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Rice, Craig

Page history last edited by barry_ergang@... 4 years, 2 months ago

Craig RiceCraig Rice was the pseudonym of Georgiana Ann Randolph (1908-1957), an American mystery novelist and screenwriter. Rice was born in, and spent most of her life in, Chicago, which also provided the background for many of her mystery stories. She also wrote under the name of Michael Venning, about a New York private detective called Melville Fairr, and one book, To Catch a Thief (1943) as Daphne Sanders. She provided a ghostwriting service for celebrities such as George Sanders and Gypsy Rose Lee. Rice was married at least four times and had a reputation for hard drinking; she died at 49.


Rice's most famous detective is the hard-drinking Chicago lawyer John J Malone, who appears in thirteen books of his own and teams up with Stuart Palmer's Hildegarde Withers for a series of short stories. Malone is usually called in to a sticky situation to rescue either his friend Jake Justus or Jake's great love, and later wife, Helene Brand. All three characters do a great deal of drinking and fast driving around Chicago, infuriating Captain Daniel Von Flanagan of the homicide squad.


Another team is Bingo Riggs and Handsome Kusak, travelling photographers and small-time con men.


Rice's books are fast-moving and highly comic, but with a solid thread of detection to them, and the characters develop a history as time passes. In one pair of books, The Wrong Murder and The Right Murder, for instance, Malone spends a great deal of time and effort solving a murder which he thinks was done for a bet, only to find, at the end of the book, that he's been working on the wrong murder and has to start all over again in the next book.


Mike Grost on Craig Rice


Craig Rice's work as a mystery writer is easily pigeonholed as "Comic Mysteries". This categorization seems to be all most critics need to say about her work. It is true, as far as it goes, but it says little about the distinctive qualities of her books, or her achievements as an artist.


The comedy in Rice's books is surrealistic, and dependent on complex plots. Let us examine these two points in detail. Almost everything that happens in a Rice novel is surrealistic. The characters, plots, settings and incidents all seem intended to surprise the reader with imaginative newness, and to shake up his or her preconceptions about reality.


Rice is the heir to a tradition of pop surrealism in American culture. Such filmmakers as Buster Keaton, Chuck Jones and other silent film and animated cartoon makers developed an enormously creative tradition of surrealistic comedy. Within the mystery field, Jacques Futrelle, Ellery Queen and Craig Rice form a trinity of surrealistic authors. These mystery writers emphasized constantly surprising twists of plot, characters and events that startled readers by their sheer strangeness. Despite all of this strangeness, everything in their books is logically self consistent. Each bit of plot is carefully constructed to lead logically, within its own terms, on to the next. Although the plots are continually strange, they are the diametric opposite of free form whimsy.


The surrealism in all of these authors and filmmakers often generates a genuinely poetic atmosphere. The rich imagination and creative juxtaposition of disparate and dissimilar concepts forms a poetry in plot. This poetry is a great artistic achievement, although it has not always been recognized as such by establishment critics.


Rice is the third of the three authors chronologically. It is not surprising that Ellery Queen was her favorite mystery writer. The novel length plots of Rice and Queen also share a fabulous complexity, the second key feature of Rice's style. Rice's work involves a complex cat's cradle approach. This is different from the more straightforwardly constructed style of Queen. In fact, in plot styles, Queen's approach is closer to the mainstream of other mystery writers, or at least what those other writers would like to achieve if they had Queen's talent. Rice's tangled plot style seems closer to that of A. E. Van Vogt, and the other science fiction writers who Van Vogt influenced: Charles L. Harness, Clifford D. Simak, Philip K. Dick, and Samuel R. Delany. (You have to have a middle initial in your name, if you are going to be a member of the Van Vogt school.)


Among Ellery Queen's books, The Egyptian Cross Mystery (1932) seems close to Rice's style. Published seven years before Rice's first novel, it has an extreme surrealism of plotting. The chopped up corpses in the book reappear in such Rice novels as Having a Wonderful Crime (1943), and My Kingdom For a Hearse (1956). The rural Midwestern opening of the Queen novel, full of a seedy atmosphere partly played for laughs, also frequently reoccurs in Rice. So does the way in which the second murder in The Egyptian Cross Mystery surrealistically echoes the first. The Long Island estates that are the main setting of Queen's novel remind one of the suburban Chicago estates in Rice's Maple Park. There is also an heiress in it named Helene Brad, whose name anticipates Rice's heiress heroine, Helene Brand.


