Monday, 3 September 2012

The Postman Always rings twice by James M. Cain

After reading Double Indemnity earlier this year, I wanted to read The Postman Always rings twice by James M. Cain published in 1934 considered a Noir Classic. I always wondered what Noir meant. Wikipedia tells me that Noir is the story where the preparator of the crime narrates the story.

The story is narrated by Frank Chambers, a drifter, somebody without any goal or destination. He meets Cora in a run down roadside joint in California. There is instant attraction between them. There are not many descriptions. Frank comes straight to the point without playing with words. He calls her a hellcat. She wants to be free of her Greek husband whom she married because she had no choice. Now she wants to kill him as she has a new choice. They don't mull over to think what is right or wrong. They have no moral rudder. No emotions are involved in their decision, they are quite matter of fact in their approach. They decide to kill Cora's husband Papadakis. They come with an idea and execute their plan. Will Cora and Frank be successful in their attempt?

She wants to stay, he wants to run and the story flows from their character. A real big cat also makes an appearance. The trick the lawyer plays is ingenious. At 116 pages it is an explosive fast read which I read in a couple of hours. The plot of double Idemnity is narrated in a paragraph about insurance in this story.

I am always interested in the why. Why someone did a crime? That's why I like Ruth Rendell's book, they are called the 'whydunits'. When the preprator narrates the story, you would know why, wouldn't you? Or would you? Oh! And it is all so real. Is this how real people go about commiting crime, thoughtless and bumbling!

I read somewhere that The Postman Always Rings Twice inspired Albert Camus to write The Stranger. I didn't know about it until I finished the book, I didn't see the similarities between Mersault and Frank Chambers while reading. Now I do see. They are so matter of fact without any emotions- Existential is the word, isn't it?

I haven't seen the movie, would love to watch it. My post for Crime Fiction Alphabet P.


Anonymous said...

I'm not a huge Cain fan though this and DOUBLE INDEMNITY remain quite powerful in their short, sharp ways. I was very amused when finally picking up MILDRED PIERCE to realise that the murder mystery plot found in the movie was their own inventiona nd is not in the book at all!

srivalli said...

These are the only books I read by Cain and I loved them both. I haven't read or seen Mildred Pierce but would love to. It is interesting to know that the murder mystery plot is not in the book. Thanks for stopping by!

Anonymous said...

Now this is an interesting and powerful choice for P. It's a classic story I think and I agree that it moves very quickly. Some of the more compelling novels I've read have been the short ones. Thanks for the reminder of that.

Peggy Ann said...


Scott said...

I remember watching this movie a long time ago. But never read the book.

TracyK said...

For some reason, have not read anything by this author. Maybe it seemed too noir for me. But I should remedy that. At 116 pages, I should take the plunge with this book.