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17Aug/130

A Look at John J Malone

John J Malone was the best known creation of mystery writer Craig Rice a pseudonym of Georgiana Ann Randolph Craig that was pretty popular in the 1940s, spawning two movies, a TV series, and several radio incarnations. I've read two of the out of print books ahead of the launch of the Mr. Malone programs

I actually found The Fourth Postman at my local public library, but wasn't thrilled with it, so I decided to give an earlier book a chance.

The Corpse Steps Out was the second John Malone mystery comedy. Jake Justus is a publicist for a radio star who is being blackmailed. She and Justus find the blackmailer dead, and then the body disappears. Quickly, the book becomes a tale of disappearing bodies, bodied being moved, and more murders follows while Jake, Helene, and Malone seek to solve the mystery and get married.

The theory behind the Malone stories was that everything was better with booze. Characters have drinks to be social, drinks to calm down, drinks to think, drinks because it'd been twenty minutes since their last drink. In that way, it was similar to the Thin Man, only moreso. As post-prohibition America embraced these stories of over the top fantastic drinking as catharsis or a weird sort of alcohol fantasy.

At any rate, readers we're treated to a good enough mystery, some decent humor, and some keen philosophical points that were obtained when the characters were, of course, drinking. The big downside to the book was that no characters was all that likable or human even other than the murderer. The drinking buddies didn't really care about catching the murder or justice, only protecting the reputation of Jake's client, a well-beloved radio singer who was like one of ancient sirens who led men to their ruin. So perhaps that gave it a cynical element of realism.

The Fourth Milkman finds John J Malone investigating the murder of three postmen with a wealthy and meek man accused of the crime.

It was released in 1948, fifteen years after the end of prohibition. Orgies of alcohol were really out of fashion. Perhaps more than that, the talents of Craig Rice were in decline. Call Ms. Rice many things, but she was no hypocrite. She practiced the wild hard drinking lifestyle her books uplift and perhaps that caused a decline of her writing ability ahead of her too early death.

Jake Justus was the main on-stage character in The Corpse Steps Out and had been relegated to third banana. He finally married the wealthy woman sometime after that book and seems to have become a shiftless derelict whose main scene involved waltzing into the crime scene with a murder weapon while in a drunken stupor.

Malone investigates the case somewhat ably in his constantly pickled state. The book is a notch below The Corpse Steps Out with no real likable characters and even more of its humor falling flat.

Jake Justus was the main on-stage character in The Corpse Steps Out and had been relegated to third banana. He finally married the wealthy woman sometime after that book and seems to have become a shiftless derelict whose main scene involved waltzing into the crime scene with a murder weapon while in a drunken stupor.

Malone investigates the case somewhat ably in his constantly pickled state. The book is a notch below The Corpse Steps Out with no real likable characters and even more of its humor falling flat.

Overall, neither book is horrendous, but neither holds up well over time. The radio shows are a different matter of course. While the best known detectives like Sherlock Holmes and Nero Wolfe were defined to some extent by their literary counterparts, most other detectives from books took the names of their literary counterparts and a few elements of their stories but made their own way. The Malone radio shows did this under several different actors and we'll look forward to bring you these radio episodes in September.

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17Aug/132

EP1028: The Line Up: The Bakery Bandit’s Bad Blooper

William Johnstone

Guthrie investigates a bakery robbery by a robber wearing a stocking over his head.

Original Air Date: March 25, 1952

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