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The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934)

by James M. Cain

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3,1881193,581 (3.73)289
An amoral young tramp. A beautiful, sullen woman with an inconvenient husband. A problem that has only one, grisly solution -- a solution that only creates other problems that no one can ever solve. First published in 1934 and banned in Boston for its explosive mixture of violence and eroticism, The Postman Always Rings Twice is a classic of the roman noir. It established James M. Cain as a major novelist with an unsparing vision of America's bleak underside, and was acknowledged by Albert Camus as the model for The Stranger. Performed by Stanley Tucci… (more)
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» See also 289 mentions

English (105)  Spanish (4)  Dutch (2)  Italian (2)  Catalan (2)  French (1)  Lithuanian (1)  All languages (117)
Showing 1-5 of 105 (next | show all)
A thriller, all right. It kept me guessing right up to the ending. A drifter happens along a Roadhouse in California, where a beautiful woman and her husband run it. Nick convinces Frank the drifter to help out pumping gas. Right away Frank and Cora get the hots for each other and start plotting how they can be together. The only trouble is, a lie left unconfessed will give you a nervous breakdown, or worse. ( )
  burritapal | Oct 23, 2022 |
I'll admit it: a collector and a completist by nature, I read this one because it made the Modern Library's list of the one hundred best English-language novels of the twentieth century. I'm not much for crime stories or noirs, but I was pleasantly surprised by this one. One hundred years after it was written, it's short, tightly written, and, in its way, sort of shocking.

Most of the shock here comes from the sex. Sex scenes are notoriously difficult to write: they trip up some of the best authors. But the encounters between Frank and Cora -- especially the ones that happen early on -- are unbelievably intense, almost jarring. Cain is also subtle enough to depict Cora as an undeniably attractive woman without forgetting to give her a personality and a past. His frankness -- a willingness to show his characters' ugly sides -- extends to other aspects of his characters, too. Cora, a transplant product of the American Midwest -- is an unapologetic racist. Frank, on the other hand, often reads as charming, but has more than his share of personality flaws. A sometime hobo, he's a hedonist and the less respectable kind of free spirit. It's not just that he's a lecher, we also see him consistently resist opportunities to build something permanent, to, in other words, make something of himself. But this is California in the thirties: I'd hazard that Frank's character is meant to stand in the wild parts of the state still untouched by Anglo influence, most of which were about to be buried by an avalanche of development and internal migration. This book's about a lot more than three people in a love triangle who make a lot of disastrous choices.

I found that the problem with "The Postman Always Rings Twice" oddly enough, is that it's almost too good a noir. Or maybe that it has spawned too many imitators. Reading this one is like reading Poe: the prose still shines, but the plots have been redone so many times in so many mediums that it's difficult to be surprised by anything in the plot. I can't be sure, but it feels like this one served as a foundation for much of both film noir and the thriller genre in general. Which doesn't mean that it's prose is any less direct or efficient -- it is certainly both -- but it does mean that many readers are likely to sense the story's pulses well before they've finished reading, and perhaps even predict it's twists. There aren't many noirs or thrillers out there as good as "The Postman Always Rings Twice", but there are a lot of noirs and thrillers out there, and so whatever the novelty the book might have once held for its reader is mostly gone. Even so, even as we come up on its centennial, it's still easy to admire this book's uncompromising honesty and its almost punishing directness. Recommended, even if you're not much of a fan of the genres it helped spawn. ( )
1 vote TheAmpersand | Sep 3, 2022 |
Gritty bit of film noir style murder mystery. Has the appropriate twist ending. Always interesting to witness the birth of a genre, and Cain is one of the fathers. Fast and fun. ( )
  mattorsara | Aug 11, 2022 |
For the most part, this novella still reads as surprisingly modern. It is the type of book that moves along quickly, and can certainly be read in a short period of time. No doubt this is due at least in part to the simple and concise writing style, as well as minimum amount of characters which avoids unnecessary complexity.

A gritty novel, one which I greatly appreciate. Particularly the ending, which avoids the mundane boy and girl have a happily live after scenario. ( )
  la2bkk | Jul 19, 2022 |
113/32. ( )
  Will_Trent | Jul 10, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 105 (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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This is the main work for the original book. It should not be combined with any adaptation (e.g., film adaptation), abridgement, etc.
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An amoral young tramp. A beautiful, sullen woman with an inconvenient husband. A problem that has only one, grisly solution -- a solution that only creates other problems that no one can ever solve. First published in 1934 and banned in Boston for its explosive mixture of violence and eroticism, The Postman Always Rings Twice is a classic of the roman noir. It established James M. Cain as a major novelist with an unsparing vision of America's bleak underside, and was acknowledged by Albert Camus as the model for The Stranger. Performed by Stanley Tucci

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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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