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Serenade by James M. Cain
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Serenade (1937)

by James M. Cain

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» See also 18 mentions

Showing 5 of 5
I enjoyed this book but I liked Mildred Pierce and Double Indemnity better. Cain's knowledge and feeling for the musical world is clearly evident in this story of a famous opera singer, a young conductor and a Mexican-Indian prostitute. His mother was a singer and his first ambition was to become an opera singer but later settled for writing. This book is a great love story of John Howard Sharp, an American opera singer, falling in love with Juana, a Mexican prostitute. It is not a mystery nor is it suspenseful but it is an interesting story deserving to be read.The story started out slow but halfway through it gets really good and is hard to put down. I look forward to reading The Postman Always Rings Twice and hope to find a few more of his books. I would highly recommend this book to those who like classic, noir stories. ( )
  EadieB | Feb 3, 2018 |
My third book by Cain (Double Indemnity & The Postman Always Rings Twice being the others) and after reading and absolutely loving the others I was really looking forward to getting stuck into this novel.

We follow the tale of John Howard Sharp, an out of work but world class opera singer, he finds himself down to his last few pesos in Mexico when his life becomes entwined with a beautiful local prostitute. Together they carve their way back into the USA where Sharp once again establishes himself as a force within the industry. This all goes well until the man responsible for launching Sharp, the young conductor Winston Hawes, comes back into his life with disastrous consequences.

For it's time I would imagine the novel caused quite a stir and not a lot is held back. Gay relationships and prostitution appear in abundance, and Caine is definitely not someone who constrained by the attitudes of the time.

But, and here is the books downfall for me, I just didn't enjoy it. The other books I have read have always sped along at a really fast pace, and I admired him as an author that wasted no words. However this book for me was the exact opposite. Pages and pages were dedicated to prattling on about various forms of music and the arts. It was almost as if the author was just attempting to put all of his knowledge of Puccinni etc into this book. I have read that Cain's mother was an opera singer so this is obviously where this all stems from. I just couldn't get into the actual storyline itself, which when it did manage to deviate from the theme of 'Art' was actually quite good.

If this had been the first book I had picked by Cain then I am sure it would have been my last, and that really would have been a great shame. Looking at others reviews I can see that I am in the minority, but I can only give my own honest opinion and that is to try something else of his first. ( )
  Bridgey | Oct 16, 2014 |
I am sure I do not know what is great writing but this is nevertheless a relentless , enthralling read

Slight spoiler but the phrase from another author that springs to mind is

" I have no mouth, yet I must scream"

I think you will understand if you read the book.

Will have to read some more Cain, based on this and "The postman always rings twice"

Big ship

18 September 2014 ( )
  bigship | Sep 24, 2014 |
I don't think there's ever been a man so moony that a little bit of chill didn't come over him as soon as a woman said yes, and plenty of things were going through my head when she took my arm and we headed for the door of that cafe.

Serenade is the tale of a world-class opera baritone, a first-rate conductor and "a three peso whore" from Mexico City. It is a pulp story, but before you get the wrong idea, let me tell you, there are no gangsters, no thugs and no racket. Just a man who has it all, and loses it, gets it back and then sees it all go to hell again. Cain's story is melancholy and sweet and it will remain in your head long after the last word is sung.

For other books like this, I recommend Shoot the Piano Player by David Goodis. ( )
1 vote VictoriaPL | Jan 4, 2010 |
I became a fan of James M. Cain after reading Mildred Pierce, Double Indemnity, and the Postman Always Rings Twice, which were made into absolutely incredible movies. Double Indemnity, in particular is noir at its best.

While reading Serenade, I couldn't help but think of how this book also, would have made a good movie as well, shortly after its 1937 publication. It is the story of what happens when Juana, the Mexican prostitute meets John Sharp, a singer who may or may not be hiding a big secret. In the typical fashion of this genre, you know when these two meet, the outcome will not be a good one, yet the story is a riveting one.

There is a reason why this author is considered one of the masters of the hardboiled genre. ( )
  jonesli | Jan 4, 2010 |
Showing 5 of 5
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
James M. Cainprimary authorall editionscalculated
Avati, JamesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I was in Tupinamba, having a bizcocho and coffee, when this girl came in.
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John Howard Sharp is an American opera singer down on his luck, having just bombed in Rigoletto in Mexico City when he first encounters the beautiful Mexican-Indian prostitute called Juana. Miraculously, she offers him the chance to rebuild his career in Hollywood and New York but then Winston Hawes, the young, rich and well-connected conductor who had first launched Sharp, comes back into his life with terrible consequences.… (more)

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