Rice was certainly also influenced by Phoebe Atwood Taylor's mystery farces, which predate her books by at least 8 years. However, there is an important difference between Rice's plots and those of the Atwood Taylor school. In Taylor, and such followers as Edmund Crispin and Elliot Paul, the farce often seems to come from frantic efforts by the good guys to cover up a crime. In Rice, the most surrealistic things come not from these detectival efforts, but from the unrolling of the mystery plot itself, which is always developing along the most bizarre and symbolically rich directions imaginable. This surrealism is in many ways much closer to that of Rice' favorite detective writer, Ellery Queen. Certainly Rice' complex plotting style owes more than a little to Queen, S.S. Van Dine, and others of the Van Dine school.


Rice Detectives


Most of the Taylor school featured a whole group of characters doing "detective" work, which actually often consisted of concealing crimes and gumming up the works. Rice is no exception, featuring her Chicago-based trio of lawyer John. J. Malone, press agent Jake Justus, and heiress Helene Brand. Readers today tend to think of Malone as the star of the series, and as Rice's main detective character. The later books focused on him; he starred in a long series of short stories, while Jake and Helene never had solo short story outings, to my knowledge; and he costarred with Stuart Palmer's Hildegarde Withers in [People Vs. Withers and Malone]. However, my early paperback edition of Rice' third novel, The Wrong Murder (1940) is plainly labeled as "A Jake Justus Mystery" on its front cover, and its back cover blurb points out that "The Jake Justus mysteries are tops". Jake Justus was clearly viewed, at this early date, as Rice' principal detective, by her publishers at least. He was a handsome hero type, and romantic lead (he and Helene married in this novel). His name is also a pun on Jake Justice (say it aloud). Malone is considered a supporting character. Jake also often gets the viewpoint in Rice' narration in the early books. The next book in the series, The Right Murder (1941), is plainly somewhat of a transition to Malone. It opens with Jake and Helene absent on their honeymoon in Bermuda; Malone is clearly the central character, and the viewpoint character for much of the story. Jake and Helene eventually come back, and gradually work their way back into the story, something Rice milks for plot structure in her tale, but Malone is now more centrally the detective here. Odd man out in all of this is Helene. This Chicago heiress is beautiful, willful, and wealthy. She was independent and dynamic, but never seems to be much of an intellectual or detective force in Rice' novels. Instead she was more like a force of nature, doing wild and crazy things, and complicating the plot with her dramatic actions. (Jake never seemed to be any too smart either, compared to Malone, so Helene's lack of detectival skills is not all sexism on Rice' part. Both Helene and Jake seem more like wild and out of control Watsons, rather than detectives in their own right.) Helene and Jake are clearly related to the leads in Hollywood's screwball comedies. Helene, like all of Rice' women, was beautifully dressed; in fact one of the most surrealistic things in Rice are the elaborate descriptions of the women's complex, coordinated outfits.


Rice wrote about Malone through her entire mystery career. The eleven Malone novels include her first book, Eight Faces at Three (1939), The Corpse Steps Out (1940), The Wrong Murder (1940), The Right Murder (1941), Trial By Fury (1941), The Big Midget Murders (1942), Having a Wonderful Crime (1943), The Lucky Stiff (1945), The Fourth Postman (1948), Knocked for a Loop (1957, based on a 1955 novella), and her final novel, My Kingdom For a Hearse (1956). There are also many short stories about Malone, a few of which were collected in The Name is Malone (1958), Murder, Mystery and Malone (2002), and the delightful Stuart Palmer collaboration, [People Vs. Withers and Malone] (1963).


Malone's girlfriend, model Dolly Dove, also shows up in some short stories with him, including "Shot in the Dark" (1955) and "No, Not Like Yesterday" (1956). "Shot in the Dark" has some good comic storytelling and dialogue; but its mystery plot is not well developed, with several holes in its logic.


Rice wrote a trilogy about traveling photographers Bingo Riggs and Handsome Kusak. Like the Malone books, these are comic and surrealistic in tone. Mystery novelists often give their books series titles; Rice's only use of this convention, in the Bingo & Handsome series, amounts to a virtual surrealist parody of the concept. Each of the three novels is called The Time-period Bird Murders: The Sunday Pigeon Murders (1942), The Thursday Turkey Murders (1943), The April Robin Murders (1958). Making it odder is that the time-period has a different, non-time meaning in the last two books: Thursday is the name of a town, Thursday, Iowa; while April Robin is the name of a woman character in the third novel. I think Thursday is far and away the best book in this series. The article on Frank Gruber discusses his possible influence on the characters of Bingo and Handsome.


