votes: 967
Australia. After her husband tries to murder her by pushing her into a crocodile, Rebecca Gilling plots revenge. Remade as a TV series also starring Rebecca Gilling.

74. The Murder of Mary Phagan (1988) 7.4, Votes: 555
From the true story of the miscarriage of justice and those who tried to prevent it.

75. A Man Called Hawk (1989) 7.4, Votes: 227
Spenser for Hire spin-off.

76. 21 Jump Street (1987–1991) 7.3, Votes: 9,027
Edward Scissorhands proves that he was more than just a cut-up.

77. Remington Steele (1982–1987) 7.3, Votes: 5,373 
Zimbalist and Brosnan make for an unlikely detective team.

78. Spenser: For Hire (1985–1988) 7.3, Votes: 1,430
Robert Urich as Robert Parker's iconic private detective.

79. America's Most Wanted: America Fights Back (1988–2012) 7.3, Votes: 1,333
Be on the lookout: actual crimes are presented.

80. Taggart (1983–2010) 7.3, Votes: 920
Gritty series investigating murders in Glasgow.

81. Return to Eden (1986-1987) 7.3, Votes 323.
Australia. Rebecca Gilling relives the mini-series as a TV series.

82. Police Rescue (1989–1996) 7.3, Votes: 255
Australia. New South Wales rescue squad.

83. Street Legal (1987–1994) 7.3, Votes: 155
Canadian. Toronto attorneys.

84. Bassie en Adriaan en de huilende professor (1982) 7.3, Votes: 154
Netherlands. A clown and a strongman team up against an angry, although not mad scientist.

85. Matlock (1986–1995) 7.1, Votes: 4,661 
Andy Griffith stars as Grandpa Simpson's favorite defense attorney.

86. Simon & Simon (1981–1989) 7.1, Votes: 3,134
Brothers and private eyes.

87. Crying Freeman 1: Portrait of a Killer (1988) 7.1, Votes: 800
Japan. Animated. A woman witnesses a mob hit.

88. Le crime d'Ovide Plouffe (1984) 7.1, Votes: 336
French. Did Ovide blow-up a plane to kill his wife?

89. Hardball (1989–1990) 7.1, Votes: 153
Veteran and new cop team up and they don't always play by the rules.

90. L.A. Law (1986–1994) 7.0, Votes: 3,131
Bochco (Hill Street Blues, Columbo, etc.) strikes again.

91. Crazy Like a Fox (1984–1986) 7.0, Votes: 381
Father and son solve mysteries in San Francisco.

92. Dress Gray (1986) 7.0, Votes: 291
A murder at the military academy.

93. Murder, She Wrote (1984–1996) 6.9, Votes: 13,777
Jessica Fletcher brings order to the mean streets of Cabot Cove. Starring all-time heartthrob Angela Lansbury (not being sarcastic, she's wonderful).

94. The Bourne Identity (1988) 6.9, Votes: 3,474
Sometimes you have to go where nobody, not even you, knows your name.

95. The New Mike Hammer (1984–1989) 6.9, Votes: 685
Stacy Keach as the two-fisted P.I.

96. Brotherhood of the Rose (1989) 6.9, Votes: 682
Romulus and Remus are orphans, trained from childhood to be brilliant CIA operatives. Hoo-boy.

97. Linda (1984–2001) 6.9, Votes: 265
Hungary. Black belt karate-wielding policewoman.

98. Cagney & Lacey (1981–1988) 6.8, Votes: 2,242
Two female detectives are as tough as they need be.

99. Riptide (1984–1986) 6.8, Votes: 1,691
Vietnam vet detectives.

100. Bergerac (1981–1991) 6.8, Votes: 874
A detective with a drinking problem.

101. The Ruth Rendell Mysteries (1987–2000) 6.8, Votes: 218
The mystery novelists explores the dark side.

102. Lady Blue (1985–1986) 6.7, Votes: 181
Tales of a tough female cop.

103. Rin Tin Tin: K-9 Cop (1988–1993) 6.7, Votes: 148
Dogs also have nine lives. A police dog playing opposite Officer Katts. Rough.

104. C.A.T.S. Eyes (1985–1987) 6.7, Votes: 103
An all-female British P.I. enterprise. These two were below the cut-off for votes, but seemed to fit together, one after the other.

105. The Bill (1984–2010) 6.6, Votes: 2,103
London police, day-in, day-out.

106. Hardcastle and McCormick (1983–1986) 6.6, Votes: 1,580
Criminal and legal cases get a second going over with a retired judge and his helper.

107. Matt Houston (1982–1985) 6.6, Votes: 695
A Texan (note surname) moves to California and acts as a P.I.

108. The Atlanta Child Murders (1985) 6.6, Votes: 283
Based on the investigation into the murder of children in Atlanta in the early eighties.

109. Ein Fall für zwei (A Case for Two) (1981–continuing) 6.5, Votes: 495
German. Lawyers and private investigators worked to find justice. Just wrapped up its 36th season.

110. Großstadtrevier (1986–continuing), 6.5, Votes: 225
Hamburg Germany police comedy/drama. Thirty-one years and counting.

111. The People's Court (1981–1993) 6.5, Votes: 224
Small claims, big drama.

112. Jake and the Fatman (1987–1992) 6.4, Votes: 1,672
Gruff-voiced D.A. works with a P.I. to solve cases.

113. Boon (1986–1992) 6.4, Votes: 518
Ex-firemen solve crimes.

114. Windmills of the Gods (1988) 6.4, Votes: 233
Jaclyn Smith and Robert Wagner in a potboiler mystery.

115. B.L. Stryker (1989–1990) 6.4, Votes: 216
Burt Reynolds returns as a laconic detective.

116. Booker (1989–1990) 6.3, Votes: 487
Investigator Booker plays by his own rules.

117. The New Adam-12 (1989–1991) 6.2, Votes: 181
The iconic cop car gets new treads.

118. Seagull Island (1981) 6.1, Votes: 155
Her sister has disappeared.

119. T.J. Hooker (1982–1986) 6.0, Votes: 2,652
How many Shatner fans mob him for this role? Police drama.

120. Navarro (1989–2006), 5.9, Votes: 354
French. It is hard being police in a country with 246 different kinds of cheese.

121. Police Academy: The Series (1988–1989) 5.7, Votes: 600
Comic nouveau cops. Not to be confused with the even less well-regarded Police Academy: The Series (1997-98).

---------------------
 Martin Hill Ortiz is the author of Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press.






Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press

Never Kill A Friend is available for purchase in hard cover format and as an ebook.
The story follows Shelley Krieg, an African-American detective for the Washington DC Metro PD as she tries to undo a wrong which sent an innocent teenager to prison.

Hard cover: Amazon US
Kindle: Amazon US
Hard cover: Amazon UK
Kindle: Amazon UK
Barnes and Noble 

Friday, June 16, 2017

A Modern Major Twitterer

With Apologies to G & S

I am the very model of a modern major Twitterer.
I've several tons of grudges and no one could be bitterer.
I see everywhere conspiracies, historical, hysterical.
I announce them with misspellings and blame those on my clerical.
Okay, maybe not the trains, at least my scandals run on time:
Come five-thirty every weekday—but I haven't done a crime.
My cabinet just loves me, singing praises loud and glorious.
So forget that B.I.G., you see, I am the new Notorious.

My spacey doctor tells me that my vigor is the bigliest.
I love to chase the girls, most especially the giggliest.
Those pageant girls run fast but still that's leaving lots for me.
I know that even friends like Putin are burning, he's so hot for me.
I've got screw-pulls but not scruples, so I grab 'em by their pelvises.
I've a swagger to my hips, you'd swear that they were Elvis's.
I'm so devilishly handsome: I've a painting like that Dorian.
(And I stole some sports reports off that kid with the Delorean.)

I'm the greatest ever Christian by anyone's criterion.
Or else I've joined a cult: I've been told I'm Presbyterian.
I decided on this creed once I had my soul examined:
If Mammon is your God then you can serve God and Mammon.
The Middle East is easy, I banished all the growing fear
And brought about world peach by pressing on a glowing sphere.
But the always-lying press won't proclaim my deeds victorious.
So forget that B.I.G., you see, I am the new Notorious.

I was blinded by the czar and his pictorial pectoreals.
He helped me cheat on my exams at the college electoreals.
Did I say I brought world peach by pressing on a globe?
But Congress didn't care, they began a Russian probe.
I canned that giant Comey for continuing to fight me
And then I raised a bar and said: you must be this tall to indict me.
Sure, Congress wants its hearings but I'm hearing they're not serious.
They're all serving at my pleasure like I'm emperor Tiberius.

Still there are some of those out there who'd choose to lock me in a pillory.
Hey, losey-losers hear the news: the worstest crook is Hillary.
She exposed us to the terrors of open-server email crimes.
But her greatest of all threats was being-born-a-female crime.
The continent of Mexico is unlawfully so alien
They're unlicensed to be humans and illegally mammalian.
I'll deal with their escaping rapists by bargaining so skillfully
They'll pay me for a wall, both fully and so willfully.

I am the double-plus most genius ever, I read that in a story in
Breitbart (the brightest Simpson), the supremest of historians.
I guess I could try and spell-chek, but that style is not o' me.
They say my grammar would improve if I got a brainiotomy.
And so I soldier on, forever predisential.
My words might make no sense, but still they are e-ssen-tial.
I suppose I could try harder but that would be laborious.
So forget that B.I.G., you see, I am the new Notorious.


Presidential Press release promoting the possibility of lasting "peach."

A brief guide on some of the in-jokes for those who do not follow presidential minutiae.

"Lasting peach" and "predisential" are among the recent typos from the White House.
The character Biff from Back to the Future was based on the 80s Donald Trump.
James Comey, ex-director of the FBI is 6 foot 8.
In a meeting with Presbyterian clergy, Trump asked whether Presbyterian is Christian. 

---------------------
 Martin Hill Ortiz is the author of Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press.





Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press

Never Kill A Friend is available for purchase in hard cover format and as an ebook.
The story follows Shelley Krieg, an African-American detective for the Washington DC Metro PD as she tries to undo a wrong which sent an innocent teenager to prison.

Hard cover: Amazon US
Kindle: Amazon US
Hard cover: Amazon UK
Kindle: Amazon UK
Barnes and Noble 

Friday, June 9, 2017

A reminder: One week left for Short Story Contest

June 15th is the deadline. No entry fee. Here is a repeat of the announcement and rules.

A prize of $100 (US) will be awarded to the author who best completes the short story, The Final Confession, the first 1,100 words of which are presented below. Alternative prize formats are presented after the story. The total length should be between 2,000 and 5,000 words. The completed short story will be submitted as co-authors to a journal of the winner's choosing. All proceeds from future sales will be divided evenly between the co-authors.

