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Cain, James M(allahan)

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionBooks & Authors: Award-Winning Fiction (Bo-Co)

(US, 1892–1977)

James M. Cain's career as crime novelist got off to a dazzling start with the bleak classic The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934). The book was filmed with enormous success, as was his famous tale of insurance fraud, Double Indemnity (1936). He wrote from the criminal's point of view, rather than the detective's ('the least interesting angle'). Mildred Pierce (1941) explores a mother's obsessive, self-destructive love of her child. It is no coincidence that Cain's work regularly attracted the attention of film-makers; the explanation lies in the cinematic quality of his spare, yet vivid prose, as well as the box-office appeal of his frank (for the time) treatment of sex and violence. Cain's trademark plot centres around a man who falls for a beautiful woman but who is ultimately destroyed by his infatuation.

Dashiell Hammett, Jim Thompson.


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