The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain
Frank Chambers was an opportunist, a drifter, and a fearless adventurer who’d seen the inside of a prison cell more than once and frankly, had nothing to lose. I don’t know if Frank came to town looking for trouble, but when he stopped at the greasy spoon “Twin Oaks Tavern” for a bite to eat, and spotted the sexy bombshell Cora working in the kitchen, he was doomed. Cora was married to the Greek tavern owner, Nick Papadakis, twice her age, and boring as sin.
Frank tells this story, in his simple pithy manner relating details of how he took a handyman job at the tavern, fell into a lusty affair with Cora, and plotted with her to murder Nick and make it look like an accident.
James Cain is an amazing storyteller. This short novella is loaded with substance: a dark gloomy atmosphere, memorable characters, a suspenseful plot, non-stop action, and racy sex scenes. Tom Wolfe summed it up perfectly in the Alfred A. Knoph edition Introduction, “Picking up a Cain novel was like climbing into a car with one of those Superstockers who is up to forty by the time your right leg is in the door.”
The Postman Always Rings Twice is not your typical murder mystery, because you, the reader, are in on the plot to kill Nick. And there is more suspense after the murder than before the crime is committed. The police suspect the truth and cleverly scheme to get Frank and Cora to turn on each other. Their efforts result in torturous psychological consequences: suspicion, wariness, irritable moods that lead to heavy drinking, arguments and recrimination… all leading up to an Alfred Hitchcock style surprise ending.
Written in 1934, The Postman Always Rings Twice was twice filmed. In 1946 the movie starred Lana Turner and John Garfield. The later 1981 version starred Jessica Lang and Jack Nicholson. And the novel still holds the coveted position as number 98 of Modern Library’s top 100 best American novels of all time. Pure entertainment, a quick and easy read.
Rated 4 Stars
All contents © 2012 Lois Weisberg. All rights reserved.