Craig Rice (author)

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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.

Early life[edit]

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. It was the Rices who raised Georgiana and it was her uncle Elton who has been credited with stirring her interest in mysteries by reading her the poems and stories of Edgar Allan Poe.[1]

Writing career[edit]

Craig Rice "apparently spent her early life working in (Chicago) on radio and in public relations. 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."[2]

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 a number of celebrities, including Gypsy Rose Lee and George Sanders.[3] "While the collaboration with Gypsy is often reported, J. F . Norris writes, "In the recently published and throroughly 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.)

Personal life[edit]

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."[4] One of her husbands was beat poet Lawrence Lipton. A reader of her 1944 novel [1]Home Sweet Homicide might be excused for believing that it was based on her experiences with her own children; the children solve a mystery while their mother, oblivious to their antics and everything else around her, tries to finish writing a mystery novel. The novel is told from the children's point of view.

Emulating the wild lifestyle of her characters, Rice developed chronic alcoholism 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 apparently natural causes shortly before her fiftieth birthday.

Novels and Short Story Collections[edit]

All novels feature John J. Malone and Jake and Helene Justus unless otherwise noted.

Film, radio and television adaptations[edit]

Films[edit]

Radio[edit]

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.

Television[edit]

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.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.hoardmuseum.org/23.asp?page=23.asp&ID=11
  2. ^ a b Haining, Peter, ed. The Television Crimebusters Omnibus. London: Orion, 1994, p. 94. ISBN 1-85797-736-X
  3. ^ Hubin, Allen J. Crime Fiction, 1749-1980: A Comprehensive Bibliography. New York: Garland Publishing Inc., 1984, p. 243
  4. ^ a b Marks, Jeffrey Who Was That Lady?. Lee's Summit: Delphi Books, 2001, p. 51. ISBN 0-9663397-1-1
  5. ^ Roseman, Mill et al.. Detectionary. New York: Overlook Press, 1971. ISBN 0-87951-041-2
  6. ^ The Falcon's Brother (1942)
  7. ^ The Falcon in Danger (1943)
  8. ^ Having Wonderful Crime (1945)
  9. ^ Home, Sweet Homicide (1946)
  10. ^ Tenth Avenue Angel (1948)
  11. ^ The Lucky Stiff (1949)
  12. ^ The Underworld Story (1950)
  13. ^ Mrs. O'Malley and Mr. Malone (1950)
  14. ^ The Eddie Cantor Story (1953)