Craig Rice (author)

Craig Rice (1908–1957); born Georgiana Ann Randolph Craig; was an American author of mystery novels and short stories, sometimes described as "the Dorothy Parker of detective fiction." She was the first mystery writer to appear on the cover of Time Magazine, on January 28, 1946.

Craig Rice
Craig Rice, c. 1932
BornGeorgiana Ann Randolph Walker Craig
(1908-06-05)June 5, 1908
Chicago, US
DiedAugust 28, 1957(1957-08-28) (aged 49)
Los Angeles, U.S.
OccupationAuthor, writer, critic, screenwriter
Genrecrime fiction
Notable worksHaving Wonderful Crime, Home Sweet Homocide
SpousesArthur John Follows
Arthur Ferguson
H. W. DeMott Jr.
Lawrence Lipton

Early life

In 1908, Mary Randolph Craig reluctantly interrupted her globetrotting to return home to Chicago to give birth to her first child, Georgiana Ann Randolph Craig. Mary's husband, Harry Craig, a Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin native was nicknamed Bosco. Soon after Georgiana's birth, Mary abandoned the child to return to her husband overseas leaving Georgiana to travel from relative to relative. They returned in 1911 to meet their three-year-old daughter but then departed for Europe again, moving on to India when the war broke out. At that time, Georgiana found a permanent home in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin where she lived with her paternal aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Elton Rice at 607 South Main St. The Rices raised Georgiana. Elton Rice has been credited with stirring her interest in mysteries by reading her the poems and stories of Edgar Allan Poe.[1]

Writing career

Craig Rice’s first steps in publishing were as a writer for The Milwaukee Journal and The Chicago American. In 1930/1 she started working for radio stations, first WCLO and then the Beacon Syndicate in 1931. Her first fictional character, Professor Silvernail, was created for WCLO Syndicate Serials (1933).[2] For a number of years she tried unsuccessfully to write novels, poetry and music, but it was not until her first story of John J. Malone, which she published under her birth surname and adopted surname Craig Rice, that she enjoyed some hard-won success."[3]

Gritty but humorous, Rice's stories uniquely combine the hardboiled detective tradition with no-holds-barred, screwball comedy. Most of her output features a memorable trio of protagonists: Jake Justus, a handsome but none too bright press agent with his heart in the right place; Helene Brand, a rich heiress and hard-drinking party animal par excellence (to become Mrs. Justus in the later novels); and John Joseph Malone, a hard-drinking, small-time lawyer (though both his cryptic conversation and sartorial habits are more reminiscent of such official or private gumshoes as Lieutenant Columbo). Against the odds and often apparently more by luck than skill, these three manage to solve crimes whose details are often burlesque and surreal, sometimes to the point of grand guignol, and all involving the perpetually exasperated Captain Daniel Von Flanagan of the Homicide Squad. A few stories feature the team of Bingo Riggs and Handsome Kusak, small-time grifters who become involved in criminal situations and have to dig themselves free by solving the mystery.

Craig Rice also ghostwrote for George Sanders.[4] Because of their friendship, many fans assumed that Rice ghostwrote the two wildly popular mysteries by Gypsy Rose Lee. "While the collaboration with Gypsy is often reported," J. F. Norris writes, "In the recently published and thoroughly well researched biography of Gypsy Rose Lee (Stripping Gypsy: The Life of Gypsy Rose Lee, Oxford University Press, 2009) [author Noralee Frankel makes it clear] that Craig Rice DID NOT write either of Lee's comic mystery novels. This is supported with correspondence between Lee and Rice. Rice did, however, help craft the screenplay for The G String Murders which became the Barbara Stanwyck vehicle Lady of Burlesque." Her association with Sanders came about as a result of her work on the screenplays of two of The Falcon movies, The Falcon's Brother (1942, Sanders's final outing as The Falcon) and The Falcon in Danger (1943, when Sanders's brother Tom Conway had taken over the role).

She collaborated with fellow mystery writer Stuart Palmer on screenplays and short stories and with Ed McBain on a novel for which she furnished the principal characters, Bingo Riggs and Handsome Kusak. (The "collaboration" with McBain is a "posthumous collaboration in which McBain completed an unfinished book begun by Rice. In a foreword to at least one edition of the book, McBain wrote that the book was essentially half-finished in first draft, but there were no notes as to how she had intended to continue it, so that he had to solve the mystery himself before completing the MS.)

Time Magazine

On January 28, 1946, Craig Rice appeared on the cover of Time Magazine as the first women author to ever do so. The cover was created by Boris Artzybasheff.[5]

Personal life

She had three children—two daughters and a son. "Craig Rice kept very few personal records. She was conventionally wed four times with other affairs."[6] One of her husbands was beat poet Lawrence Lipton.

