Randolph, Georgiana Ann 1908-1957 (Craig Rice, Michael Venning)
RANDOLPH, Georgiana Ann 1908-1957 (Craig Rice, Michael Venning)
Born June 5, 1908, in Chicago, IL; died of an overdose of barbiturates and alcohol in Los Angeles, CA, 1957; daughter of Harry Moschiem (itinerant artist) and Mary (Randolph) Craig; married Arthur John Follows, Arthur Ferguson, H. W. DeMott Jr., and Lawrence Lipton; children: (fourth marriage) Nancy, Iris, David. Hobbies and other interests: Marksmanship, cooking, gardening.
Worked variously as a crime reporter, radio and motion picture script writer, publicity manager, and freelance writer.
"MELVILLE FAIRR" SERIES, AS MICHAEL VENNING
Jethro Hammer, Coward-McCann Inc. (New York, NY), 1944.
"JOHN J. MALONE" SERIES, AS CRAIG RICE
Eight Faces at Three, Simon and Schuster (New York, NY), 1939.
The Corpse Steps Out, Simon and Schuster (New York, NY), 1940.
The Wrong Murder, Simon and Schuster (New York, NY), 1940.
The Right Murder, Simon and Schuster (New York, NY), 1941.
Trial by Fury, Simon and Schuster (New York, NY), 1941.
Big Midget Murders, Simon and Schuster (New York, NY), 1942.
Having a Wonderful Crime, Simon and Schuster (New York, NY), 1943.
Lucky Stiff, Simon and Schuster (New York, NY) 1945.
The Fourth Postman, Simon and Schuster (New York, NY), 1948.
Knocked for a Loop, Simon and Schuster (New York, NY), 1957.
My Kingdom for a Hearse, Simon and Schuster (New York, NY), 1957.
The Name Is Malone, (short stories), Pyramid Book (New York, NY), 1958.
(With Stuart Palmer) People vs. Withers and Malone: Six Inner Sanctum Mystery Novelettes, Simon and Schuster (New York, NY), 1963.
"BINGO RIGGS AND HANDSOME KUSAK" SERIES, AS CRAIG RICE
Sunday Pigeon Murders, Simon and Schuster (New York, NY), 1942.
Thursday Turkey Murders, Simon and Schuster (New York, NY), 1943.
(Completed by Ed McBain) April Robin Murders, Random House (New York, NY), 1958.
Telefair, the House on the Island, Bobbs-Merril (New York, NY), 1942.
To Catch a Thief, Dial Press (New York, NY), 1943.
Home Sweet Homicide, Simon and Schuster (New York, NY), 1944.
Innocent Bystander, Simon and Schuster (New York, NY), 1949.
Forty-five Murders: A Collection of True-Crime Stories (nonfiction), Simon and Schuster (New York, NY), 1952.
Also author of several short stories, many of which first appeared in the Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. Also wrote radio and television scripts, such as The Amazing Mr. Malone.
AS GHOST WRITER
(With Gypsy Rose Lee) The G-String Murders, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1941.
(With Gypsy Rose Lee) Mother Finds a Body, Simon and Schuster (New York, NY), 1942.
(With George Sanders and Cleve Cartmill) Crime on My Hands, Simon and Schuster (New York, NY), 1944.
The following stories were made into films: Lady of Burlesque United Artists, 1943; Having a Wonderful Crime, RKO, 1945; Home Sweet Homicide, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1946; Tenth Avenue Angel, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1948; The Lucky Stiff, United Artists, 1994; Mrs. O'Malley and Mr. Malone, MGM, 1950; and Underworld Story, United Artists, 1950.
Georgiana Ann Randolph, who wrote most of her work under the pseudonym Craig Rice, turned mystery writing somewhat on its head when she created protagonists who solved crimes by finding courage in a bottle of alcohol. Drinking apparently played a significant part in Randolph's own life and, indeed, contributed to her death, which was caused by an overdose of barbiturates and alcohol. Yet her fiction is noted for what biographer Jeffrey A. Marks described as "screwball" humor rather than the hard-bitten realism so prevalent in the mystery genre of that era. As a contributor to the Web site Thrilling Detective noted, "Almost everything that happens in one of her witty, whacky novels is completely off the wall. To Rice, reality was truly just a concept; a weird and wonderful playground where her imagination could romp around unfettered."
