Mad About Mystery: 100 Wonderful Television Mysteries from the Seventies
Donna Marie Nowak
With an Introduction by Stefanie Powers
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: BearManor Media (February 1, 2018)
Reviewed by Dr. Wesley Britton
Like Cesar’s Gaul, Donna Marie Nowak’s Mad About Mystery is divided into three parts.
Part One is a lengthy collection of profiles of made-for-TV mystery movies from the ‘70s. Happily, Nowak doesn’t simply give readers a mere plot summary with some production details for each film. She also economically gives us quick critiques and analysis of the merits, or lack thereof, of each offering. As the title of her book implies, she’s “Mad About Mysteries,” so she is mainly complimentary about each film from The Adventures of Nick Carter to Get Christie Love to The Legend of Lizzie Borden to Salem’s Lot.
The same is true for part two of the book which provides overviews of many TV detective series of the era, like the most famous from Cannon to The Rockford Files to hart to Hart to Columbo. I admit being puzzled by some of her choices. Why Wonder Woman and not the other super-powered champions for law and order like the bionic pair or David McCallum’s Invisible man? Scooby-Doo Mysteries?
My favorite section of the book is part three which includes a string of very insightful interviews with participants who were there including actors, writers, producers, and a stuntman including Sharon Farrell, Peter Fisher, Robert Herron, and the always magnetic Diana Muldaur. Without question, any reader interested in how television films and shows were made will pick up tidbits and lore they never knew before. And not just about the ‘70s—one of the questions Nowak posed to everyone is what changes have they seen in the industry over the years?
Nowak’s overview is told from the point-of-view of a knowledgeable and enthusiastic fan who, again, lives up to her book’s title on nearly every page. I suspect her most interested audience will be fellow Baby Boomers who will have seen most, if not all, of the movies and series she discusses when they first aired. If you watched TV in the ‘70s, this book is a romp down memory lane with many spotlights on cultural events and popular moments for those of us who watched TV when we had three, maybe four channels to choose from. Beyond the favorites we can recall off the tops of our heads, Nowak brings alive shows we might have once loved but forgotten over the years. Me, for example, well I’d forgotten Kolchak: The Night Stalker was both a pair of TV movies as well as a series I watched religiously. As many of these series and movies have been syndicated and rebroadcast countless times in the decades after their initial airings, no doubt there are younger readers who will also enjoy this collection. I’d wager there is no shortage of Columbo or Charlie’s Angels fans who weren’t around when Peter Falk, James Garner, Lynda Carter, and Farrah Fawcett (then Fawcett-Majors) were seriously major stars.
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on Feb. 22, 2016: