Michael Malone

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For other people named Michael Malone, see Michael Malone (disambiguation).

Michael Malone is an American author and television writer, born in Durham, North Carolina. He is best known for his work on the ABC Daytime drama One Life to Live, as well as for his best-selling works of fiction Handling Sin (1983), Foolscap (1991), and murder mystery First Lady (2001).


Malone is well known for his successful stint writing the soap opera One Life to Live. He was the serial's head writer after being hired by Linda Gottlieb from 1991 to 1996 and garnered critical acclaim for his storylines, which included a tale involving the tight bond between an ostracized homosexual teenager and a preacher, the creation of villain/rapist Todd Manning and the character's gang rape of Marty Saybrooke, as well as the subsequent rape trial.[1][2]

On Getting Hired: "She [Gottlieb] told the network [ABC] she needed a novelist, someone who wrote huge-canvas novels, " he says, "and that's when a mutual friend called my wife and told her. " His wife, Maureen Quilligan, is a professor of Renaissance Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. "She didn't even bother to tell me about it, " says Malone. "She laughed and said I'd never be interested. A week later I got the call from Gottlieb, and I started watching the show."[3]

On Why He Accepted The Head Writing Position: Among the tremendous strengths of daytime serials (and I believe the genre to be a great and one of the few truly original American art forms) are the richness, complexity, longevity of the characters. Unless you're writing a series (like Nero Wolfe or Anne of Green Gables), when you start a novel, you give birth to characters full-blown. In daytime, you adopt many of them already formed. You have to study their histories, discuss their personalities with the actors who play them (and know them in some ways far more deeply than you ever will), and develop stories for them that evolve FROM their characters. Aristotle's credo, Character is Action, is nowhere truer than in daytime drama where story must be driven not by plot but by character. On the other hand, that very strength of a character's full past leads to potential weaknesses in daytime that must be guarded against: One is repetition (after a quarter of a century, Viki Lord is likely to have suffered every calamity, illness, lost love, family crisis, financial woe, moral dilemma, dynastic rivalry, that can befall a woman (even a woman with multiple personalities). The un-tried plot becomes an increasing challenge. The open-endedness (everlastingness) of daytime is another strength that causes a weakness: Art likes to have a beginning, middle and end—to have a shape, a form, a denouement. The curtain closes when the lovers kiss, the novel ends when the couple says I do. Daytime has to keep going. And going and going.

On ABC's Input: Ironically, there was initial opposition to stories that proved the most successful in ratings terms. The story of Marty's rape, for example. And the homophobia story (originally we'd wanted to bring it closer to home by having Joey Buchanan reveal that he was homosexual.) In both these cases, the courage and daring of our producer Linda Gottlieb was crucial. She fought for the stories and she won. Some stories never got told because of network concerns or they never were told as they should have been because network fears weakened or compromised them. But I must say that, at least during my tenure there, ABC tried hard in general to be supportive even of stories they weren't sure about—allowing us to re-open the mystery of who killed Victor Lord, for example, which took us into the risky territory of multiple personality and childhood incest abuse. Other times, stories can get truncated or dropped for unavoidable external reasons—an actor quits, or the network learns that a highly similar story is being told on another network. Of course, about that I used to say, it doesn't matter. All the stories have already been told anyhow. Just not by all the storytellers.

One Life to Live was averaging 5 million viewers when Malone left in 1996. His next soap opera writing job was with Another World in 1997. He returned to write One Life to Live from 2003 to 2004. While writing One Life to Live, Malone wrote a novel called The Killing Club, which was tied into the show. For months, viewers watched character Marcie Walsh (Kathy Brier) write the book. The book was published in February 2005 with the authors listed as Marcie Walsh and Michael Malone. To explain this, Marcie said she took the book to "Professor Malone" at Llanview University, who helped her re-write it. After Malone's departure from the show, Dena Higley continued this storyline, as a copycat killer murdered characters on the show exactly as had occurred in the book. In its first week of publication The Killing Club went to #16 on the New York Times bestseller list for Hardback Fiction. It later rose to #11.

Acclaim On OLTL[edit]

  • Entertainment Weekly wrote: "OLTL (circa late 1991–1994) was airing some of the most literate drama ever to hit daytime—too good to be called 'soap opera.'"[citation needed]
  • Lynn Leahey, editor- in-chief of Soap Opera Digest: "He's very clever", said of Malone, "and he takes chances with the characters in ways that might not occur to a more experienced soap writer. But he can also pull off good old cliches like 'Wife Coming Back from the Dead' and reposition characters that aren't working, which is just as important. "[4]

Criticism On OLTL[edit]