Like many of her characters, Rice was an alcoholic and made several suicide attempts. She also suffered from deteriorating health, including deafness in one ear and blindness in one eye with incipient glaucoma in the other. She died of a barbiturate and alcohol overdose aged 49.[7]

Novels and short story collections

John J. Malone and Jake and Helene Justus

  • Eight Faces at Three a.k.a. Death at Three (1939) "John J. Malone, rumpled Chicago lawyer, teams up with press agent Jake Justus and eccentric heiress Helene Brand, to discover who killed a vicious dowager and why the murderer then made up the beds in the victim's house and stopped the clocks at 3:00."[8]
  • The Corpse Steps Out (1940)
  • The Wrong Murder (1940)
  • The Right Murder (1941)
  • Trial by Fury (1941). Philadelphia Inquirer, 25 July 1943
  • The Big Midget Murders (1942). Philadelphia Inquirer, 7 November 1943
  • Having Wonderful Crime (1943). Philadelphia Inquirer, 30 January 1944
  • The Lucky Stiff (1945)
  • The Fourth Postman (1948)
  • My Kingdom for a Hearse (1957)
  • Knocked for a Loop (1957)

Posthumous Publications

  • The Name is Malone (1958; short stories)
  • The Pickled Poodles (1960, by Larry M. Harris) is a continuation of the John J. Malone series.
  • People vs. Withers and Malone (1963; short stories; completed by Stuart Palmer and featuring his Hildegarde Withers character)
  • But the Doctor Died (1967) (a continuation of the John J. Malone series, but almost certainly ghostwritten)
  • Murder, Mystery and Malone (Crippen & Landru, 2002; short story collection)

Bingo and Handsome

  • The Sunday Pigeon Murders (1942). Philadelphia Inquirer, 30 April 1944
  • The Thursday Turkey Murders (1942)
  • The April Robin Murders (1958, principally credited to Ed McBain)


  • Telefair (1942)
  • Home Sweet Homicide (1944)
  • Crime on My Hands (1944; ghostwritten for and published as by George Sanders)
  • Innocent Bystander (1949)


  • The G-String Murders (1941, featuring and published as by Gypsy Rose Lee). This book was ghostwritten by Janet Flanner who collaborated with Lee after she ended her initial discussions about such a project with Dorothy Wheelock. It has been suggested that Craig Rice ghostwrote this novel, this has been soundly and fully debunked.[9]. The confusion may have arisen because Craig Rice was initially signed to write the script for G-String Murders, a movie based on the novel which was eventually scripted by James Gunn and released as Lady of Burlesque with Barbara Stanwyck. At the time of the novel's original publication, the publishers "printed a private pamphlet, containing Gypsy's over frank correspondence about the book" [10]

Uncollected short stories

Film, radio and television adaptations



The Amazing Mr. Malone (aka Murder and Mr. Malone) 30 minute episodes, 1948 (ABC), 1951 (NBC). John J. Malone was played principally by Gene Raymond and also Frank Lovejoy and George Petrie.


The Amazing Mr. Malone (1951–1952) 13 30-minute episodes starring Lee Tracy as John J. Malone

"Although The Amazing Mr. Malone ran for only one season on ABC from September 1951 to March 1952 it is fondly remembered by older viewers as the first crime series to feature a wise-cracking relationship between a Chicago lawyer and a police Captain ... which had originated in print, transferred successfully to the cinema, and then made it to TV—though not with the success it had enjoyed in the other two media. ... All in all, The Amazing Mr. Malone deserved a better fate than the one to which it was condemned by poor ratings.[3]


  1. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on September 27, 2011. Retrieved September 1, 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. Ellett, Ryan. Radio Drama and Comedy Writers, 1928–1962. Jefferson, NC: MacFarland, 2017, p. 166. ISBN 1-85797-736-X
  3. Haining, Peter, ed. The Television Crimebusters Omnibus. London: Orion, 1994, p. 94. ISBN 1476665931
  4. Hubin, Allen J. Crime Fiction, 1749-1980: A Comprehensive Bibliography. New York: Garland Publishing Inc., 1984, p. 243
  5. Craig Rice - Time Magazine. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  6. Marks, Jeffrey Who Was That Lady?. Lee's Summit: Delphi Books, 2001, p. 51. ISBN 0-9663397-1-1
  7. Kaser, James A. (February 2011). The Chicago of Fiction: A Resource Guide. ISBN 9781461672586.
  8. Roseman, Mill et al.. Detectionary. New York: Overlook Press, 1971. ISBN 0-87951-041-2
  9. Marks, Jeffrey Who Was That Lady?. Lee's Summit: Delphi Books, 2001, p. 53. ISBN 0-9663397-1-1
  10. Detroit Free Press, 27 September 1941
  11. The Falcon's Brother (1942)
  12. The Falcon in Danger (1943)
  13. Having Wonderful Crime (1945)
  14. Home, Sweet Homicide (1946)
  15. Tenth Avenue Angel (1948)
  16. The Lucky Stiff (1949)
  17. The Underworld Story (1950)
  18. Mrs. O'Malley and Mr. Malone (1950)
  19. The Eddie Cantor Story (1953)
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