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The Postman Always Rings Twice (original 1934; edition 2005)

by James M. Cain

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2,147833,035 (3.72)211
Member:OperaMan_22
Title:The Postman Always Rings Twice
Authors:James M. Cain (Author)
Info:Orion (2005), Edition: New Ed, Paperback, 128 pages
Collections:Owned, Books Read (since 2005), To give away, on loan to A.R.
Rating:****
Tags:crime, fiction

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The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain (1934)

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English (76)  Dutch (2)  Spanish (2)  French (1)  Italian (1)  Lithuanian (1)  All languages (83)
Showing 1-5 of 76 (next | show all)
The Postman Always Rings Twice is a decent crime novel but one which, in my opinion, didn't have enough about it to justify the high acclaim in which it is held. Don't get me wrong, it is a tidy little book that was very quick and easy to read, but the plot didn't take me anywhere I didn't expect to go. The main characters were good – the final lines of the book are peachy – but the fact the book moves so fast means their motivations often seem a bit undercooked. (Meet someone; almost immediately agree to conspire to kill husband with them. Meet someone else; ask their name then go on road trip to Mexico with them.) And there's all that stuff with the puma lady towards the end that I still don't really understand.

I guess, perhaps, it was the very fact the book is held in such high esteem that meant I felt a bit disillusioned when it turned out to be just a decent short crime novel. I sort of understood where reviewers were coming from with the Hemingway and Steinbeck comparisons (at least in terms of the structure of the prose), but I feel Elmore Leonard to be a more accurate target of comparison. I'm not a book snob by any means but you don't have to make something out to be a masterpiece of American literature when it's perfectly OK to just be a decent crime story. Overall, my impressions of The Postman Always Rings Twice are that it deserves respect as an originator of the hardboiled crime genre, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't just a little bit underwhelmed. ( )
  MikeFutcher | Jun 3, 2016 |
Despite the fact the characters in this thriller are not at all appealing, I really enjoyed this! Cain pulls you in and the book is a fast & compelling read.

Of course, having seen the classic film with Lana Turner & John Garfield, I knew the basic plot. I think that the book is even better than the film so I might end up increasing my rating... ( )
  leslie.98 | May 16, 2016 |
I was under the mistaken impression for an embarrassingly long period of time--based on the title alone--that between the cover lay a schlocky romance about an adulteress and her mail deliverer. It is neither schlocky nor romantic and there was nary a postman is in sight, much to my relief.

What it is is the tale of an abusive relationship between a tornadic tramp and a listless married innkeeper who is swept up in his path of inevitable destruction. The moral of the story, if I now understand the title correctly, is that there's only so long you can dodge your fate; eventually the mail gets delivered. ( )
  reganrule | Feb 22, 2016 |
A dangerous young drifter named Frank Chambers stops for a bite to eat at a California roadside lunchroom owned by an affable but naive Greek named Nick Papadakis and his much younger, beautiful wife Cora. Frank accepts a job offer from Nick and almost immediately begins an affair with Cora, who confides to Frank that Nick disgusts her and she feels trapped in her marriage. She suggests that the only way out is to kill Nick, and Frank, who really doesn't have anything personal against his new boss, decides to go along with it.

After a false start, Frank and Cora finally manage to carry out their crime, although not without a significant amount of bodily sacrifice. Of course they tell the police that Nick's death was an accident, but the District Attorney is suspicious of the circumstances -- particularly when it is discovered that Nick had a considerable insurance policy on his life. From this point on, Cain uses the principle of poetic justice to ensure that Frank and Cora pay for their crime through their arrogance and foolishness.

Frank, Cora, and Nick make an interesting love triangle. Situations in their lives seem to have brought them together partially because of their relative stupidity -- for a guy who's spent his life on the road, Frank shows he even lacks street smarts when he gets suckered by an obvious pool shark; indeed, a story like this relies on fundamentally stupid characters. Nick, of course, never suspects his wife is having an affair; he's just a simple immigrant who's proud and grateful to be living the American dream of owning his own business. The smartest character turns out to be Cora's lawyer, Katz, who probably guesses the truth about Nick's "accident" right away but knows he'll make out like a bandit no matter what happens to his client.

The characterization, mood, and style of this novel reveal the source of noir fiction: When the corruption and violence of the '20s erupted into the squalor and desperation of the Depression of the '30s, noir must have emerged naturally as the time's most representative artistic expression. Here we have characters who are so poor and hopeless that they're desperate enough to do anything and violent enough to turn to crime. ( )
  AlexisLovesBooks | Feb 9, 2016 |
A drifter named Frank Chambers is hired on at Twin Oaks Tavern by Nick Papadakis. Frank immediately falls for Nick's wife Cora and she for him, and they begin a stormy and ill-fated affair that includes plotting to kill Nick. They get caught but through the clever manueverings of the defense lawyer Katz, they are set free, only to encounter further problems such as Katz's former associate who threatens them with blackmail, Frank's affair with a cat-trainer, and Cora's pregnancy.
  Salsabrarian | Feb 2, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 76 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (20 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Cain, James M.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Berritz, SabineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dons, AageTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hoog, ElseTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Huhtala, EeroTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kovács, GyörgyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
López Cruz, FedericoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pedrolo, Manuel deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Salvatorelli, FrancoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tucci, StanleyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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To Vincent Lawrence
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They threw me off the hay truck about noon.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Description in Albatross 239 (1935): A murderer's story in his own words, this vivid 'super-shocker' with its sidelights on the underworld and its revelation of the forces which drive men and women to crime is unusually thrilling. Frank Chambers 'hobo' and tough is far from being the usual 'killer'. His meeting with and love for a woman as primitive and uneducated as himself and their attempt to get rid of the woman's husband is the beginning of a tale as dramatic and drastic as can be imagined behind which the reader is able to watch the mind of the tramp who is the narrator and to gauge the character of the woman reflected in his confessions. How they both fare at the hands of fate and the police is as neat a piece of tragic irony as one can find.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679723250, Paperback)

Penzler Pick, April 2000: It is sometimes easy to trace a literary genre to its source, and James M. Cain's first novel, The Postman Always Rings Twice, is the noir novel that paved the way for all the noir fiction that followed. The famous film starring Lana Turner and John Garfield is notoriously dark, but the novel is even more full of despair and devoid of hope. It is a short book--little more than a novella--but its searing characterization and depiction of tawdry greed and lust is branded into every reader's memory.

Frank Chambers, a drifter, is dropped from the back of a truck at a rundown rural diner. When he spots Cora, the owner's wife, he instantly decides to stay. The sexy young woman, married to Nick, a violent and thuggish boor, is equally attracted to the younger man and sees him as her way out of her hopeless, boring life. They begin a clandestine affair and plot to kill Nick, beginning their own journey toward destruction.

Horace McCoy, David Goodis, Jim Thompson, and the other notable noir writers never achieved Cain's spare brilliance. Virtually all of his major works have been filmed, though several Hollywood studios refused to make the films, directors refused to be involved, and actors turned down roles because of their repugnance at the lack of morality inherent in all Cain's characters. Reading him may not be fit for a Sunday school class, but once you begin you will be unable to resist continuing, like picking at a painful scab or watching a tarantula inside a glass dome. --Otto Penzler

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:52 -0400)

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The sultry young wife of a diner owner conspires with an aimless drifter to murder her husband.

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