John J. Malone

Created by Craig Rice
Pseudonym of Georgiana Ann Randolph Craig

“Never look a Greek in the mouth when he comes bearing a gift horse” Malone said cheerfully. He paused in the act of opening the bottle. “I mean beware of the Greek when he comes bearing a horse in his mouth.”
Malone dispense timeless advice in Trial By Fury (1941)

Call it screwball noir, call it hard-boiled farce, call it whatever-you-want comedy, but very few writers have managed to successfully combine the hard-boiled detective novel and comedy. Jonathan Latimer nailed it with Bill Crane, Norbert Davis had a good long run with it and Craig Rice did it with JOHN J. MALONE, her ne’er-do-well bibulous attorney.

Despite being billed as “Chicago’s noisiest and most noted criminal lawyer,” Malone acts more like a private eye than a member of the court. And a particularly hard-drinking and frequent drunk private eye at that. Despite a rep for courtroom pyrotechniques, he’s far more likely to be found carousing around the city looking for clues (or a drink), perstering suspects (or witnesses), or holding court at Joe the Angel’s City Hall Bar than in any court of law.

Along with his boozing buddies, Jake Justus and Helene Brand (later Justus), an affable young and equally hard-drinking couple, he drank his way through a whole slew of novels and short stories, not to mention later film, radio and television appearances.

Jake was a fast-talking publicist, and Helene was a freewheeling, impulsive heiress who loved to drive drunk, but they considered themselves decent amateur sleuths. But it was Malone, seemingly inept and irresponsible, who somehow (luck of the Irish?) manages to crack the case everytime. Even if his methods were a wee bit, uh, unorthodox, and his interpretation of the law rather elastic. Malone always seems less interested in going to trial than in playing P.I.

He wasn’t even supposed to be the star of the show — Jake and Helene were. Malone, in the early books, was at most a third wheel, a member of the supporting cast. But somehow Malone inserted himself into the action, sometimes reluctantly, and sometimes because he smelled a quick buck, to the point that Jake and Helene sometimes seem to be guests in their own series, and often didn’t even show up in the countless Malone short stories. Or in many of the novels after The Big Midget Murders (1942).

Still, despite being a drunk and a blowhard, Malone seems to inspire extreme loyalty in his pals and acquaintances. He has a secretary, the long-suffering, lovestruck, albeit frequently unpaid Maggie Cassidy, and of course Jake and Helene are always on hand. He can also count on the aid of Captain Daniel von Flannagan of the Homicide Squad.

Later, Rice teamed up with Stuart Palmer and the two of them cowrote half a dozen or so short stories featuring Malone and Palmer’s equally comic spinster sleuth, Hildegarde Withers. It’s one of the rare instances when two commercially successful mystery writers pooled their efforts and made their popular detectives work as a team.  The stories were later collected in 1963’s People Vs. Withers and Malone.

In films, Malone tended to be played as a heavyweight tough guy. On radio, Malone was rather cynical and humourless–except for the final film, Mrs. O’Malley and Mr. Malone (1950, MGM), an adaptation of one of the Rice/Palmer collaborations.

By the time he made it to the tube, Malone was a svelter, more happy-go-lucky type with girls stashed everywhere, a rather lightweight version of Craig Rice’s original character.

You want the real deal, go back to the original books and stories. Those zany plots, wacky characters, and weird plot bounces will keep you going…