Under the pseudonym Daphne Sanders, Rice published the non series book To Catch a Thief (1943). This is her best novel. It is little known today; hopefully some publisher will reissue it. She wrote three non series books under her own name as well, including the spectacularly surreal Home Sweet Homicide (1944), and the less successful Innocent Bystander (1949), as well as Telefair (1942).


She also published three books under the pseudonym Michael Venning, dealing with sleuth Melville Fairr. The colorless, dull, inconspicuous private detective Fairr is always described by Rice as a "gray, little man". The Fairr books tend to be grim, moody, and not all that interesting. They lack the comedy, and most of the surrealism, of Rice's other fiction. The middle one, Murder Through the Looking Glass (1943), is mildly interesting, although not up to the level of Rice' best work. The other two novels are The Man Who Slept All Day (1942) and [Jethro Hammer[ (1944). Although Fairr is technically a private detective, his cases are utterly non hard-boiled in tone. The collection Murder, Mystery and Malone also includes two short stories about Melville Fairr, "How, Now Ophelia" (1947) and "Death in the Moonlight" (1953). These are readable but minor tales, focusing on murder in dysfunctional, strange families.


The Falcon Movies


The Hollywood whodunit The Falcon in Danger (1943), which Rice co-scripted, is recognizably part of the same zany, surrealistic world as her books. This is somewhat unusual: often times when writers go to Hollywood, their films seem to get a whole new personality, different from their print books. The film opens with a surrealistic disappearance, one that borders on an impossible crime. Later, there are equally surreal re-appearances, in Rice's personal manner. There is also plenty of raucous comedy, including a spirited Texas heiress who helps the Falcon investigate the murders, a little like Helene in the books. It is easy to spot the crook, and the film is nowhere as complicated as Rice's best plots. Still, it is a pleasant viewing experience.


Rice had earlier worked on The Falcon's Brother (1942), with her future collaborator Stuart Palmer, no less. This movie also has the surrealist death, resurrection and death again of characters, that sometimes occurs in Rice books. The way the Falcon's brother can essentially take over the Falcon's life, and impersonate him vocally too, also recalls Rice's interest in doubles. So do the window dummies in the film. Rice's odd take on the fashion world is also present: here the ultra-chic outfits are designed according to wartime fabric standards, an odd touch, and we see a chic air raid warden's uniform for women. Fashion is always surrealistic in Rice's world. The film echoes personal concerns of Palmer's, as well. The anti-racist deconstruction here of the stereotypes surrounding Asian servants continues the anti-racist, pro-Civil Rights crusade of Palmer's novels, using similar weapons of humor. So do the dignified Mexican characters. The film is more solemn and less zany in tone than much of Rice and Palmer's prose work.


The Ghosted Books


Despite their centrality in the way readers tend to remember Rice, many of her best books do not feature Malone and the Justuses. Mother Finds a Body (1942) is allegedly by stripper Gypsy Rose Lee, although Rice ghosted both it and its predecessor, The G-String Murders (1941). Despite its fame, G-String is routine, but Mother is a full-fledged Ricean surrealist extravaganza. The concern with restoring a drunkard's memory, and his numerous plot confusing delusions, finds full artistic fulfillment in Mother Finds a Body. Rice went on to do a similar ghosted novel for actor George Sanders, Crime on My Hands (1944), which is a pleasing book. It is unclear whether Rice was the sole author of this novel, or whether it was a collaboration with Cleve Cartmill. Sanders had starred in Rice's Falcon films in Hollywood, and presumably Rice met him at that time.



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) it is made 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. Perhaps one day Gypsy will finally be known as the author of two fine mystery novels that she herself wrote. Alone!


--J.F. Norris




"Mrs. Schultz is Dead" (1955) stars a new series of detectives, the employees of a newspaper. It was billed as the potential start of a new series when published, but Rice' death 2 years later prevented much further development. The reporters each get a small, if pleasant, characterization; if the story had developed into a full fledged series Rice would probably have expanded these considerably. The crime takes place in suburbia, not in the urban precincts of Malone, and Rice was presumably trying to come up with a detective team more appropriate for the Eisenhower era than Malone. Rice develops one of her patented disappearing & reappearing body plots, in the tradition of My Kingdom for a Hearse (1956). Every new piece of information acquired by her reporter detectives blithely contradicts what they have learned before, to humorous effect. Writing such a story requires plot ingenuity. The basic setup of the story, a team of detectives showing up at an empty house full of strange events, anticipates the opening scene of her last Bingo and Handsome story, The April Robin Murders (1958), left unfinished at her death, and completed by Ed McBain. This opening scene has some delightful surrealistic comedy, and it is a pity that Rice never extended the novel beyond a few chapters.


