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James M. Cain (James Mallahan Cain) Biography

(1892–1977), (James Mallahan Cain), The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity, Mildred Pierce, The Butterfly, Galatea

American novelist aligned to the ‘hardboiled’ school of crime writers, born in Annapolis, Maryland, and educated at Washington College, Maryland. His first novel, The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934), helped establish the darker and more explicit style of crime writing; written as an unmediated first-person confession, it dramatizes the obsessions that sexual attraction and money create in weak characters. In both The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity (1936), each successfully filmed, duplicitous women destroy the lives of flawed males who are driven to acts of extreme violence and passion. In these books, and in the social realism of Mildred Pierce (1941), Cain persistently returns to the gap between the lives people yearn for and the more straitened circumstances in which they live in the context of the Depression. Cain was a prolific writer, but most of his novels rework the basic theme and plot of his first novel with the result that his later fiction, including The Butterfly (1947), Galatea (1953), The Magician's Wife (1965), and Rainbow's End (1975), is now little read.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Burghers of Calais to Peter Carey Biography