  • “His Heart Could Break” (March 1943, EQMM)
  • “Dead Men’s Shoes” (July 1943, Baffling Detective Mysteries; aka “The Bad Luck Murders”)
  • “Good-Bye, Good-Bye!” (June 1946, EQMM)
  • “Once Upon a Train” (October 1950, EQMM; aka “The Loco-motive”) *
  • “Cherchez la Frame” (June 1951, EQMM) *
  • “Good-bye Forever” (December 1951, EQMM)
  • “And the Birds Still Sing” (December 1952, EQMM
  • “Case of the Vanishing Blonde” (December 1952, Dime Detective; with Mark Hope)
  • “And the Birds Still Sing” (December 1952, EQMM)
  • “The Tears of Evil” (March 1953, Manhunt)
  • “Don’t Go Near” (May 1953, Manhunt)
  • “The Dead Mr. Duck” (August 1953, Verdict; aka “The Man Who Swallowed a Horse”)
  • “The End of Fear” (August 1953, Manhunt)
  • “Life Can Be Horrible” (September 1953, Manhunt)
  • “Motive” (September 1953, Verdic; aka “Smoke Rings”)
  • “The Bells Are Ringing” (November 1953, Manhunt)
  • “Murder Marches On!” (December 1953, Manhunt Dec 1953; also as “The Dead Undertaker”)
  • “The Last Man Alive” (1953)
  • “The Murder of Mr. Malone” (1953)
  • “I’m a Stranger Here Myself” (February 1954, Manhunt)
  • “The Little Knife That Wasn’t There” (May 1954, Malcolm’s; aka “Malone and the Missing Weapon”)
  • “I’ll See You in My Dreams” (June 1954, Nero Wolfe Mystery Magazine)
  • “No Vacancies” (June 1954, Manhunt)
  • “Autopsy and Eva” (August 1954, EQMM) *
  • “Murder in the Family” (November 1954, The Saint Detective Magazine)
  • “Flowers to the Fair” (December 25, 1954, Manhunt)
  • “Rift in the Loot” (April 1955, EQMM) *
  • “Beyond the Shadow of a Dream” (February 1955, EQMM)
  • “No Motive for Murder” (July 1955, The Saint Detective Magazine)
    Expanded as Knocked for a Loop, Simon & Schuster, 1957.
  • “Shot in the Dark” (August 1955, Manhunt)
  • “The Headless Hatbox” (1955, Double-Action Detective Stories #3)
  • “The Frightened Millionaire” (April 1956, The Saint Detective Magazine)
  • “Dead Men Spend No Cash” (August 1956, Suspect Detective Stories)
  • “The Quiet Life” (September 1956, Michael Shayne Mystery Magazine)
  • “No, Not Like Yesterday” (November 1956, The Saint Detective Magazine
  • “He Never Went Home” (March 1957, Manhunt
  • “Say It With Flowers” (September 1957, Manhunt; also 1997, American Pulp)
  • “Cheese It, the Corpse” (November 1957, Manhunt)
  • “One More Clue” (April 1958, Manhunt)
  • “The Very Groovy Corpse” (November 1958, The Saint Mystery Magazine)
  • “The Tears of Evil” (1958, The Name Is Malone)
  • “The Murder of Mr. Malone” (1958, The Name Is Malone)
  • “Life Can Be Horrible” (1958, The Name Is Malone)
  • “He Never Went Home” (1958, The Name Is Malone)
  • “The End of Fear” (1958; The Name Is Malone)
  • “They’re Trying to Kill Me” (February 1959, The Saint Mystery Magazine)
  • “Wry Highball” (March 1959, EQMM)
  • “Withers and Malone, Brain-Stormers” (March 1959, EQMM) *
  • “They’re Trying to Kill Me” (February 1959, The Saint Mystery Magazine)
  • “People vs. Withers and Malone” (1963, People vs. Withers and Malone) *
  • “The Butler Who Didn’t Do It” (June 1960, AHMM)
  • “Hardsell” (1960, Ed McBain’s Mystery Book #1)
    Ghost-written by Lawrence Block.
  • “Withers and Malone, Crime-Busters” (November 1963, EQMM) *
    * Co-written with Stuart Palmer, also featuring Hildegarde Withers.


