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on 20 June 2001
This book, James M. Cain's debut novel, is arguable the finest of its genre and certainly of its period. Whereas previous first person narrative crime novels were seen from the eyes of the law, "The Postman Always Rings Twice" describes the crimes committed from the perpetrator's point of view. The novella moves along at a fast speed and can be read in one sitting. I was gripped by the narrative from the classic opening, through the tumultuous plot right up until the magnificent twist ending. The characters are as realistic and believable as their actions and it becomes easier for the reader to relate to them as the tale progresses. Highly recommended to fans of great crime literature. If only all debuts were this good!
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on 1 May 2002
This book is brilliant. It's a work of genius. And it is also an unputdownable read of stark simplicity. Cain achieves his breathtaking prose by avoiding adjectives, adverbs, dialogue tags and beats, parenthetical clauses, semicolons and anything that might slow the intravenous injection of the plot. This thing is only 115 pages, but you'll want to keep it forever and read it again and again. Wow! What a book! (Double Indemnity is also good, but not as good as this.)
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on 1 March 2007
I bought this book, opened it to have a look at the first few pages and was still reading two hours later. Cain immerses you in the plot and builds up tension with minimal use of words and detail. A brilliant thriller by a master of writing. I can't remember the last time a book absorbed me this much.
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on 16 August 2005
This book was first published nearly seventy years ago and makes most modern crime thrillers look like nursery stories. It is adult storytelling at its very best -- needing some maturity and experience to be able to empathise with the plight of the characters. Although little more than a novella, it has the power and effect of a 'big' story. It grips from the first word and refuses to let go, compelling each page to be turned.
The dialogue is brilliantly accurate-- every bit the equal of a modern master like Elmore Leonard -- so snappy that you can hear the characters talking to each other. The story is superbly crafted and so realistically conceived in timing, characterisation and description that the tension that it evokes is the sort that makes you forget where you are and what's going on around you. The ending is chilling.
This is a superb piece of writing. More than simply a classic of its kind, it is a classic of twentieth century literature.
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on 12 August 2007
I have come late to the world of James M Cain, having found him amongst the interviewees in "The Paris Review Interviews, volume 1" itself one of the must-reads of 2007. I'm sure I was not alone in knowing him only by virtue of those novels which have been successfully transposed onto the big screen.

Even allowing for the fact that his style has been much imitated since, his texts still leave the reader reeling from the casual and callous brutality which inhabits the social sub-stratum in which his characters move. Like his contemporary Runyon, with whom he shares a similar style, Cain began life as a journalist and that discipline must be credited for honing his prose as well as serving up the seeds of some of his best stories.

There's even less about postmen in this novel than there is about cuckoos in Ken Kesey's masterwork, Cain instead taking the staple of the love triangle and overlaying a morally empty tragedy of his own making. His crisp, unsparing dialogue moves the story - at 116 pages really a novella - at a fast pace and brings the reader uncomfortably close to the anxieties which spring from his protagonists' criminal escapades.

The age of the story is only betrayed in Cain's attitude towards women and racial minority groups and that aspect of this work only serves to illustrate the speed of progress on that front in the twentieth century.
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on 22 March 2014
Two famous Hollywood films were made with this title, in 1946 with Ava Gardner as Cora and another in 1981 with Jack Nicholson as Frank, neither of which this reader has seen. After this literary debut in 1934 at the age of 42, James M. Cain produced some 20 less successful books while working on numerous Hollywood screenplays. This book, once banned in Boston for its mix of sex and violence, is today considered an American noir classic and his best. The meaning of the book’s title remains a mystery and adds to its aura of brilliance.
The novel is about penniless drifter Frank (24) meeting cook and waitress Cora (20?) in a roadside diner/gas station owned by her despised Greek husband Nick. They fall for each other instantly and soon decide to kill Nick. Much of author Cain’s brilliance is to write, from start to finish, purely from the perspective of his impulsive, somewhat dim-witted but passionate character Frank, and to gradually expose his past and character, strengths and weaknesses in his own words to us, readers to mull over and judge…
This Cain technique gave readers the chance to judge Frank’s choices for themselves by what at every twist and turn of the tale. Cain always refused to be categorized: hard-boiled crime stories were about catching criminals. His book explored the mind of one (or two) of them. In the 1930s, this was a novelty.
Full of deliberate grammar errors and quasi-clumsy writing, this book is authentic because of the powerful prose and wild passion and poorly defined hopes it exudes. It is written in a raw, fast and furious manner James M. Cain never managed to replicate. Great stylistic writing experiment. Captivating reading.
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on 28 May 2014
This is the second book I have read by the author, the other being Double Indemnity. unlike many other reviewers I have not seen the film and therefore began reading without any preconceived ideas of what to expect.

