Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Singing Skirt: Book vs. Episode

I have been seriously neglecting this blog this month. Part of it is because of my annual October Writing challenge, to write ten or eleven creepy stories in October, and they’re turning out longer than other years, so I’m devoting more time to them on this round.

Another part is that I haven’t been able to think hard enough to come up with a new topic I want to discuss. Unfortunately, I once again didn’t get up a special anniversary post back in September to celebrate the day our show premiered. But after seeing The Singing Skirt again and looking over the book summary, I am intrigued enough to want to muse on the similarities and differences between the two versions.

Most names are different in the book version, as usual. George Anclitas and Slim Marcus retain theirs. Some characters’ names are oddly similar, such as Ellis instead of Ennis. Other characters’ names are completely changed, including the defendant’s.

It’s interesting that Slim Marcus and George Anclitas are working together in the book to cheat Mr. Ellis, instead of Slim doing it behind Anclitas’s back. And the amount of money is much less—$6,000 instead of $60,000.

The basic plot is more or less the same as the episode, including the thing of Anclitas framing people with marijuana cigarettes when he wants them out of the picture and Perry switching guns and causing even more of a problem because of it. But of course, since a little 50-minute episode can’t hold everything, the book is much more fleshed-out than the episode.

Also the same is the defendant not being so squeaky clean, which isn’t as big a deal in the books but is in the episodes. She’s having an affair with Mr. Ellis, which seems to be more pronounced in the book than it was in the episode. In the episode, they still seemed to be trying to tone it down somewhat by it being said that they only went out two or three times (albeit that may have been a lie).

The biggest difference between the two versions, and the one I find most pleasing, is that Slim Marcus is not the murderer in the book. However, it’s kind of sad that in the book it’s actually Mr. Ellis. After the defendant was so crazy about him, he just kills his wife and lets the defendant take the rap. And in addition to dating her, he was also dating her friend Sadie! I guess that’s what she gets for getting involved with a married man.

According to Storrer’s site, the books tried to build up on the tension between Perry and Hamilton by having Hamilton get closer each book to either getting Perry in (probably deserved) trouble or getting the defendant convicted. I suppose that means that was kind of the gimmick of the books, as opposed to the episodes’ gimmick of the wrong person always being arrested. In The Singing Skirt, to make the tension even more pronounced, even Della disbelieves the client is telling the truth.

That is unusual for the episodes too, isn’t it? There’s been quite a few times when Paul has disbelieved, but it seems like Della usually sticks with whatever Perry thinks. Or even times when Perry doesn’t want to take a case because he’s skeptical, Della encourages him to do so. I think about the only time television Della was absolutely not thrilled with Perry’s involvement was in The Velvet Claws, when Della could see how dangerous the client was but Perry kept trying to help her anyway.

That element of Della encouraging Perry to take cases he isn’t that interested in seemed to be a theme running through several mystery series. The same thing happened several times on Mannix, with Peggy encouraging her boss to take certain cases. It seemed very strange and even out-of-character when later on, in season 7, there were two or three occasions where Peggy was convinced that Joe’s theories were baloney and that he should drop the cases because the clients were not worth helping.

Since both Della and Peggy serve as the consciences for their bosses during those rare but human times when they would rather do something other than take on a particular case, it’s odd to see either of the girls being cynical and trying to discourage their bosses instead. Of course, in the case of The Velvet Claws, Della’s objections are understandable, while Peggy’s objections in the season 7 episodes are puzzling. Why those cases any more than any others? They’re not any stranger, nor the clients any more suspicious, than many of the others. Our Velvet-Clawed lady, on the other hand, is extremely unique in her manipulations of and flirting with Perry. I can’t think of another client quite like her in any way, and that is negatively speaking.

But I digress. The Singing Skirt is actually not one of my favorite episodes; were it not for H.M. Wynant taking part, it would probably have been destined to remain as one of my least favorites, due to all the shenanigans with the guns that Perry causes and the resulting problems in court because of them. Also, it is the last episode to feature Hamilton until the last two episodes of the season. And I find myself quite unprepared for the long stretches of Hamilton-less episodes in the remainder of season 3 and much of season 4! Maybe, since now I own most of them on DVD, I’ll watch the uncut versions instead of just seeing the cut versions over once again. I’ve hardly seen any of those episodes uncut, so that will at least be a fun adventure.

And I do look forward to The Crying Cherub in any case, as I think Sergeant Brice and Lieutenant Tragg have some nice interaction in it. I also particularly like The Nimble Nephew. And of course, I always enjoy seeing the Sampson episodes, cut or uncut.

Meanwhile, since The Singing Skirt is one of the books available to read online on that site I found (, I shall probably read through at least some of it sometime.


  1. I’ve watched the episode, and I must say Hamilton definitely is justified in his outrage at Perry’s behaviour here. This time Perry doesn’t just cross the line, he takes quite a leap over it!
    Why exactly does a lawyer think it is okay not only to meddle with these guns, but to give a gun one client entrusted to him to another client? In place of Mr. Ranger I’d be pretty angry at my attorney, seeing that he mixed up my gun in a murder case. Apart from the ethical aspect, I don’t think it is legal either.
    What I really liked in this episode is the way the judge tries his best to remain neutral, even if, imo, he shares Hamilton’s anger.

    1. You are definitely right that Hamilton's feelings are justified. On the one hand, it's a little jaw-dropping for him to suggest that Perry actually told the defendant to fire another bullet into the body. On the other hand, Perry was definitely doing wrong by fooling around with the guns and this episode is certainly one of the occasions where his actions rank among the most outrageous. (And probably the only time when Hamilton actually knew about it, instead of just suspecting.)

      It would be interesting if they had got into how Mr. Ranger felt about the mess. I think I'd be pretty mad, too.

      That was good. I like when the judges don't just lean towards Perry's side all the time.

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  3. I agree with Fedora.
    Talking about judges – wouldn’t that be an interesting topic for a post? After all, some of them seem to be so obviously on Perry’s side it makes me cringe every time they open their mouth. I‘m all for giving the defendant a fair trial, but what about fairness to the prosecutor?
    Since you were looking for a topic to discuss, what about this one? ;-)

    1. Thanks for the post idea! It would be an interesting topic indeed. But it will take some time to gather together; I usually don't remember from one episode to the next which ones had the best and the worst judges, so I'll need to make notes of particularly stand-out judges as I watch. If you can remember other specific examples, I'd love to have them! :)

      I cringe when they just seem to blindly go along with Perry, too. The formula is really blatantly obvious at those times.

    2. I'll work on it. Some judges, or at least their actors, appeared more than once, so even if they are credited as different judges, I'll probably still consider them as basically the same people. It'll take some time to work through, though. ;-)

    3. Indeed, it's quite a project! I'll try to pay more attention to the judges from here on out. Watched a couple of the creepy Perry episodes last night; the judges in both Meddling Medium and Fatal Fortune are pretty good.

    4. Now since working on the judges I've found that my discussions of their behavior tend to be rather lengthy, so if you'd like to read them I should send them to you.

    5. I can imagine!

      Yes, I would definitely like to see. You can send them here: lucky_ladybug7 at yahoo dot com. I'm spelling it all out to try to fool any bots that might be cruising around.

  4. I stumbled across this one today. Just in case you don't know it already:

    1. Woooow. Thanks so much! All of them, how awesome!