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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fast Paced
With 'Mildred Pierce' being currently shown on tv, with the delectable Kate Winslet, hopefully an interest in Cain's novels will take off again. Apart from the novel already mentioned, of course he penned the great tales The Postman Always Rings Twice and, Double Indemnity (Crime Masterworks), along with other great stories, but the rest never received the popularity of...
Published on 20 July 2011 by M. Dowden

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Didn't work for me
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...
Published 5 months ago by Bridgey


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fast Paced, 20 July 2011
By 
M. Dowden (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Serenade (Paperback)
With 'Mildred Pierce' being currently shown on tv, with the delectable Kate Winslet, hopefully an interest in Cain's novels will take off again. Apart from the novel already mentioned, of course he penned the great tales The Postman Always Rings Twice and, Double Indemnity (Crime Masterworks), along with other great stories, but the rest never received the popularity of these three.

This was Cain's third published book, and his second novel (the first book he had published was non-fiction). To perhaps understand this novel better it helps if you know that Cain's mother was herself an opera singer, which obviously gave him an appreciation of good music, and the opera. Indeed in some ways this novel can be seen as operatic in itself.

John Sharp, once a great baritone has gradually lost his singing voice and is washed up in Mexico City. Fallling for the simple Mexican/Indian girl Juana he finds that ultimately being with her not only brings back his voice, but his singing is arguably better than ever before. Running off together, they enter the States, albeit Juana does illegally. From becoming a film star, and then appearing at the Met, John looks as if he has hit the big time. With problems with his Hollywood contract, an old acquaintance, Winston, says he can sort it all out. But has Winston being pulling the strings on John's career?, and what is there past relationship? With Winston reporting Juana to Immigration she does the only thing she knows - fight. With John and her leaving the US, will they be able to build a new life somewhere else?

Ultimately there are perhaps a few too many coincidences, and Sharp seems to be able to do almost anything, but Cain's narrative pace pulls this together and keeps you enthralled throughout. Taking in murder, gay relationships, Hollywood and stardom, this novel has a lot going for it, and any faults it has are easily overlooked. If you like something about power and love, then this could be just what you are looking for.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Didn't work for me, 16 Oct. 2014
This review is from: Serenade (Paperback)
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.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting novel, 8 July 2013
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This review is from: Serenade (CRIME MASTERWORKS) (Kindle Edition)
I bought this novel because I had recently seen the 1950's film version. Of course because of the censorship problem then prevalent, they could only use the bare outline of the book.
I found the novel to be a good.and exciting read,and it made me wish that a truer version could be made in these more enlightened Times.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Is there a way back from rock bottom?, 12 Aug. 2007
By 
Mr. S. Miller "Page Turner" (Glasgow, UK) - See all my reviews
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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.

With "Serenade", however, it as much Cain's childhood which has been mined as his subsequent professional writing career. He almost followed his mother into a professional singing career and it is to that role his protagonist, baritone John Howard Sharp, has taken so successfully. Sharp has discovered, however, the truth in the old saw that you are only as good as your last review and his dramatic fall from grace has taken him to Mexico for an unenviable professional engagement from which, by the time the novel opens, he has parted company on a downward spiral. Cain wastes no time in revealing the misfortunes which can beset a penniless American in Mexico.

After teaming up with the alluring whore, Juana Montes, Sharp begins the faltering steps to his redemption and it is with that journey that the book is concerned.

No-one moves a story along quite like Cain and "Serenade" does not disappoint. It is truly memorable and stylistic. You can't help feeling that Cormac McCarthy must have been influenced by the desert sequences so clearly do they foreshadow the works of that great novelist.

I've mentioned before (reviewing "The Postman Always Rings Twice") that Cain's treatment of minorities has been well overtaken by contemporary mores. Be aware that that is clear here from the first page as Mexicans and Native Americans are crudely stereotyped in equal measure. But instead of censoring these passages they should be read to demonstrate the progress which society has made in just a few generations.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good crime noir but not really Chandler, 4 Sept. 2011
By 
JuliaC "Julia Coulton" (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Serenade (Paperback)
Written in 1937, and very much in the style of Raymond Chandler American crime noir, James M. Cain's `Serenade' has just been reissued. Some of Cain's work has been turned into successful Hollywood films such as `The Postman Always Rings Twice', and `Double Indemnity', as well as the slightly disappointing recent Sky Atlantic Kate Winslet showcase `Mildred Pierce'.

Cain was an interesting character, who combined his work as both an author and a journalist with his love of music, which he inherited from his opera singing mother. In `Serenade' he makes the central character, John Sharpe, and equally interesting and complex man, with the same love of opera that he himself possessed. Sharp finds himself in tightened straits in Mexico, who falls in love with a prostitute and runs away with her in search of something better.

The writing is taut and full of tension; giving that familiar dark pervasion that epitomises this genre. But there are a few curve balls thrown in there too, some of them rather shocking. At the start of their adventure, Sharp and Juana find themselves in a church sheltering from a tempestuous storm. He makes his move on her as she is crouching in prayer at the altar, and afterwards tells the reader that `Yes, it was rape, but only technical brother, only technical'. Not exactly an attitude to endear Cain to his modern readers perhaps.

The two eventually set up home together in New York, and Sharp becomes a celebrated star both there and in Hollywood, but all their hopes of happy ever after are dashed, as the story reaches a climax from out of left field. The writing is good, the atmosphere created is perfect, but the story line feels a little too forced and over dramatic to put it up there in the same category as Chandler.
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