“The Case of the Bogus Books.” An episode of Perry Mason (Season 6, Episode 1). First air date: 27 September 1962. Cast: Raymond Burr, Barbara Hale, William Hopper, William Talman, Ray Collins, Wesley Lau, Phyllis Love (the accused), Adam West, John Abbott, H. M. Wynant, Joby Baker, Allison Hayes, Woodrow Parfrey, Maurice Manson, Tenen Holtz, Kenneth MacDonald (the judge), Michael Fox (not to be confused with Michael J. Fox). Writer: Jonathan Latimer. Director: Arthur Marks.


   Locked-room puzzles rarely turn up on TV, and the Perry Mason series of 271 episodes had very few. In this case, however, a bookshop owner, Joseph Kraft [Maurice Manson], is found dead in a sealed basement room, with a lamp still burning and the radio still on but the gas heater off, and a handful of dead flies on the window sill.

   Perry’s client, Ellen Corby [Phyllis Love] had been fired earlier by the dead man after a rare book went missing. Although she was sure the book was marked at $8, Kraft claimed that it was valued at $7000.

   The death, however, looks like suicide, and the police initially view it as such. But Perry Mason suspects murder. Unfortunately, every circumstantial clue will point to his client — as they always do.

   The locked-room problem, which isn’t the main focus of this episode, is partially cleared up in about ten minutes. I say “partially” because Mason will later perform a courtroom demonstration with flies that will change everyone’s mind, not about the CAUSE of death but the TIME of death, thereby exonerating his client and a multitude of likely suspects and narrowing it down, employing the classic Golden Age Detection trope of the TIME TABLE, to just one person — the murderer.

   This one had a fine cast of TV’s best character actors from the ’50s and ’60s: handsome Adam West (Batman); reliable H. M. Wynant; beautiful but evil Allison Hayes (Attack of the 50-Foot Woman); ubiquitous Maurice Manson; intellectual John Abbott; shifty Woodrow Parfrey (whom my wife calls “Woodrow the Weasel”); and durable Kenneth MacDonald as the judge, in one of his 32 appearances as the magistrate in the Perry Mason series.

Note:   The rare book at the heart of this story is a first edition of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, by Laurence Sterne, published in nine different volumes from 1759 to 1767. If you’d like to know what the rare books’ prices mentioned in this episode would be in today’s dollars, multiply them by 10 or 11 times.

   I couldn’t locate “The Case of the Bogus Books” online. Perhaps someone else will have better luck.