We return now to noir. That genre of writing also referred to as “hardboiled,” “tabloid murder” and “lose/lose fiction.”
James Cain is considered by many to be the writer who most influenced these noir works in the U.S. along with Raymond Chandler (“The Big Sleep”) and Dashiell Hammett (“The Maltese Falcon”).
His seminal works include “Double Indemnity” and “The Postman Always Rings Twice.” These are considered classic writings not only in the noir field, but in fiction overall.
“The Cocktail Waitress” is the final published with the Cain signature. It is a work published in 2012, well after his death in 1985. The work reflects several manuscripts Cain had written, but he had never completed a final version.
Charles Ardai, editor of Hard Case Crime, spent nine years searching for the manuscripts and edited them to make a complete story.
Cain lived in Hyattsville, Md., at the time the manuscripts were written, a time when he suffered physical illnesses.
Joan is the waitress wrongly under suspicion for the death of not one, but two husbands. Her work in a bar brings her in contact with men who wish to save her, and one who tries right up to his death in a setting typical of the noir Cain.
Cain again brings us a character in Joan who lives in peril, knows it and goes on anyway - perhaps unable to do otherwise.
Most reviewers have said this work does not reach the quality level of previous works. Perhaps, but you will race to the end and be fulfilled.
Noir is fiction that goes to the underbelly of life. Cain was one of the best at bringing that underbelly home - you know his characters, you know the situations. The reader is most thankful she is not in that mix in real life (or are we?), but like the auto accident, you must look.
“I make no conscious effort to be tough, or hard-boiled, or grim, or any of the things I am usually called. I merely try to write as the character would write, and I never forget that the average man, from the fields, the streets, the bars, the offices and even the gutters of his country, has acquired a vividness of speech that goes beyond anything I could invent, and that if I stick to this heritage, this logos of the American countryside, I shall attain a maximum of effectiveness with very little effort.” - James M. Cain
Gary Thorne is the play-by-play voice of the Orioles on MASN, and the 2018 season is his 12th with the club and 33nd covering Major League Baseball. His blog will appear regularly throughout the season. The Orioles and Sarasota County, for the 7th consecutive year, have partnered on the Big League Reader Program, which rewarded kids who read three books in February with tickets to a Grapefruit League game at Ed Smith Stadium in March. 180 children participated last year.
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