The novella began exactly as I expected. The sentences short, sharp and direct. This is an author who does not believe in padding out his works. You get the impression that not a single word is wasted. the only other author I have read like this has to be Cormac Macarthy. We follow a drifter (Frank Chambers) who becomes employed at a garage, soon he builds a relationship with Greek owners wife (Cora) and they become lovers. However the relationship with the Greek soon starts to come between them. What follows is a lot of planning, circumstance and suspense by the bucket load.

As with Double Indemnity I found the timescales involved a little unrealistic but this doesn't take anything away from the force of the storyline, and considering the age of the book it still appears extremely fresh. One or two other reviewers have criticised the ending, but I thought I knew what was going to happen but was totally wrong. An amazing read that will stay with me for a long long time. Cain manages to pack more into the 120ish pages that most authors could manage in a 1000 page tome. Can't wait to find some more of his works.
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VINE VOICEon 18 September 2010
Hard bolied crime novel set in Depression California. Frank Chambers drifts into Cora Papadakis' life via her 'greasy' husband's roadside grill. There follows an outbreak of animal attraction, animal lust and animal cunning.

No surprise that this was on the edge of censorship as it delves into sado-masochism and murder. Years ahead of its time in style, as much as the racy content.

The Postman rings once but Frank and Cora don't answer. At the second ring Frank must pay. Two besotted people who try to reconcile dramatically different aspirations within their love and lust for each other.

This is an addictive, punchy, single-sitting read. Make sure the flight is long enough or they wont get you off the plane.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 1 February 2014
I actually think I prefer the film(s). I love film noir, and I think the filmmakers took the best parts of this story and made more of it than its original.

It's not at all bad though. A drifter lists after a roadside café owner's wife, taking a job there to be close to her. They start the affair we see coming, and decide that they want to get her husband out of the way. Can they commit the perfect murder? Can their 'love' survive intrigue? Double cross? Detection?

Frank, our drifter, is pretty honest about himself - he knows he's not made to settle down, doesn't try to keep away from another man's wife. Cora is written to be the more scheming character, the cheating wife who might be using her new lover. I felt pity for her husband Nick ('the Greek'), who may not be a romantic hero but is just a regular, decent guy. Our lovers find him inconvenient though and the 100-page books ages to fit in murder attempts, court scenes, holidays, deaths and even a puma.

The dialogue feels a bit stilted and stereotyped occasionally (which also plays better on screen), and I felt some confusion with the lawyer-talk, but it's nice and dark, funny and very much of its period.
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on 25 January 2014

This book is a riveting classic of duplicity, love found, lost, and then found again, even eighty years after its first publication date. It has moments of gut wrenching suspense interspersed with examples of heartless cruelty, and innocent, young, sweet love. The writing is taut, sufficiently descriptive and perhaps most surprisingly, the story is still relevant today.

The best laid plans of mice and men can be lain flat by the simplest of things and early in the book, a cat of all things spoils the party for our two duplicitous love birds.

i find it hard to believe that two people who can be so cruel and heartless can ever amount to anything and if fate or karma has a say in the way things turn out for any of us in this world, then young Cora and the tramp Frank Chambers don't gave much to look forward to. And they won't get any sympathy from me.

This book is a classic of the genre. Those with any interest in crime, suspense, noir, or even the odd love story should get something from reading this delightful work of literature. Full marks for this one.

BFN Greggorio!
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