Rights: The writing and ideas from all non-winning submissions will continue to belong to those who enter. [You can finish the story, then go back and write a new first half and then it's all yours.]


Fees: There is no fee to enter.

Judging the Winner: I will be the judge. I will look for the piece that best dramatically completes the story with the highest quality of writing. Several further considerations are presented at the end of the piece.

I reserve the right to edit the final story to maintain consistency in tone. Although Detective Shelley Krieg is a character from my novel, Never Kill A Friend, it is not necessary to use other characters or info from the book.

How to Enter: To enter, include your conclusion to the story in the body of an email to mdhillortiz@gmail.com by 11:59 p.m., June 15th, 2017, EST along with word count, your name, address, phone, and email. Include the words "contest entry" in the email subject line. Do not send your submission as an attachment. The winner will be announced July 15th.

Martin Hill Ortiz


    The Final Confession

    Only one thing could be worse than having a boyfriend whose idea of a romantic Valentine's date consisted of a dinner at Arby's: being stood up.

    Shelley Krieg sawed at the papery meat between her teeth with the pinched end of a soda straw. She had ordered a Junior sandwich to tamp down the hour-long anger in her belly, an agitation which intensified with the waiting. And waiting. No phone calls, no messages, his phone off-line.

    The sandwich merely stoked the fire in her stomach. Horse radish: a taste that gave a bad name to both horse and radish.

    Even after sipping a bit more of the melted ice puddle from the bottom of her cup, her mouth felt dry. Why does anyone eat here?

    She looked around. Families happily munching away. A priest and some nuns seemingly enjoying their meals.

    She thought back to her Catholic days. The Sisters of Charity, Mother Teresa's group, ran her school. She once asked them whether they worried about living in a rough ghetto. They laughed and told her that D.C. was tame. They'd worked in the back alleys of Calcutta.

    She wiped off her lipstick, buttoned up her collar, and tugged down the fringe of her red skirt to just below her knees. Feeling less sexy, she felt less rejected.

    Her eyes wandered. Across the street, a car pulled up, double-parking in front of a liquor store. The driver, a skinny punk, wore a black ski mask topping his crown. With a jolt, her police instincts kicked in and her every muscle tensed.

    The driver twisted the plastic orange cap off of a play pistol. Even at this distance Shelley recognized it as a toy, but what she saw didn't matter: this was still armed robbery.

    Bolting from her seat, she knocked over her soda cup and hurried for the door, an action that elicited a crowd of stares.

    She had dressed for a night out—albeit, a cheap night out—and not for after-hours duty: her service belt and pistol lay stowed in her car. As she shouldered out the door, she took out her phone and speed-dialed dispatch.

    "This is Detective Krieg, MPD. We've an armed robbery in progress at B & B Liquors, Good Hope and Sixteenth. Make certain you tell them, 'Officer on scene.'"

    She emphasized the last part because she was out of her district and when the responding officers arrived they would encounter her: an unknown tall black woman with a gun in hand.

    She tweeted her car, flung open the door and reached inside, unbuckling her service automatic from its holster. She dumped the contents of her purse on the car seat and grabbed her shield, pinning it to her vest. And then she stood still, spending a quiet moment before heading into battle, ginning up her courage. It's a toy gun, she reminded herself. I saw the perp take the top off. But what if he put a plastic cap on a real gun to carry it around, making it seem fake? No, she told herself: I saw a toy, I know the difference. It had to be a toy—but what will I do if he points it at me? She knew what she would do.

    Then she recognized a new horror: what if I have to explain in court why I was eating dinner alone on Valentine's Day? At Arby's.

    She held her gun low as she crossed the street.

    Blam. A shot, a roar, from inside the liquor store. What the hell? A second blast. Shelley drew back from the door and to the side, out of the line of fire. "Police!" she called out. "Toss your weapon and come out with your hands raised."

    The door banged open and the punk staggered out. He clutched the toy gun against a gaping wound in his belly. He made it only a few steps before nosediving against the sidewalk. A moment later, a man appeared, brandishing a shotgun.

    Shelley aimed her gun at him. "Put your weapon down."

    "This is my store," the man said. His eyes were wild with adrenaline.

    "The crime is over. You do not need that weapon," Shelley said. And she didn't need a frenzied hero with a twitchy trigger finger. "Set it down." She demonstrated by lowering her own weapon.

    The man looked around as if to find someone who would support his rights. The few gawkers maintained their distance. He set the shotgun down beside him.

    "Call 911. Ask for an ambulance," Shelley said.

    "No," The owner said, folding his arms.

    Shelley dropped on one knee beside the man on the sidewalk. She freed the toy gun from his hand and tossed it aside to make sure the responding officers wouldn't think he was armed. When they arrived. If they arrived. Where are they? 

    It seemed as though half the man's blood had already spilled out: a rivulet from the broad puddle stretched to the gutter. Shelley rolled him over and pressed her hands against the bleeding. The man huffed against his ski mask. She pulled it back to allow him to breathe. From a distance, she'd judged him to be a punk kid. Up close, she could see he had a baby-face but with those creases that came in one's late thirties. The victim stared at her with desperation, mouth open, lips popping like those of a guppy.

    "You were likely within your rights to shoot this man," Shelley told the owner. "But if you do nothing and you allow him to bleed to death, you are committing murder and I can arrest you." Technically, this was true, but she made the threat only to ensure his cooperation. "Call 911 and bring me something to help stop the bleeding. A roll of paper towels if you have them."

    The owner reached for his shotgun.

    "Leave. It. There," Shelley said, each word snapping.

    "I want to put it somewhere safe."

    "Leave your weapon there."

    The man backed into his store.

    A shotgun, at close range, could tear a man in two. Both of Shelley's hands easily fit into the wide gash of his belly wound. She felt about for the source of the flood.

    "Bless me father, for I have sinned."

    Shelley had been concentrating so much on the wound, that these words startled her. She looked up. The priest from Arby's knelt next to the victim.

    "Tell me, my son," the priest said.
---------------------

Additional notes regarding context and the contest.

Aspects of Shelley Krieg are presented in the above story. In summary, she is African-American, tall (over six feet), single and in her mid-thirties and works for the Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Department. She is a conscientious detective who does not act in an unethical way, although she has been known to cut corners for the greater good.

The first chapter of Never Kill A Friend is available here, online or from internet book outlets.

The winning entry should be realistic in plotting, not the magic of a poorly created cops-and-robbers world. Gratuitousness, whether it be sex, violence, gore or swearing is a negative. I will accept a moderate amount depend on context and internal justification.

The sacrament of confession is not absolute in requiring silence from the priest. Inasmuch as Shelley overhears something actionable, the priest could corroborate it: although this does not need be a plot point.

International contestants can apply. Alternative forms of awards can be: A check or money order for U.S. dollars, or as a gift card from iTunes, Amazon, or Google.

What publication rights are being asked? None, other than those requested by the magazine in which the final product will be published. The winning entry will not be published on-line beyond that of a teaser, unless by joint agreement. This could interfere with submission to journals.

You may query me with further questions or insert them in comments if you believe the answers would be of general interest.

--------------

 Martin Hill Ortiz is the author of Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press.





Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press

Never Kill A Friend is available for purchase in hard cover format and as an ebook.
The story follows Shelley Krieg, an African-American detective for the Washington DC Metro PD as she tries to undo a wrong which sent an innocent teenager to prison.

Hard cover: Amazon US
Kindle: Amazon US
Hard cover: Amazon UK
Kindle: Amazon UK
Barnes and Noble 

Monday, June 5, 2017

A Complete Ranking of Mystery Television of the 1960s


Having sorted out the IMDB ranking of mystery/crime television shows that began in the 1970s, I decided to extend this by looking at the 1960s. I also have the 1980s in the works. I suspect in the 1990s, with the advent of internet popularity and the great increase in cable shows, I can not continue a straightforwardly nostalgic tour. With the 1990s, the voting would probably have been influenced by publicity campaigns and what was on in the moment. IMDB debuted in 1990.

Again, I was rather strict in what constituted a mystery. No supernatural or science fiction or fantasy. I suppose that should eliminate gadget-y spy shows but I let them in. I drew the line at Batman-like shows as they tended to a more extreme fantasy.

For the 1960s I used a cut-off with those receiving at least 50 votes. This garnered 65 series. Much fewer miniseries during this decade.

I pondered whether some countries rate their shows more generously than others. In the 1970s I was certain that Germans were harsh on its shows with several having near the lowest ratings. In the 1960s, there were eight German shows appearing on this list and most were highly ranked.

Below are the shows, their fan ratings (1 to 10). When the ratings were equal, the order is given by which one had the most votes.

Stefanie Ka-Powers


1. Hríšní lidé mesta pražského (The Sinful People of Prague) (1968–1969) 8.9, Votes: 112
Hungary. In 1920s and 30s Prague, police detectives solve crimes.

2. Public Eye (1965–1975) 8.8, Votes: 113
Alfred Burke as a world-weary public, private eye, because aren't all P.I.s world-weary?

3. Die seltsamen Methoden des Franz Josef Wanninger (The Strange Methods of Franz Josef Wanninger) (1965–1970) 8.8, Votes: 69. German. Followed by a 1970s series, The Immortal Methods of Franz Josef Wanninger.

4. Coronet Blue (1967) 8.8, Votes: 95
Frank Converse has lost his memory and doesn't know why people are out to kill him. He goes on to discover this is a common condition.

5. Le Inchieste del Commissario Maigret (1964–1972) 8.7, Votes: 56
Italian series featuring the famous detective.

6. The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (1962–1965) 8.6, Votes: 2,768
The anthology continues, now an hour long.

7. T.H.E. Cat (1966–1967) 8.6, Votes: 152
Robert Loggia as a bodyguard with special skills.

8. Gideon C.I.D. (1964–1967) 8.6, Votes: 99
John Gregson as Commander George Gideon of Scotland Yard.

9. Hong Kong (1960–1961) 8.6, Votes: 86
A newsman and an inspector solve crimes.

10. Der Tod läuft hinterher (Death Pursues) (1967) 8.6; Votes: 61
German. A three-part series following the search for a missing woman.

11. 87th Precinct (1961–1962) 8.5, Votes: 91
Ed McBain's novels as a 60s TV show? I didn't know.

12. The Edgar Wallace Mystery Theatre (1960–1965) 8.5, Votes: 59
Well-regarded compilation of short mystery movies.

13. Babeck (1968), 8.5, Votes: 64
German. The disappearance of a small-time laborer grows into a multi-murder mystery involving international arms dealers.

