(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

In less than two decades, Craig Rice successfully overturned many of the time-honored traditions of the detective story in most of her twenty-eight books. (The number is an estimate because some may have been ghostwritten for her.) In a genre in which death can be a game of men walking down mean streets unafraid to meet their doom, she wrote of men whose fearlessness came from a bottle—from several bottles, in fact—and made it seem comical. At heart, the drinking in her books is the social drinking of Mr. and Mrs. North or Topper.

Rice’s blend of humor with homicide and mirth with mayhem works because her stories have a foundation in a realistic crime situation. Eventually the situation reaches a point at which readers must laugh or lose their minds. Crime, Rice insists, is not funny, but her characters are funny by contrast because of their reactions and because they closely resemble characters in the screwball comedies of the 1930’s. Eternally optimistic, they never take themselves any more seriously than is called for. Her style allies her more with Damon Runyon than with Dashiell Hammett. A unique and original writer, Rice has never been imitated successfully.

Craig Rice Bibliography

(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Dubose, Martha Hailey, with Margaret Caldwell Thomas. Women of Mystery: The Lives and Works of Notable Women Crime Novelists. New York: St. Martin’s Minotaur, 2000. Contains a short biography and an analysis of Rice’s work. Notes the alcohol that permeated her work and her life.

Dueren, Fred. “John J. Malone (and Cohorts).” The Armchair Detective 8 (1974/1975): 44-47. Profile of several of Rice’s most famous characters.

Grochowski, Mary Ann. “Craig Rice: Merry Mistress of Mystery and Mayhem.” The Armchair Detective 13 (1980): 265-267. Celebration of Rice’s use of humor in her crime fiction.

Klein, Kathleen Gregory, ed. Great Women Mystery Writers: Classic to Contemporary. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994. Contains an essay on the life and works of Rice.

Marks, Jeffrey A. Who Was That Lady? Craig Rice: The Queen of the Screwball Mystery. Lee’s Summit, Mo.: Delphi Books, 2001. Primarily a biography of the novelist, delving into her rather dark life, which contrasts notably with the tone of her fiction; secondary attention is paid to the fiction itself.

Moran, Peggy. “Craig Rice.” In And Then There Were Nine: More Women of Mystery, edited by Jane S. Bakerman. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1985. Study of the life and work of Rice, who is discussed alongside Margery Allingham and Patricia Highsmith, among other famous “women of mystery.”

“Mulled Murder, with Spice.” Time 47 (January 28, 1946): 84, 86, 88, 90. Rice is featured on the cover of this issue of Time—the first mystery author ever to receive a cover story in the magazine.