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University at Buffalo Libraries

George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

Trial By Fury

cover image By: Rice, Craig (pseudonym of Georgiana Ann Randolph Craig) (female)
Publisher: Dell Publishing Co., Inc. (D187)
Place of Publication: New York, NY
Catalog #: Kelley Box 361: PS3535 .I2217 T7 1957
Contributor: E. Lindsay


Era: 1940s Author as on Cover: Craig Rice Geographic Locale: Jackson, Wisconsin Date of Publication: 1957  |  Original Date: 1941 Setting: rural; small town Motives: blackmail, embezzlement

Plot Summary

Jake and Helene Justus stop by the courthouse in Jackson, Wisconsin to purchase a fishing license. Delayed by a thunderstorm, the Justuses witness the body of ex-senator Peveley tumble down the stairs. When they are detained as material witnesses, the couple calls on lawyer John J. Malone for help, and the three become involved in solving the murders that befall Jackson.

Major Characters

John J. Malone adult male, middle-aged, short, overweight, lawyer

Jake Justus adult male, tall, thin, freckled, nightclub owner and former reporter

Helene Justus adult female, tall, beautiful, wealthy

Alvin Goudge adult male, middle-aged, bald, grim features, county treasurer

Gerald Peveley adult male, middle-aged, portly, white hair, red-faced, former senator, bank president

Magnus adult male, "ferrety," bank teller

Cora Belle adult female, heavyset, heavily made-up

Ellen McGowan adult female, middle-aged, handsome, gray-haired, neat and prim, head cashier of the bank

Tom Burrows adult male, short, slight, sandy hair, newspaper reporter

Jerry Luckstone adult male, young, handsome, district attorney

Marvin King adult male, middle-aged, short, red-faced, slovenly, sheriff

Florence Peveley adult female, tall, messy appearance


guns, bomb, knife

Level of Violence

the first murder is committed offstage, so to speak, and the description of the corpse is not vivid or gory. The injuries to those involved in the bomb blast are described more graphically. One character is strangled and another has her throat slit, but again, only the aftermath of these events is described.


there is some flirting, and one character is portrayed as "loose." All sexual activity is implicit and heterosexual.

Gender Roles

one female character is described in a stereotypically spinsterish way, but other female characters buck against traditional roles and dress codes and are quite outspoken.


not evident

Alcohol/Drug Abuse

there is a great deal of drinking.

Law Enforcement

the local sheriff and his deputy are involved in this novel, and are depicted as bumbling and foolish.

Added Features

use of humor is a key element of this novel. There are frequent one-liners and sarcastic quips. The effects of the bombing are described by Jake as something from out of "Buck Rogers." Rice portrays some rural vs. urban attitudes. For example, Jake is first viewed as a suspect simply because he's an outsider. The Justuses and Malone often view the small-town ambience with disdain and sarcasm.

Subject Headings

Wisconsin/ Blackmail/ Murder/ Law and Lawyers