14. Polizeifunk ruft (Police Call) (1966–1970) 8.5, Votes: 55
German realistic police drama.

15. The Avengers (1961–1969) 8.4, Votes: 4,709
Patrick MacNee is John Steed, master spy with some kick-ass helpers.

16. Thriller (1960–1962) 8.4, Votes: 885
Boris Karloff introduced a killer anthology.

17. The Rogues (1964–1965) 8.4, Votes: 226
A pair of retired con-artists put their talents to help others.

18. The Roaring 20's (1960–1962) 8.4, Votes: 114
A newshound, gangsters and coppers in roaring Chicago.

19. Get Smart (1965–1970) 8.3, Votes: 8,544
Almost the highest-rated spy show (below The Avengers). Missed it by that much.

20. Secret Agent (1964–1967) 8.3, Votes: 792
Patrick McGoohan lived a life of danger.

21. Callan (1967–1972) 8.3, Votes: 416
Edward Woodward is a spy forced into service.

22. Surfside 6 (1960–1962) 8.3, Votes: 171
Those Miami Beach detectives are totally boss.

23. The Wild Wild West (1965–1969) 8.2, Votes: 3,035
Name's West. James West.

24. The Defenders (1961–1965) 8.2, Votes: 261
E.G. Marshall and Robert Reed as father and son lawyers.

25. Judd for the Defense (1967–1969) 8.2, Votes: 135
Carl Betz as a Houston attorney.

26. The Lone Ranger (1966–1969) 8.2, Votes: 80
That masked man and his Indian BFF serve up justice.

27. The Fugitive (1963–1967) 8.1, Votes: 2,451
David Janssen as Dr. Richard Kimball: he just might be innocent.

28. Danger Man (1960–1962) 8.1, Votes: 711
More goin' with McGoohan.

29. Homicide (1964–1977) 8.1, Votes: 64
Australian detective series.

30. Mission: Impossible (1966–1973) 8.0; Votes: 5,828
High-tech spies solve crimes with masks, instant door keys, and pulse-pounding music.

31. Checkmate (1960–1962) 8.0, Votes: 183
Tales of a high-class Frisco P.I. firm.

32. Kraft Suspense Theatre (1963–1965) 8.0, Votes: 154
Because life is more than macaroni and cheese.

33. Arrest and Trial (1963–1964) 8.0, Votes: 84
First half police, second half prosecutor.

34. Man in a Suitcase (1967–1968) 7.9, Votes: 246
A spy is branded and tossed out of work.

35. The Felony Squad (1966–1969) 7.9, Votes: 82
Rookie and veteran police officers.

36. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1964–1968) 7.8, Votes: 3,572
UNCLE versus THRUSH. How is it I remember the name Illya Kuryakan after all these years?

37. It Takes a Thief (1968–1970) 7.8 Votes: 1,247
And it takes Fred Astaire to play Robert Wagner's father.

38. Der Kommissar (1969–1976), 7.8, Votes: 137
German. Popular police series of the late sixties, early seventies.

39. Les enquêtes du commissaire Maigret (1967–1990) 7.8, Votes: 68
French. The famous Inspector Maigret.

40. Graf Yoster gibt sich die Ehre (Count Yoster has the Honor) (1967–1977) 7.8, Votes: 67
A wealthy gentleman and his butler are the detectives.

41. Dragnet 1967 (1967–1970) 7.7, Votes: 1,616
Joe Friday deadpans his way through 30 minutes of crime-solving.

42. Honey West (1965–1966) 7.7, Votes: 423
Anne Francis runs a private detective firm with the help of an ocelot, because we all get by with a little help from our ocelots.

43. Sherlock Holmes (1964–1968) 7.7, Votes: 322
Peter Cushing and Nigel Stock star. Every generation gets its Holmes. Some get two or three.

44. Belphegor (1965) 7.7, Votes: 286
Phantom of the Louvre.

45. N.Y.P.D. (1967–1969) 7.7, Votes: 201
Detectives take on New York crime.

46. The Bold Ones: The Lawyers (1969–1972), 7.7, Votes: 65
Burl Ives leads a holly jolly law firm.

47. Adam-12 (1968–1975)  7.6, Votes: 2,261
Jovial, ingratiating police officers answer calls.

48. The F.B.I. (1965–1974) 7.6, Votes: 639
To manage FBI agents you need a great name like Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.

49. The Baron (1966–1967) 7.6, Votes: 160
Antique dealer solves crimes.

50. The Great British Train Robbery (1966– ), 7.6, Votes: 145
German series about the famed train robbery of the sixties.

51. The Saint (1962–1969) 7.5, Votes: 3,066
Simon Templar occasionally loses his halo. Starring Roger Moore and great theme music.

52. Burke's Law (1963–1966) 7.5, Votes: 490
The typical millionaire chief of detectives.

53. Aktenzeichen XY ungelöst (File XY, Unsolved) (1967– continuing) 7.5
German crime documentaries to help solve open cases.

54. Hawaii Five-O (1968–1980) 7.4, Votes: 4,295
Jack Lord can growl.

55. Hawk (1966) 7.4, Votes: 69
A native American detective? Great! Starring Burt Reynolds?

56. Softly Softly (1966–1969) 7.4, Votes: 66
West Country police.

57. Special Branch (1969–1974), 7.4, Votes: 53
An elite squad of London police.

58. Mannix (1967–1975) 7.3, Votes: 1,771
Mike Connors is a private eye who has a habit of falling out of cars just before they go off cliffs.