  • The Name Is Malone (1958) | Buy this book
  • People vs. Withers and Malone (1963, with Stuart Palmer, collects all the Hildegarde Withers & John J. Malone stories) | Buy this book
  • Murder, Mystery and Malone (2002)Buy this book


    (1945, RKO)
    70 minutes
    Based on characters created by Craig Rice
    Written by Howard J. Green, Parke Levy and Stewart Sterling,
    Directed by A. Edward Sutherland
    Produced by Robert Fellows
    Associate producer: Theron Warth
    Starring Pat O’Brien as MICHAEL J. MALONE (John J. Malone in novel)
    with George Murphy as Jake Justus
    and Carole Landis as Helene Justus
    Also starring Lenore Aubert, George Zucco Anje Berens, Richard Martin, Lénore Aubert, George Zucco, Gloria Holden, Charles D. Brown, William ‘Wee Willie’ Davis, Blanche Ring, Chili Williams, Josephine Whittell.
    (1949, United Artists)
    99 minutes, black & white
    Based on characters created by Craig Rice
    Screenplay by Lewis R. Foster
    Directed by Lewis R. Foster
    Produced by Jack Benny
    Associate producer: William T. Lackey
    Starring Brian Donlevy as JOHN J. MALONE
    Also starring Dorothy Lamour, Claire Trevor, Irene Hervey, Marjorie Rambeau, Robert Armstrong, Billy Vine, Warner Anderson, Virginia Patton, Richard Gaines, Joe Sawyer, Larry J. Blake
    (1950, MGM)
    69 minutes, black & white
    Based on the story “Once Upon A Train” (aka “The Loco Motive”) by Stuart Palmer and Craig Rice
    Screenplay by William Bowers
    Directed by Norman Taurog
    Original music by Adolph Deutsch
    Produced by William H. Wright
    Starring James Whitmore as JOHN J. MALONE
    and Marjorie Main as MRS. O’MALLEY (Hildegarde Withers in the short story)
    Also starring Ann Dvorak, Fred Clark, Dorothy Malone, Phyllis Kirk, Clinton Sundberg, Douglas Fowley, Willard Waterman, Don Porter


    (aka “Murder And Mr. Malone”)

    (1948, ABC; 1951, NBC)
    30 minute episodes
    Based on characters created by Craig Rice
    Writers: Craig Rice, Gene Wang
    Director: Bill Rousseau
    Producer: Bernard L. Schubert
    Starring Eugene Raymond as JOHN J. MALONE
    (also played by Frank Lovejoy and George Petrie)
    Also starring Larry Haines as “The Police Lieutenant”


    (1951-52, ABC)
    13 30-minute episodes
    Premiere: September 24, 1951
    Based on characters created by Craig Rice
    Director: Edgar Peterson
    Producer: Edward Peterson
    Sponsor: The Seiberling Rubber Company of Akron, Ohio
    Starring Lee Tracy as JOHN J. MALONE
    Also starring George Petrie, Roger Koven

    • “Blood is Thicker Than Water” (September 24, 1951)
    • “Title Unknown” (October 8, 1951)
    • “Title Unknown” (October 22, 1951)
    • “Title Unknown” (November 5, 1951)
    • “Title Unknown” (November 19, 1951)
    • “Title Unknown” (December 3, 1951)
    • “Title Unknown” (December 17, 1951)
    • “Title Unknown” (December 31, 1951)
    • “Title Unknown” (January 14, 1952)
    • “The Innocent Murder” (January 28, 1952)
    • “The Target” (February 11, 1952)
    • “Breakout” (February 24, 1952)
    • “Dark Secret” (March 10, 1952)
    (aka “Mystery Writers Theater” in syndication)
    13 episodes
    Host: George Sanders
    Thirty minute mystery drama series hosted by Sanders, originally intended to adapt stories from members of the Mystery Writers of America.

    • “AND THE BIRDS STILL SING” (August 3, 1957)
      Based on a story by Craig Rice
      Teleplay by Gene Wang
      Directed by Gerd Oswald
      Starring John Archer as FRANCIS PARNELL (John J. Malone in story)
      Also starring Mae Clark, Tristram Coffin, John Beradino
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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