Sunday, April 2, 2017

Reflections on “Sizzling Cold Case” (The Legend of Lori London) — A Barnaby Jones Novel (by Buddy Ebsen with Darlene Quinn)

The original plan for the book “Sizzling Cold Case,” by Buddy Ebsen with Darlene Quinn, was originally intended to be a teleplay, but author Buddy Ebsen also realized it could be a standalone book as well. He’d filled many yellow legal pads with his handwritten prose (his favored way of writing) with exactly that dual intent, before he became ill and died on July 6, 2003 at age 95. His widow, Dorothy Ebsen, was determined to share his final book with all who loved him, as her collective gift to her husband’s fans. Enter family friend and author Darlene Quinn, who was clearly the right person to take Buddy’s manuscript and complete it.

This information was learned from listening to a recent interview shared on Kiki Ebsen’s web site, “Buddy Ebsen Birthday Chat,”—a lovely discussion between Kiki, Dorothy Ebsen and Darlene Quinn. They reminisced over some great memories, and shared some insight on the book. First published in hardback, and later in paperback and for Kindle, there’s an entirely new format that caught my eye, or ear, rather—audiobook.

Chalk it up to a nice quality of William E. Fortier’s voice as narrator, but while listening, it was so easy to visualize the old television show “Barnaby Jones” episodes I used to watch that I thought I was right back in the 1970s waiting for the familiar theme by Jerry Goldsmith to come on and open the CBS weekly program.

As you hear the theme, you see the puzzle piece-type squares coming together to read “Barnaby Jones, A QM Production,” and the opening photo of Buddy dressed in a blue suit and tie that compliments his eyes. Remember, he’s reading a report at his desk? I listened to the announcer, Henry F. (Hank) Simms, saying “Barnaby Jones, starring Buddy Ebsen” followed by “Also starring, Lee Meriwether” followed by his saying “with Guest Stars”…and then at the very end, you could see the final “A QM Production” slate again.

From the very opening chapter (there are 66 of them) in the book, you’re pulled back into Barnaby’s reminiscence of how his son, Hal, had been murdered, and now a thread from the past introduced a connection to understanding what really happened in what would be Hal’s last case that he was working on before his death. The reopening of the Lori London case began immediately.

Hearing the scene describing a location familiar to everyone who lives in or has toured Los Angeles…the iconic Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard. It is there where Barnaby surveils someone putting a single rose on the star of the late actress Lori London, whose life story is central to the theme of the book and whose passing was previously considered a suicide, when Barnaby’s late son, Hal, didn’t believe that for a minute. Barnaby takes up where Hal left off, even though it had been a few years since he’d been active.

Also, watching this event from a different purview is a newly christened detective, Craig Scott, and then the story takes off. A red Ferrari driven by a gentleman who placed a red rose on the sidewalk, stood silently for a moment, and as fast as that car drives away, you’re whisked away on quite the adventure. Cold cases are always the most interesting of mysteries for any reader to unravel, because you must learn the predicate of the case, then you think through along with the detective about current events and wonder how to deconstruct the case to ultimately find a correct logical solution to the crime that was mis-solved and remained unsolved all this time.

The dialogue is fresh and really, it’s just as though you’d stepped into Barnaby’s world just a few years later. Barnaby Jones was so much more than a milk-drinking crime-solver who knew what Geritol was and how to use it. Originally, he was the lead partner and father in a father-son detective agency, Jones & Jones. Further, Barnaby was different than virtually every other Quinn Martin series detective in that he was a forensic scientist and criminologist. You used to see him in his home laboratory with test tubes, Bunsen burners, beakers and all the trappings of forensics pre-Abby Sciuto’s lab in “NCIS.”

So, aside from a propensity to wear a carnation or drink a glass of milk, two charming contrived visuals from Edward Hume (who also created “Cannon,” “The Streets of San Francisco,” and “Toma”), he’s the very same man. The first episode of Barnaby Jones, “Requiem for a Son,” “found a retired Barnaby leaving retirement to find his son’s killer.”

Therefore, in Buddy’s mind, when circumstances of his late son’s final case, which Hal knew not to be a suicide, were resurrected and refreshed, one more time (Buddy decided) that Barnaby would leave retirement and solve the incorrectly resolved case. Thus, the plot is perfectly plausible in 2017 as it was in 2002 when Buddy began working on it.

Once again, he envisioned Hal Jones’ wife Betty, Lee Meriwether, had been the agency’s right hand for before and since her husband’s death would be part of the story, although in more cursory fashion. The reminder of beautiful Lee Meriwether was a lovely memory to consider; even Jedediah (played on TV by Mark Shera) makes an appearance in the novel, though Fortier gives him a less strong character voice possibly to express youthfulness.

So, why should you acquire this book (reprints are available in paperback on some 37 years after the TV show ended? Because you won’t be disappointed. So many times when we revisit beloved childhood favorites (for Baby Boomers) or contemporary friends (among the Greatest Generation), we end up wishing we hadn’t gone there. Remakes of movies such as “Bewitched” or breathing new life into “Full House” is an example of returns to the originals gone wrong.

On the other hand, the “new” Barnaby Jones novel, is an extremely successful journey back home, to the days when TV detectives caught the bad guys without “CSI,” “Law & Order,” and the invention of the word “procedurals” to describe 60-minute (or 48-minute) storyboards where you already knew who-dun-it and had to watch the good guys catch the bad guys. This time, you get to walk alongside Barnaby and use your own deductive reasoning to consider who might be the bad actor in the case. When Barnaby resolves the case, you might (or might not) know who did it. The joy is in the journey of looking for clues on your path. Thanks to Darlene Quinn, we all have a fun book to enjoy, one which helps us relive the grand old days of detectives we know and loved.

You can find more info on Ms. Quinn's other books on her web site. Barnaby Jones was, and remains, a thinking person’s detective, armed with an equal dose of charm, sage pondering, and reflective questioning before settling on an answer, and a perpetrator. It’s great television of yesteryear and fulfilling reading/listening present day. Get the book, in whatever format you want it. Case closed.


  1. So excited to see Barnaby come back into our lives again. And Darlene for giving us the canvas to enjoy the talent of Buddy Ebsen again! "Faversham" Barry