Rice wrote the original story for the 1950 film, The Underworld Story. It is very different from her typical work. It is not a whodunit or puzzle plot mystery; the audience learns the killer's identity right away. Instead, it is a thriller and expose of social corruption. When a press baron's son murders his wife, his father uses his social influence to cover up the crime. Only a small town paper resists. Many of the newspaper elements here resemble Dorothy Salisbury Davis' first novel, The Judas Cat (1949). Rice wrote a favorable review of this mystery novel for the Los Angeles News, which was quoted on the back of the paperback edition. In both The Judas Cat and The Underworld Story, a small town newspaper goes up against frighteningly powerful business interests, who wage a nearly successful campaign to have them silenced. There are strong elements of social criticism in both works.


The most interesting part of The Underworld Story is the framing of the victim's maid, a black woman. Her dignified treatment conveys a strong Civil Rights message. These aspects of the movie have no counterpart in Davis' novel.


The "hero" of The Underworld Story is a sleazy journalist who eventually reforms at the end. Many of Rice's stories take place at the fringes of journalism. Jake Justus was a press agent, Bingo and Handsome are photographers, a woman reporter helps out in The Falcon's Brother (1942), and many of the suspects work for a fashion magazine, and the detectives of "Mrs. Schultz is Dead" are newspaper reporters. Rice's lead characters tend to be creators of information. There is also the woman mystery writer, loosely based on Rice herself, in Home Sweet Homicide (1944), and the advertising people in My Kingdom For a Hearse (1956).


There is a gangster is the film, who combines humor with menace. He winds up blackmailing and manipulating the press baron and his son, and he recalls the many underworld characters who blackmail society types in Rice's early Malone novels. He also recalls another kind of underworld character in Rice, the humorous gangster. He is OK as this, but nowhere as good as the wonderful gambling czar Max Hook in the Malone books. Hook is a sympathetic gay gangster, something that I've never seen elsewhere in prose fiction. Hint to film producers: Rupert Everett would make a superb Max Hook in the movies. Rice's humorous underworld characters seem influenced by those of Damon Runyon. So do the bar sequences in her books - compare them with Runyon's "Dancing Dan's Christmas" (1932), for example.



Helene originally comes from the wealthy Chicago suburb of Maple Park, and this is an important setting in such early Rice novels as Eight Faces at Three (1939) and The Right Murder (1941). Maple Park has vast lonely estates, full of trees and complex paths, and Rice provides some of the most atmospheric writing in her early books describing it. Rice' settings moved on to the Midwest countryside of Trial By Fury (1941), pMother Finds a Body] (1942) and The Thursday Turkey Murders (1943), and then to the Los Angeles location of Home Sweet Homicide (1944) and Crime on My Hands (1944), following her real life move to that city. Rice' Los Angeles atmosphere is not rich, but her Midwestern tales are spectacularly surreal, with Rice taking a special pleasure in comically subverting concepts of the peaceful countryside, honest small towns and naive country people. Rice's other series characters Bingo and Handsome actually move from the East, through the Midwest countryside on their way to L.A., and then to L.A. itself, in the trilogy of novels that feature them, so this Western movement on Rice' part is consciously worked into the overall design of her stories.


"The Murder of Mr. Malone" (1953) builds up a mandala like geometry in space and time, as Malone and the other characters keep traveling to various cities. Also, when Malone winds up briefly in San Francisco, he notes that he has never been to that city. This observation seems oddly realistic - Malone never has been to San Francisco in his adventures - and the assertion seems more like an observed truth than a mere authorial assertion. It is an odd surrealistic effect.


Much is made in The Underworld Story of the differences between the big city, where the reporter comes from, and the suburban world where the press baron holds sway. There is something of a "Chicago and its suburbs" feel to the movie, although I don't think the actual locale is ever specified. The movie definitely takes place in New England, and the suburb recalls Salem - there are remarks about witch burnings in colonial times. The film builds up a complex pattern of relationships among the different geographical areas, including newspaper coverage regions, districts of jurisdiction of D.A's, and underworld territories. Such mandala like geographic patterns also occur in Rice stories like "The Murder of Mr. Malone" (1953). See also the intersection with its traffic light in "The Frightened Millionaire" (1956), which also builds up patterns in time and space.