59. I Spy (1965–1968) 7.3, Votes: 1,404
Robert Culp, Phyllis Rashad and others shake their fists at the man who tanked their residuals.

60. Z Cars (1962–1978) 7.3, Votes: 192
Northern England police force and their exploits.

61. Das Halstuch (The Scarf) (1962), 7.2, Votes: 77
German production of a murder mystery set in England.

62. Ironside (1967–1975), 7.1, Votes: 2,164
Wheelchair-bound, Raymond Burr solves crimes by the sheer force of his grumbling.

63. The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. (1966–1967) 7.1, Votes: 294
Ladies can kick ass, too. Starring Stefanie Powers.

64. Mod Squad (1968–1973), 7.0, Votes: 1,227
Multi-ethnic and hip police squad.

65. Ka' De li' østers (1967) 6.7, Votes: 51
Denmark. A detective pair works on a case of double homicide. 6 episodes.



--------------

 Martin Hill Ortiz is the author of Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press.




Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press

Never Kill A Friend is available for purchase in hard cover format and as an ebook.
The story follows Shelley Krieg, an African-American detective for the Washington DC Metro PD as she tries to undo a wrong which sent an innocent teenager to prison.

Hard cover: Amazon US
Kindle: Amazon US
Hard cover: Amazon UK
Kindle: Amazon UK
Barnes and Noble

Monday, May 29, 2017

A Complete Ranking of Mystery Television of the 1970s

I was perusing the IMDB, the International Movie Database, website where millions of fans vote for their favorite films and television shows. I asked myself a simple question: of the two iconic 1970s detective shows (and personal favorites), Columbo and The Rockford Files which did fans rate higher?

Not being the sort of person who likes to leave simple at simple, I decided to sort out which were the most popular and most highly rated mystery TV series of the seventies.

I was rather strict in my criteria for mystery.  The show could not include fantasy elements (a mystery-solving ghost) or sci-fi (a robotic or android police officer). Scooby-Doo, although, at that time, did not include spectral solutions, was a fantasy with a dog who could speak near intelligibly and ten-decker sandwiches that could be swallowed in one bite.

I excluded a couple of shows that had traditional mystery settings but no mystery plotting (e.g., Barney Miller).

I used those with 99 votes or more as my cutoff. I included miniseries such as the Ian Carmichael Lord Peter Whimsey two-parters as individual entries. With these criteria, 99 shows were included from the very highly-rated Godfather Saga miniseries to the cringe-worthy, Mrs. Columbo.

Even though IMDB is a truly international database, it has a bias in voting toward English-speaking countries and 42 entries were from the United States and 29 from British telly. That placed another 27 from a variety of countries.

Along the way I discovered that the Soviet Union has several highly ranking entries, but not so many that it appears that fans are rigging the votes. Germany has three police shows that started in the 1970s and are still continuing 40-some years later.

Below are the shows, their fan ratings (1 to 10). When the ratings were equal, the order is given by which one had the most votes.

By the way, The Rockford Files and Columbo were both rated 8.2, but Columbo received many more votes. Columbo might have more international appeal. Peter Falk appeared as Peter Falk who is revealed to be an angel in the 1980s German film, Wings of Desire. In this film, he said that being an angel explains his acting career. Why not?



1. The Godfather Saga (1977) 9.5, Votes: 3,084
The Godfather I and II are woven together with additional footage for a mini-series.

2. The Meeting Place Cannot Be Changed (1979) 9.0, Votes: 3,028
(Soviet Union) In the late forties a young detective tries to take down organized crime in Moscow. Great title.

3. The Sandbaggers (1978–1980) 8.9, Votes:  474
Adventures of an elite group of British spies.

4. Kottan ermittelt (1976–1983)   8.8, Votes:  311
Austrian satirical police series with the lead played by three different actors.

5. Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson: The Acquaintance (1979)  8.7, Votes:  2,403
Soviet Union. Vasiliy Livanov as Holmes and Vitali Solomin as Watson in the most famous encounter since Hercule met Poirot. Two parts but then repeated in future years with further adventures. This appears to be a formidable presentation of Sherlock Holmes.

6. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979) 8.6, Votes: 5,558
Alec Guinness as George Smiley who investigates who among British intelligence is a Soviet spy. I've long said that Alec Guinness in this program was the best job of acting, ever.

7. Boney (1972–1973)  8.6, Votes:  128
James Laurenson as an aboriginal Australian police inspector.

8. 12 stulyev (12 Chairs) (1977) 8.5, Votes: 3,229
Soviet Union. One of twelve chairs holds jewels. Mel Brooks made an American version.

9. The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (1972), 8.5, Votes: 199
Ian Carmichael in his highest-rated outing as Lord Peter Whimsey.

10. Ellery Queen (1975–1976)  8.4, Votes:  896
Jim Hutton starring as the classic detective.

11. Eight Deadly Shots (1972) 8.4, Votes: 643
Finland. Mini-series. How a small farmer becomes a cop-killer.

12. Rebecca (1979) 8.4, Votes: 240
Joanna David dreams she returned to Manderlay.

13. Search (1972–1973)  8.4, Votes: 177
Hugh O'Brian, Doug McClure, Anthony Franciosa, and Burgess Meredith are high-tech private eyes.

