Mysterious Book Report The Postman Always Rings TwiceThe Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain

Black Lizard Vintage Crime, $13.00, 116 pages, ISBN 978-0-679-72325-7

For this week’s review, I reached into the rear seat of Mister Peabody’s way-back machine, and pulled out a 1934 noir crime classic that was “banned in Boston for it’s explosive violence and eroticism.”  Written by an elder statesman of the genre, James M. Cain and  made into one of my most favorite noir movies in 1946, starring John Garfield and Lana Turner, and is of course, The Postman Always Rings Twice.

It’s a twisted love triangle between a beautiful young woman who’s married to a middle-aged man and a handsome, young, no-good drifter.  The brief, but intense romance between the younger pair results in the murder of the husband; the rest of the novel deals with the aftermath:  the capture, trial and the execution of one of the lovers.  The prose is tight, and the dialogue is sparse, proving to me at least, that great things come in small packages.  The Gettysburg Address for example, has only a few hundred words, yet it’s still burned into our national consciousness 150 years later, while the “orator” . . . who droned on for hours as President Lincoln sat in a chair nearby, hands on his knees, patiently waiting . . . is forgotten by all but a few historians.  The Postman Always Rings Twice has influenced generations of writers including French author Albert Camus, whose novel The Stranger is a staple of college literature classes worldwide.  In the consumer-driven frenzy our modern lives have become, where we’re all constantly and subtlety urged to buy the newest and latest “must-have” something or other, I think it’s a great idea to take a step back and look at some earlier thinkers and doers, make comparisons, and reflect, about ourselves and our society.  We’ll do that from time-to-time, right here in the Mysterious Book Report.  Stay tuned.


John Dwaine McKenna