WHO WAS THAT LADY? Craig Rice: The Queen of Screwball Mystery

Jeffrey Marks, Author WHO WAS THAT LADY? Craig Rice: The Queen of Screwball Myste $21.95 (216p) ISBN 978-0-9663397-1-0

In 1946, Time selected mystery writer Craig Rice for its first cover feature on that genre—a classic case of poor judgment. Today, almost none of Georgiana Craig Rice's lightweight writing (Home Sweet Homicide, The Thursday Turkey Murders, etc.) is in print (whereas Raymond Chandler, passed over by Time, is a standard). Rice's life story does not accord with her superficial reputation as a lightly comedic author. Abandoned by her parents, Rice used this theme casually in almost all her fiction, but never dug deeper. A long slide into alcoholism and a series of abusive marriages (including one to the fringe Beat writer Larry Lipton, author of The Holy Barbarians, and another to a lunatic she met in a psychiatric hospital) mark the way to her early death at age 49 in 1959. Most striking, she neglected her own children (her 12-year-old daughter had to have Rice pointed out at a funeral because she "hadn't visited her family in so long"). Marks (Canine Crimes, etc.) captures these incidents in a serviceable narrative, though he is at his weakest when offering naïve critical perspectives (regarding the rumors that Rice or possibly W.H. Auden ghosted Gypsy Rose Lee's The G-String Murders, he notes, "While very enjoyable, G-String doesn't reach to an Auden... level"). Every writer may deserve such a dedicated biographer, and Rice's life is interesting (especially for hardcore mystery fans), but her saga proves to be less madcap than simply depressing. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/26/2001
Release date: 04/01/2001
Genre: Nonfiction
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