14. Who Pays the Ferryman? (1977) 8.4, Votes: 108
A World War II veteran returns to the Isle of Crete where he was stationed in the war and finds a mystery.

15. Porridge (1974–1977)   8.3, Votes:  3,887
Ronnie Barker as a convict.

16. Five Red Herrings (1975) 8.3, Votes: 192
More Ian Carmichael as Whimsey.

17. Zatôichi monogatari (1974–1979)   8.3, Votes:  122
Japan. Shintarô Katsu as the blind vector of justice.

18. Columbo (1971–2003)  8.2, Votes: 20,652
Peter Falk as a rumpled-suited Los Angeles police detective.

19. The Rockford Files (1974–1980)  Votes:  5,121
James Garner solves crimes by sheer gaw-shucks charm.

20. The Persuaders! (1971–1972)    8.2, Votes: 3,468
Roger Moore as an English lord who joins forces with Tony Curtis, New Yorker.

21. Prisoner: Cell Block H (1979–1986)  8.2, Votes:  1,345
Women behind bars.

22. The Nine Tailors (1974) 8.2, Votes: 248
Ian Carmichael as Lord Peter Whimsey who solves a mystery of bells.

23. Clouds of Witness (1972– ) 8.2, Votes: 235
Ian Carmichael as Lord Peter Whimsey solves another canonic case.

24. Murder Must Advertise (1973) 8.2, Votes: 216
More whimsy.

25. The Professionals (1977–1983)  8.1, Votes:  1,837
Gordon Jackson and Martin Shaw are Bodie and Doyle, part of the investigative force of the British intelligence service.

26. Rupan sansei (1971–1972) 8.1,Votes: 1,279
Master thief Lupin III and his adventures are an institution in Japan.

27. Lupin the 3rd (1977–1980) 8.1, Votes:  1,108
Yet another incarnation of master thief Lupin III.

28. The Sweeney (1975–1978)    8.1, Votes:  1,207
John Thaw as a tough London police detective.

29. Longstreet (1971–1972)  8.1, Votes: 298
James Franciscus as a blind insurance investigator.

30. Hec Ramsey (1972–1974) 8.1, Votes:  163
Richard Boone as a detective in the Old West.

31. Nichols (1971–1972) 8.1, Votes:  155
James Garner as an Arizona sheriff. Also starring Margot Kidder.

32. Kidnapped (1978) 8.1, Votes: 144
A young kidnap victim, sold to the colonies, works out his return.

33. The Tiger Brigades (1974–1983)  8.0, Votes:  128
France. Early twentieth century motorized police brigade.

34. Budgie (1971–1972)  8.0, Votes:  115
Adam Faith as a petty crook.

35. Raffles (1975–1977)   8.0, Votes:  99
Anthony Valentine as master thief Raffles.

36. QB VII (1974) 7.9, Votes: 507
A physician may have been a Nazi war criminal.

37. Arsène Lupin (1971–1974)  7.9, Votes: 193
France. Georges Descrières as the gentleman thief.

38. Q & Q (1974–1976) 7.9, Votes:  128
Netherlands. Bob De Lange and Erik van 't Wout as boy detectives.

39. Minder (1979–1994)    7.8, Votes:  1,296
George Cole as a small time crook who hires a bodyguard.

40. The Snoop Sisters (1972–1974)   7.8, Votes:  171
Helen Hayes and Mildred Natwick are mystery writers and elderly sleuths.

41. Toma (1973–1974)  7.8, Votes: 113
Tony Musante as a New Jersey undercover detective.

42. Great Mysteries (1973–1974)  7.8, Votes: 113
If Orson Welles introduces mysteries, you'd better pay attention.

43. Kuda idu divlje svinje (1971–1971 ) 7.7, Votes: 265
Yugoslavia. Smugglers versus police in 1940s Zagreb.

44. Kortik (1974) 7.7, Votes: 220
Soviet Union. A family heirloom has a secret message inscribed. 

45. Bassie en Adriaan en de diamant (1979–1980) 7.7, Votes: 147.
Netherlands. A clown and acrobat are framed as jewel thieves.

46. The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries (1977–1979) 7.6, Votes:  973
Shaun Cassidy, Parker Stevenson and Pamela Sue Martin as teenage sleuths.

47. Banacek (1972–1974) , 7.6, Votes:  893
George Peppard solves impossible mysteries.

48. Harry O (1973–1976)   7.6, Votes:  414
David Janssen as a San Diego private eye.

49. The Magician (1973–1974)  7.6, Votes:  289
Bill Bixby is a magician who helps people in trouble and catches the bad guys.

50. Armchair Thriller (1978–1981)  7.6, Votes:  125
Anthology series.

51. Police Story (1973–1979)   7.5, Votes:  560
Anthology, police drama.

52. Jane Eyre (1973) 7.5, Votes: 384
A governess is hired to work at a mansion with a mystery.

53. The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes (1971–1973) 7.5, Votes:  121
Sherlock Holmes's detective competitors back in the 1890s.

54. Blind Ambition (1979) 7.5, Votes: 108
Martin Sheen as John Dean. Nixon cries out, "What with all the talent here, let's have a Watergate!"

55. Petrocelli (1974–1976)   7.4, Votes:  500
Barry Newman is a small town lawyer.

56. 07 zglos sie (1976–1987)  7.4, Votes:  144
Poland. The investigative unit of the militia.

