Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (May 14, 1989)
  • ISBN-10: 0679723250
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679723257
  • List Price: $10.95
  • I finished this book on Feb. 18
  • This book is number 98 on the list.
I wanted to read this one anyway, and finding it on the list was really just an added bonus. I've seen both the John Garfield/Lana Turner version of the movie and the JackNicholson/Jessica Lange one as well. As for those, I like the older one better, though the new one was sexier and had a better poster. Anywho, having seen those films I was surprised at how short the book was.
This one is called one of the original thrillers, and it does not disappoint. A young man takes a job at a restaurant run by an older man and his femme fatale wife. They begin a torrid/borderline violent affair and decide to kill him. It doesn't work. So they decide anything worth doing is worth doing twice and give it another go. This time they succeed. Then they go to court. And get away with it...for a while.
The story is narrated by the young man, in his sort of poor English tramp speak. There is added bonus 1940's slang (stinko = drunk) and good use of the phrase 'hell-cat'. The story really has an in depth plot and it flows along surprisingly fast. I was impressed with the naughty bits, they were not all that graphic but they were very racy for their time. I was pleasantly surprised on that count.
I also really like the title, and was disappointed not to have an explanation of it in this story (the Lana Turner movie has an explanation, while the Jessica Lange one does not). I suppose I sort of assumed it would be there and it wasn't. Then, in doing research, I read conflicting opinions on what it meant. I'd like to give my take on it, because, well, it's my blog. The title refers to the idea that if you are expecting a letter or package, even if you miss it the first time it comes, the postman will always comes around a second time. Eventually, you will get it. The same is true of fate, even if you manage to dodge it once it will come back around and get you in the end. That is what this story is about, and what makes the ending so perfect and kind of oddly sad at the same time.
My final thought on this one is that it should have been higher on the list, if for nothing else, the appeal it has. It's racy, it's a crime story. It is fun, some of the others on the list...not so much. That's all I have to say about that.

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