The Thursday Turkey Murders (1943) concludes with a devastating satire on Marxism. A leftist character insists that the events of the novel demonstrate the Marxist theory of economic determinism. On one level, he is right. All of the characters in the story have been motivated by greed, and from a broad perspective, economic forces have caused the events of the novel. On the other hand, the immensely complex cat's cradle of the plot mocks any simplistic idea of history. It is hard to see how any simple theory of history such as Marxism could explain the bizarrely complex action of the tale. The whole story functions as a surrealistic mirror of human history, one that suggests that any genuine look at history is going to be surrealistic and bizarre.


This novel seems to be the only instance of a Marxist character in Rice' fiction. By 1943, Rice would be in Hollywood working on screenplays. There she would surely meet the sort of Marxist screenwriters her Hollywood collaborator Stuart Palmer satirized in The Puzzle of the Happy Hooligan (1941)


Impossible Crimes


During the 1950's, Rice became interested in impossible crimes. This interest started with a conventional impossible crime tale, "Good-bye Forever" (1951), that fits into the paradigms of John Dickson Carr's Locked Room Lecture. Rice soon branched off into her own variation of the genre, however. Such Malone tales as "Beyond the Shadow of a Dream" (1955), and "No, Not Like Yesterday" (1956) deal less with physical impossibilities, and more with situations that seem to reflect psychic phenomena, such as dream vision or second sight, erupting into daily life. These apparent psychic events are ultimately given completely naturalistic explanations. The non-Malone story, "The Last Man Alive" (1953), has elements of this approach as well. Rice's last great novel, My Kingdom For a Hearse (1956), continues this trend, to a degree. It is full of events that seem so surreal, that it is sometimes hard to see how they could be explained at all. It is not an impossible crime story, but it has some affinities - one could dub it a "surreal crime" story.


"One More Clue" (1958) is a more conventional impossible crime tale; it is very nicely done. Like "Beyond the Shadow of a Dream" and "No, Not Like Yesterday", it is available in the recent Rice collection, Murder, Mystery and Malone (2002). "One More Clue" fits into a John Dickson Carr tradition of crimes in locked rooms, especially Carr's Till Death Do Us Part (1944) and "All in a Maze" (1955), although Rice's mystery plot and solution are original.

The Early Novels


Craig Rice's work as a mystery writer falls into a number of phases. Her earliest novels are only partly successful, and that in brief chapters or sections. The best of these high points is in The Wrong Murder (1940). This has a great opening sequence, which creates with astonishing mise-en-scène Christmas shopping in Chicago. It also has the best cat's cradle plotting of the early books, although somehow it is not truly enjoyable or light hearted.


Craig Rice' early novels tend to have a Society background. Her detectives gain entrée into this world through Helene Brand, who is a debutante and member of Society. There is a closed circle of suspects built up, in what is almost a parody of Golden Age tradition, all people who were present at an early crime or sinister event.




Often times one of her characters is either an impostor, or leading a dual life. Another character, who is often a member of the underworld, or at least with underworld connections, knows about this impersonation, and is blackmailing the first character. There are often incriminating documents, and the underworld character is involved in burglary of these documents. All of this is hidden, but eventually it comes out. The impostor usually turns out to be the murderer as well, motive being to protect his or her secret. END OF DISCUSSION.


Craig Rice' The Right Murder (1941) starts slowly, picks up surrealistic speed in the middle, then falls apart at the end in an unbelievable and illogical solution. The best parts of the book are some surrealistic plot twists in the middle. These twists are some of the first real surrealism in Rice's books. They show Rice' full repertoire of devices: the events which surrealistically echo earlier events in the book (the second murder); the bizarre events at a grave site, mixing Love and Death, which come up again in The Thursday Turkey Murders (1943); the multiplication and breakdown of a person's identity, which returns in My Kingdom For A Hearse (1956); the characters who are not what they seem, and whose innocent image is a carefully designed illusion, as in both Mother Finds a Body (1942), and Thursday. This book in many ways seems to be a blueprint for things Ricean, little seedlings of Rice's later surrealistic world.


