Knocked for a Loop (Pocket, 1958), by Craig Rice.
Illustration by Jerry Allison.
The woman who traveled under the byline “Craig Rice” was really Georgiana Ann Randolph Craig (1908-1957). Born in Chicago, she spent her early adult years in the Windy City laboring in the professional fields of radio and public relations. It wasn’t until 1939 that she began her career as a successful author of what Kevin Burton Smith, editor of The Thrilling Detective Web Site, calls “hard-boiled screwball comedy.” That was the year Eight Faces at Three first saw print, introducing readers to hard-drinking and unkempt Chicago lawyer-cum-private eye John J. Malone, who would go on to star in a dozen additional Rice books. As the Golden Age of Detection Wiki explains, the Malone tales usually found her protagonist “called in to a sticky situation to rescue either his friend Jake Justus or Jake’s great love, and later wife, Helene Brand. All three characters do a great deal of drinking and fast driving around Chicago, infuriating Captain Daniel Von Flanagan of the homicide squad.”
Knocked for a Loop (sometimes published as The Double Frame) was Rice’s 11th Malone yarn, and originally appeared as a Simon & Schuster “Inner Sanctum” hardcover in 1957. The Goodreads site offers the following plot synopsis:
Chicago lawyer John J. Malone finds himself framed for the murder of anti-crime crusader Leonard Estapoole and implicated in the kidnapping of Estapoole’s stepdaughter Alberta Commanday. While trying to find the real murderer, or at least clear his name, Malone is befriended by ex-chorus girl Tommie Storm and aided by crime boss Max Hook. Things get more complicated when Malone’s old friend Jake Justus reports that his wife, Helene, has gone missing after rushing to Chicago to visit the Estapooles, an affable but complex combined family full of suspects. Malone’s efforts to solve the case are further complicated by a kidnap victim who insists on staying kidnapped and a second murder. Along the way, he falls for a “thoroughly nice” girl and manages--barely--to keep himself and his friends out of jail.In addition to her Malone investigations, Rice composed non-series novels (notably 1944’s Home Sweet Homicide), ghost-wrote books for actor George Sanders and burlesque entertainer Gypsy Rose Lee (including Mother Finds a Body), and “collaborated” with Ed McBain on 1959’s The April Robin Murders (in the sense that he finished it, after her demise). Despite Rice’s tendency toward alcoholism and attempts at suicide, she is said to have died of natural causes.
READ MORE: “The 43 Percent (Alcohol) Solution: An Appreciation of Craig Rice,” by Patrick Ohl (At the Scene of the Crime).