Griffith and Malone would again let loose a handful of overdone plots that were either pretentiously convoluted or so outlandish that they became too wearisome/insulting to accept. Many story arcs seemed to drop from the clear blue sky, were choppy and would end just as quickly as they started, without a very fulfilling resolution. [Malone] often failed to tell complete stories, as there were a number of strongly hinted at storylines that would never materalize. Furthermore, too frequently there’d be glaringly obvious last minute curve balls thrown in, leaving the viewers to wonder what kind of backstage politics were going on that may have caused things to hastily change....While the Storm of Change squalled in a number of familiar faces that had been sorely missed for the past few years, resulting in OLTL feeling more recognizable, alas the actual storm didn’t produce a lightening bolt effective enough to fully jolt the show back to its past splendor…and, instead, produced jagged results. In an era where creative liberty was becoming increasingly vanquished by administrative big brother, it surprised few when the brass at ABC eventually replaced the show's more independent scribes/consultants with those who could be more easily dictated to.

Acclaim On AW[edit]

Marlena DeLacroix: Malone produced the biggest daytime miracle of all-getting me to not only love but fully appreciate the diversified talents of an actor I had long thought of as a soap world cartoon: Tom Eplin...All I can see is that Malone's vision (of Another World) never fully made it to the screen. That's a waste, because he is a gem of a head writer. Literate and humanistic, he's a natural heir to the intelligent writing tradition of Agnes Nixon and Claire Labine. In an era of shallow, dum-dum (think Sunset Beach, The Bold and the Beautiful!) soap writing, he is sorely needed. Let's hope that by the time you read this, another show will have hired Malone-one with an imaginative producer. I never thought I'd live to see the day I'd miss (Malone's OLTL executive producer-and Marlena's old punching bag) the ever-grandstanding Linda Gottlieb. Source: Soap Opera Weekly, November 18, 1997

Personal life[edit]

Malone currently lives in Hillsborough, N.C. with his wife, Maureen Quilligan, a professor of English at Duke University.[5] He is a former board member and a supporter of the Burwell School Historic Site. Malone sets many of his stories in Piedmont, including Handling Sin, First Lady, and the other Justin & Cuddy novels, in his region of North Carolina.

His father was a physician and mother was a teacher.[citation needed]

Writing credits[edit]

Another World

  • Head Writer: April 1997 – December 1997 (hired by Charlotte Savitz)

One Life to Live

Un-titled ABC Drama

  • TV pilot (1996; co-written with Josh Griffith)

13 Bourbon Street

  • TV pilot (co-written with Josh Griffith & produced by Linda Gottlieb)<[citation needed]


Short stories[edit]

  • "Red Clay" (can be found in Best American Mystery Stories of the Century, published by Houghton Mifflin)[7]

(Recipient of the 1997 Edgar Award for Best Short Story)[8][9]

  • "Blue Cadillac"[10]
  • "Murdered for Love"[11]
  • "Delacorte"

Awards and nominations[edit]

  • Daytime Emmy NOMINATION (1992, 1994, 1995, 1996; Best Writing; One Life to Live)
  • Daytime Emmy WIN (1994; Best Writing; One Life to Live)

Emmy Acceptance Speech: "There are a lot of us up here, but there are hundreds more that should be—other writers, the cast and crew, the producers and directors of One Life To Live—without you what we do would just be typing. And the wonderful ladies across the street at ABC-Mickey and Pat and Maxine Levinson and Barbara.. and two very extraordinary women-Linda Gottlieb, who had the amazing courage to hire all of us and to turn us loose in Llanview-thank you.....also, Agnes Nixon, who created the world that we live in... If Charles Dickens is the father of daytime, she's his daughter and we're very proud to be among her children. Thank you."


  1. ^ Branco, Nelson (September 29, 2008). "FF: Soap Malfunction Currently in Progress OLTL: Raping Marty softly with his kiss". TV Guide. Archived from the original on July 18, 2011. Retrieved September 7, 2012. 
  2. ^ Branco, Nelson (2008-10-01). "Shame and Prejudice: Mishandling sin on ‘OLTL’". TV Guide. 
  3. ^ source: People Magazine , February 1992
  4. ^ Source: Los Angeles Times, July 5, 1992
  5. ^ Michael Malone
  6. ^ Bookballoon.com – Michael Malone
  7. ^ Edgar Award-Best Short Story
  8. ^ Storyinliteraryfiction.com – Michael Malone interview
  9. ^ Publishersweekly.com
  10. ^ Pw.org – Michael Malone
  11. ^ Anglican.org

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Craig Carlson
Head Writer of One Life to Live
(with Josh Griffith: January 1992 – February 1995)

August 1991 – March 1996
Succeeded by
Leah Laiman
Jean Passanante
Peggy Sloane
Preceded by
Josh Griffith
Head Writer of One Life to Live
(with Josh Griffith: March 10, 2003 – March 22, 2004)

March 10, 2003 – November 24, 2004
Succeeded by
Dena Higley
Preceded by
Tom King
Craig Carlson
Head Writer of Another World
April – December 1997
Succeeded by
Richard Culliton