57. Quincy M.E. (1976–1983)    7.3, Votes:  3,729
Jack Klugman as a medical examiner who solves crimes.

58. The Streets of San Francisco (1972–1977)   7.3, Votes:  3,724
Karl Malden and Michael Douglas on the streets.

59. Switch (1975–1978) 7.3, Votes:  287
Robert Wagner as an ex-con and Eddie Albert as a retired police detective who become private eyes.

60. Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law (1971–1974)  7.3, Votes:  156
Arthur Hill as a small town lawyer.

61. Van der Valk (1972–1992)   7.3, Votes:  155
Barry Foster in a British-made police show set in Amsterdam.

62. Cade's County (1971–1972)   7.3, Votes:  127
Glenn Ford as a Southwestern sheriff.

63. Tatort (1970–continuing)  7.2, Votes: 1795
German cop show which has now run for over 1000 episodes.

64. McMillan & Wife (1971–1977)  7.2, Votes: 1,455
Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James as San Francisco Police Commissioner and wife.

65. The New Avengers (1976–1977)  7.2, Votes:  1,303
Patrick Macnee as the suave head of an espionage unit.

66. Jason King (1971–1972)   7.2, Votes:  189
Peter Wyngarde as a womanizing spy.

67. Crown Court (1972–1984)  7.2, Votes:  132
Legal drama with an audience casting the verdict.

68. Crime and Punishment (1979) 7.2, Votes: 130
More like crime and capture.

69. Kojak (1973–1978)   7.1, Votes:  4,625
Telly Savalas as a lollipop-loving police detective.

70. The Protectors (1972–1973)   7.1, Votes:  247
Robert Vaughn, Nyree Dawn Porter, Tony Anholt are international, freelance crime fighters.

71. Father Brown (1974) 7.1, Votes:  222
Kenneth More as the clergyman detective.

72. Return of the Saint (1978–1979)   7.1, Votes:  196
Ian Ogilvy as Simon Templar.

73. The Blue Knight (1975–1976)    7.1, Votes:  124
George Kennedy as an L.A. cop.

74. Starsky and Hutch (1975–1979) 7.0, Votes: 5258
Cool cops keep the peace on the streets.

75. McCloud (1970–1977)   7.0, Votes: 1844
A Southwestern sheriff in the streets of New York.

76. Barnaby Jones (1973–1980) 6.9, Votes:  1,504
Buddy Ebsen as an older private eye.

77. Delvecchio (1976–1977)   6.9, Votes:  108
Judd Hirsch as an LAPD Detective.

78. Serpico (1976–1977)   6.9, Votes:  104
David Birney as the famous undercover New York City detective.

79. Baretta (1975–1978)  6.8, Votes:  1,410
Robert Blake as an undercover New York City cop.

80. Vega$ (1978–1981) 6.8, Votes: 1045
Robert Urich as a Vegas P.I.

81. The Rookies (1972–1976)  6.8, Votes:  641
Three rookie police officers.

82. Out (1978)  6.8, Votes:  161
Out of prison, an ex-con tracks down those who framed him.

83. Shaft (1973–1974)   6.8, Votes:  146
Richard Roundtree as a tough PI.

84. Hart to Hart (1979–1984)    6.7, Votes:  3,934
Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers as socialites who solve crimes.

85. Cannon (1971–1976)  6.7, Votes: 1,798
William Conrad as an ex-cop, now private investigator.

86. The Dain Curse (1978) 6.7, Votes: 144
James Coburn as the Continetal Op. 

87. Police Woman (1974–1978)  6.6, Votes:  1,165
Angie Dickinson as a female cop.

88. La porta sul buio (1973)   6.6, Votes:  132
Italian mystery, thriller anthology.

89. S.W.A.T. (1975–1976)  6.6, Votes:  1,123
Police strike squad.

90. Derrick (1974–1998)  6.6, Votes: 1,074
German. Horst Tappert is a police inspector in Munich.

91. Charlie's Angels (1976–1981)  6.5, Votes:  7,163
Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith as private eyes.

92. Bukow and König (originally: Polizeiruf 110) (1971–continuing )  6.5, Votes: 291
Police drama which began in East Germany in 1971 and which continues 46 years later.

93. The Rhinemann Exchange (1977) 6.5, Votes: 127
Espionage and diamonds in WWII. Cast includes José Ferrer and Larry Hagman

94. CHiPs (1977–1983) 6.4, Votes:  5,254
Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox as California Highway Patrol officers.

95. Get Christie Love! (1974–1975)   6.4, Votes:  170
Teresa Graves as a groovy soul-woman undercover cop.

96. Der Alte (The Old Fox) (1977–continuing )  6.1, Votes:  415
A detective near retirement solves cases. Now running for 40 years.

97. 30 prípadu majora Zemana (1975–1980)  5.7, Votes:  171
Czechoslovakia. Vladimír Brabec stars as police inspector Major Zeman.

98. SOKO 5113 (1978–continuing)  5.7, Votes:  155
Another forever-long-running German police show, now in its 40th year.

99. Mrs. Columbo (1979–1980) 5.6, Votes:  216
Kate Mulgrew as Columbo's wife who also solves mysteries. The mystery of "why this show?" was never solved.

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 Martin Hill Ortiz is the author of Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press.



Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press

Never Kill A Friend is available for purchase in hard cover format and as an ebook.
The story follows Shelley Krieg, an African-American detective for the Washington DC Metro PD as she tries to undo a wrong which sent an innocent teenager to prison.

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