The Right Murder would be a much better book, were it not for its ending. The reader is likely to feel cheated to realize that the strange events of the book do not really have a logical solution. This finale does not have any one big thing wrong with it, but it is full of both the far fetched and the inconsistent. Later Rice works will have much more creative plotting, complex and endlessly imaginative.


In general, I do not wholly like any of Rice's pre-1943 novels, except Mother Finds a Body (1942), and I like much better most of Rice's 1943-1944 output. Even in the case of Mother, a part of me that likes order and symmetry (like Hercule Poirot) wonders if that novel were the last book written among those she published in 1942. That would neatly divide her books into pre-Mother novels (early, apprenticeship works) and works from Mother on (much more fully achieved fiction). There are some good things in the pre-Mother books: the great mise-en-scène of the opening chapter of The Wrong Murder, and the beginnings of Rice's surrealist plotting technique in the middle chapters of The Right Murder. I also like the bandleader's name in The Big Midget Murders (1942). An early work that everybody seems to love but me is Trial By Fury (1941). Haycraft and Queen included this book in their Cornerstone Library, and Anthony Boucher actually caused it to be reprinted in a paperback series of classic detective novels. By contrast, I have never been able to read it all the way through.


Rice Classics


She hit her stride with such inspired novels as Mother Finds A Body (1942), The Thursday Turkey Murders (1943), To Catch a Thief (1943), Crime on My Hands (1944), and Home Sweet Homicide (1944). Even the lesser novels of 1943 - 1944, such as Having a Wonderful Crime (1943) and Murder Through the Looking Glass (1943), have their virtues.


To Catch a Thief is Rice's best novel. It is not comic, but serious in tone, although the seriousness is handled with a deft touch, and never degenerates into angst or grimness. It has a remarkable poetic atmosphere that is related to the surrealistic poetry of her comedy. The scene which introduces Mollie Casalis early on in the book shows Rice at the height of her powers, combining social protest, surrealism, human warmth and poetic mise-en-scène.


After 1944, both her productivity and quality temporarily fell off. Her only 1945 novel, The Lucky Stiff, has two good scenes: Chapter 8, where Helene enters a bar, and Chapters 28 and 29, where Malone gets involved with some strange events at a funeral parlor. Rice' description of Malone's wandering around the city is one of her best pieces of mise-en-scène. In general, however, it is somewhat weaker than the other books. The short story "The Dead Undertaker" (1953) also gets Malone involved with funeral directors. This tale is more a little thriller anecdote, than a mystery.


The Fourth Postman (1948) is not very good at all. Knocked for a Loop (1957, based on a 1955 novella) is also somewhat weak. My Kingdom For a Hearse (1956) shows Rice at her furiously surrealistic best. This strange classic of chopped-up corpses takes black humor at first to distasteful extremes, and then into wild flights of imagination.


During the 1950's Rice concentrated her energies of a large number of short stories, most of which have never been reprinted since their original magazine publication and which I have not been able to find or read. Some of these show Rice at her best: "The Murder of Mr. Malone" (1953), "The Little Knife That Wasn't There" (1954), "The Frightened Millionaire" (1956), and "The Last Man Alive" (1953), which Rice choose for the anthology, My Best Mystery Story. This last piece, like Rice's first novel, Eight Faces at Three (1939), was based on a dream Rice had. This is an appropriate choice of inspiration for a writer whose best work contains the logic, surprise and poetic feelings of our dreams.




8 Faces at 3 (1939)

The Corpse Steps Out (1940)

The Wrong Murder (1940)

The Right Murder (1941)

Telefair (1942)

Having Wonderful Crime (1944)

Home Sweet Homicide (1944)

The Lucky Stiff (1945)

The Thursday Turkey Murders (1946)

The Sunday Pigeon Murders (1948)

Innocent Bystander (1949)

Trial by Fury (1941)

Yesterdays Murder (1950)

The Fourth Postman (1951)

The Double Frame (1958) aka Knocked for a Loop

Innocent Bystander (1958)

My Kingdom for a Hearse (1959)

The April Robin Murders (1959) (completed by Ed McBain)

The Name is Malone (1960)

Murder, Mystery and Malone (2002)


as Michael Venning

The Man Who Slept All Day (1942)

Murder through the Looking Glass (1943)

Jethro Hammer (1947)


Ghost writing for George Sanders (with Cleve Cartmill?)

Crime on My Hands (1948)

NB: A second novel published under Sanders' name, Stranger at Home, was ghosted by Leigh Brackett


With Stuart Palmer

The People Versus Withers and Malone (1963)


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