Cain, James M.
DAVID W. MADDEN
Cinema and Film
American Literature, Twentieth Century and Contemporary Literature
adventure fiction, city
Remembered for his early novels and tough-guy style, James M. Cain was a prolific author whose career spanned 58 years as a journalist, playwright, screenwriter, short story writer, and novelist. Although he suffered from obscurity in his last 25 years, Cain's novels and the film adaptations of his works have continually fascinated audiences and spawned imitators. Key elements of this popularity are his swift-paced plotting, “hard-boiled” dialogue, and commonplace characters whose worlds change radically when confronted with the possibility of the fulfillment of their dreams. Born July 1, 1892 in Annapolis, Maryland, Cain was the first of five children of James and Rose Cain. After graduating from college, he eventually settled on journalism and published some short stories in magazines. The Postman Always Rings Twice ( 1934 ) became a popular and critical success and illustrates some of the fictional practices central to his works. The outstanding feature is his “tough-guy” style, which relies upon a subjective realism of a lower-class world presented in the idiom of those at the bottom. Middle-class ethics and traditional morality are luxuries for Cain's characters; they represent individuals following overwhelming impulses, struggling in a world that frustrates the free expression of those drives. A friend coined the term “love-rack” to describe these figures, and here Cain ... log in or subscribe to read full text
You are not currently logged-in to Blackwell Reference Online
If your institution has a subscription, you can log in here: