The Postman Always Rings Twice: 07/12/09
The Postman Always Rings Twice is one of a short list of novels my grandmother always described to me as "one of those books" meaning it was infamous, that she had read it and that she was under no circumstances going to describe its contents to me.
Here I am now in my mid 30s and when I saw the book on the library shelf (while looking for something else) I hesitated before grabbing it. Isn't that ridiculous?
The Postman Always Rings Twice is short, around a 100 pages, and no time in the book is wasted. It has all the classic elements of noir but it's so fast paced and well told that I didn't even notice the conventions of the genre.
Frank Chambers, the first person protagonist, gets tossed out the back of truck coming up from Tijuana on a rural road some twenty miles east of Los Angeles (around Pomona or Ontario). He sees the Twin Oaks Tavern and sees if he can con himself a free meal. He ends up with more in the form a beautiful lover, Cora, the wife of the proprietor.
If you're like me an more familiar with Double Indemnity you'll see a lot of the same insurance scam themes (although the scam was not the reason behind the murder of Nick Papadakis). The methods of scamming the insurance companies discussed by the prosecutors are actually tried in Double Indemnity (first published as a short story in 1936 and later as a novel in 1943).
The book is full of sex, cold hearted violence, corruption, racism and completely unlikable people. The only nice person in the entire novel is Nick Papadakis. That being said, I loved the book (as I know my blushing grandmother did too). If you haven't read this classic, go to your library and check it out!
books | fiction | James M Cain | 1934
I really don't want to give away too much. It's basically a grifter who ends up in a dangerous relationship with the wife of his employer. There's sex and violence, though not much in the way of swearing.