Randolph grew up in Chicago and at one time was a crime reporter, a job that acquainted her with the subject of murder. Her first detective novel, Eight Faces at Three, took her almost two years to write, but when it was published it was such a crowd pleaser that she used the same protagonist, John J. Malone, in several succeeding books. Malone turned out to be one of her most memorable characters. An attorney-turned-sleuth, he was more often found at his favorite haunt, Joe the Angel's City Hall Bar, than in the courtroom. Malone made his debut in Randolph's novels, but he could also be found in some of her short stories, and finally, he became a movie star in Mrs. O'Malley and Mr. Malone. Mrs. O'Malley was based on a character created by fellow mystery writer Stuart Palmer, who often collaborated with Randolph. Malone also made appearances on radio and television.
Randolph once claimed that she never knew where her stories came from, insinuating that she sat down at the typewriter with a blank sheet of paper, having no clue as to what would develop next. She wrote from her intuition rather than from notes and outlines. Whatever method she used, she was one of the most popular authors of mystery novels of her time. She wrote novels, short stories, and radio and television scripts, as well as screenplays. She also wrote three books as a ghostwriter: two for the showgirl Gypsy Rose Lee and one for actor George Saunders. Some critics have suggested that Randolph employed ghostwriters to complete her own works, especially later in her career.
Though Randolph's readers loved her, some critics did not. New York Times reviewer Isaac Anderson suggested that one of her first books, The Wrong Murder, was so saturated with alcohol that it should be reported to the Internal Revenue Bureau. A year later, Anderson lightened his tone a little, referring to Randolph's The Right Murder as being funny, "if you like that sort of fun." When Trial by Fury was published, Anderson praised the book, but only conditionally. He warned that there is a lot of bad language present in Randolph's latest mystery. When Randolph published Murder through the Looking Glass under the pseudonym Michael Venning, she might have thrown Anderson off guard, because he ended his review of the book with the statement: "Keep your eye on Michael Venning. He has something on the ball." By the late 1940s Anderson appeared to be totally convinced of Randolph's merits, though, writing in a 1948 review: "Why can't all murders be as funny as those concocted by Craig Rice!" Will Cuppy, writing for Books, expressed more unqualified praise for Randolph's novels. He stated that her Big Midget Murders has plenty of "macabre fun," and described Sunday Pigeon Murders as a "killer-diller."
After Randolph's untimely death, several writers attempted to honor her legacy. In 1960 Laurence Mark Janifer wrote a story incorporating some of Randolph's main characters in The Pickled Poodles: A Novel Based on the Characters Created by Craig Rice. Stuart Palmer, who reportedly collaborated with Randolph on stories or used her ideas in his own works, put together a posthumous collection of her short stories, People vs. Withers and Malone. A novel Randolph left partially completed, The April Robin Murders, was finished by author Ed McBain and published in 1958.
In more recent years Randolph's writing has enjoying renewed attention. New editions of her work have been published, as well as Marks's comprehensive study Who Was That Lady?: Craig Rice: The Queen of the Screwball Mystery. Marks provides details of Randolph's life, including the fact that she was abandoned by her parents, had four unhappy marriages, and then pretty much ignored her own children. Her fans often compare her to Ellery Queen to Jonathan Latimer. Though they admit that she was no literary heavy-weight, they note that Randolph knew how to make readers laugh.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Magill, Frank N., editor, Critical Survey of Mystery and Detective Fiction, Salem Press (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1988.
Marks, Jeffrey A., Who Was That Lady?: Craig Rice: The Queen of the Screwball Mystery, Delphi Books (Lee's Summit, MO), 2001.
Booklist, May 1, 1957, review of My Kingdom for a Hearse, p. 455.
Books, June 14, 1942, Will Cuppy, review of Big Midget Murders, p. 18; November 15, 1952, Will Cuppy, review of Sunday Pigeon Murders, p. 46.
Chicago Sun, April 22, 1949, review of Innocent Bystander,
Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 1952, review of Forty-five Murderers, p. 676.
New Yorker, February 12, 1944, review of Home Sweet Homicide, p. 88.
New York Herald Tribune, September 22, 1957, James Sandoe, review of Knocked for a Loop, p. 13.
New York Times, November 10, 1940, Isaac Anderson, review of The Wrong Murder, p. 18; March 23, 1941, Isaac Anderson, review of The Right Murder, p. 24; November 30, 1941, Isaac Anderson, review of Trial by Fury, p. 32; February 7, 1943, Isaac Anderson, review of Murder through the Looking Glass, p. 19; October 24, 1948, Isaac Anderson, review of The Fourth Postman, p. 37.
Time, January 28, 1946, "Mulled Murder, with Spice," pp. 84, 86, 88, 90.
ThrillingDetective.com,http://www.thrillingdetective.com/ (April 21, 2003), "Authors and Creators: Craig Rice*."