Re: RARA-AVIS: Mexican-Americans in Crime Fiction

Date: 19 Jan 2000

Since *Touch of Evil* has come up in this discussion, it seems worth mentioning some TV show characters from the early days. Jack Webb, for example, seems to have made a point of including Chicano characters on
*Dragnet*. Joe Friday's first partner, Sgt. Ben Romero, played by Barton Yarborough of *I Love a Mystery* and *one Man's Family* fame, was a Texan of Mexican descent. The real-life LAPD officer, Det. Sgt. Ector Garcia, a forensic sketch artist who was called "The Michaelangelo of Murder" by his peers, was a frequent character in both the radio, '50s TV, and '60s TV versions of the show. Although *Dragnet* always claimed that the "names were changed to protect the innocent," police officers usually appeared under their real-life names. Except, of course, for the officers who were most directly involved in whatever real-life case Webb was fictionalizing. They always had their names change to "Friday and (Romero, Jacobs, Smith, Gannon, etc.)."

Another early TV cop show, *The New Breed*, which dramatized cases from LAPD's Metropolitan Division, was Quinn Martin's first independent production after doing *The Untouchables* for Desilu. One of the squad members was Officer Pete Garcia. I can't recall the name of the actor who played him.

Since hard-boiled westerns have come up recently, I should also note an early TV western series, produced by Disney, called *The Nine Lives of Elfega Baca*, starring Robert Loggia, which fictionalized the adventures of real-life frontier lawman/attorney of Mexican descent.


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