Trudi's Reviews > Double Indemnity

Double Indemnity by James M. Cain
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Jan 29, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: classics, crime-mystery, heart-of-darkness, made-into-movie, love-the-movie, 2012, noir-is-the-new-black, pulpy-goodness, prose-that-sings
Read from February 06 to 07, 2012


There's a reason this is a classic and has stood the test of time, and you only have to read the first few pages to fully understand why. It all starts with a delicious chill up your spine, your eyeballs riveted to the page, your breath held, the "gotta know what happens next" monster rattling the bars of his cage. Your first thought: Strap on baby, this is gonna be g-ooood

Cain is a MASTER storyteller: his cutthroat instincts for plot and pacing unerring and enviable. His ear for dialogue is enough to make grown men cry and women purr. It's sharp, with staccato beats and primal rhythms. And he makes it all look so easy which anyone who has ever put pen to paper knows, easy it is not ... ever. Whether you believe Cain to be a genius, an idiot savant or the prince of pulp, there's no denying his enduring appeal and lasting legacy to the world of literature. And not just the written word, but film as well, since so many of his stories have been adapted into silver screen classics that resonate with awesomeness to this day.

As a movie, Double Indemnity is pure gold, yet the vein from which it is mined is richer still. Barbara Stanwyck as Phyllis is THE femme fatale, yet there is so much nuance and depth missing from her character in the film (in what is already an amazing performance). Cain's Phyllis is so much more than a sultry seductress and the cold-blooded spider hanging in her web. But I will leave the pleasure of that discovery to you.

I waited waaaaay too long to read this.
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Comments (showing 1-13 of 13) (13 new)

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Great great great great book. You've read The Postman Always Rings Twice, of course?


Trudi Shamefully no! 2012 is the year to make amends for such criminal oversights. Double Indemnity is one of my favorite films and I can't wait to finally read the novel!


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

Trudi wrote: "Shamefully no! 2012 is the year to make amends for such criminal oversights. Double Indemnity is one of my favorite films and I can't wait to finally read the novel!"

Bah! shamefully, indeed. But, you are in for more than an experience. Fantastic film though it is (and it is) it is nothing, not even the same kind of thing, as the novel. Which is true of Postman, even more. Literature, these, top shelf and bracing and amazing.

Now I worry you have not been properly versed in Highsmith, either (even worry...you may only know her work from film adaptations, fine though those may be). And if this is the case, I am afraid I will have to insist on personally choosing the order in which you are exposed to her work. First two up are (in either order, though the order I present is my preference) "Those Who Walk Away" and "Found In The Street".

Cheers--not meaning to be a bully :)


message 4: by Jacob (new)

Jacob KUBOA/Pocketful of Scoundrel wrote: "Cheers--not meaning to be a bully :) "

But personal trainers and work-out coaches are supposed to be tough, right? So it's only right and proper that a personal reading coach should be the same. Maybe I should hang around too, get some tips.


Trudi I obviously need to be bullied because there are such egregious gaps in my reading history!

Highsmith, hey? Alright, I'll bite. I would have just grabbed The Talented Mr. Ripley, but your rec is filled with such urgency, I'll start with those others first!


message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

Trudi wrote: "I obviously need to be bullied because there are such egregious gaps in my reading history!

Highsmith, hey? Alright, I'll bite. I would have just grabbed The Talented Mr. Ripley, but..."


The Ripley books are fantastic--all of them, but the first and the third, for me, are sublime. BUT, yeah there was urgency. And while the Ripley bug may bite ya, I'll just mention my thoughts for 3 and 4 would be "A Dog's Ransom" and...oh fuck, either "The Tremor of Forgery" or "The Two Faces of January". Of course "Strangers on a Train" is a definitive (actually is, not just folks say so) masterpiece--not a jot like the Hitchcock film, not putting down on the film, of course, but that would be like...Disney adapting Crime and Punishment, you know? haha) And a personal favorite of mine is "The Cry of the Owl", also twice adapted to film, very very well, first in French and then recently an English language film. "Owl", I admit, when I first read I only halfway adored, but it is a novel that has screwed itself into my head and that has appreciated over time so much. My initial "halfway" liking, I think, was due to my tunnel vision at the time, looking for a certain thing that was there, but not realizing the other stuff (which I treated as odd or ancillary) was actually even better.

Obviously I like Highsmith, haha.


Trudi KUBOA/Pocketful of Scoundrel wrote: "Obviously I like Highsmith, haha...."

LOL, I never would have guessed! Passionate pitches are always welcome!


message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

Jacob wrote: "KUBOA/Pocketful of Scoundrel wrote: "Cheers--not meaning to be a bully :) "

But personal trainers and work-out coaches are supposed to be tough, right? So it's only right and proper that a person..."


Trudi--this is a response to you and Jacob :)

You should hang around, Jacob. I've poked around your shelf a bit (you read good shit) and have a few very serious recommendations (some you may have read, forgive me if I just didn't notice them).

I'm imagining you've read "The Man Who Was Thursday" by G.K. Chesterton. If not, you must immediately cease and desist anything you are reading (even if it's by me, haha) and read Thursday. You could spend you life, frankly, just reading Chesterton (he wrote enough) and not come out the worse for it.

There is a novel by Hjilmar Soderberg called "Doctor Glas." Read it.

Of course I do assume you've read Knut Hamsun, but just in off chance you haven't...have you not read Hamsun? Jesus Christ! I will add nothing edgy to the recommendation--just start with Hunger, then Mysteries, then Pan, then Victoria. Like most, feel free to skip all the way to Growth of the Soil, then retire because there exists no finer work of art on this Earth. Seriously. But, there is an oft overlooked treasure by Hamsun called "In Wonderland" which is a personal favorite and all of his "lesser works" as they are ridiculously called are amazing (from Wayfarers to Dreamers to Rosa to Women at the Pump)

Just read Hamsun.

Read "The Tenant" by Roland Topor. (on a weird side not, there's also a great...more or less unknown novel, as far as people I've come across, called "The Tenancy" by Eva Figes just incredible.

Read "La Moustache" by Emmanuel Carrère.

Read "How Late It Was, How Late" by James Kelman (read EVERYTHING by James Kelman.)

Read "Bunker Man" and "Bucket of Tongues" by Duncan McLean.

(haha, just a few more)

Read "Wonderful, wonderful times" "Lust" and "The Piano Teacher" by Elfriede Jelinek.

Oh fuck! I forgot Margurite Duras! find and start with "destroy, she said" (one of the greatest accidental discoveries of my life) and then...anything, everything, (film and novel). Do "The Lovers" then just run form there.

And, another you may have hit, then I'll be done, read Lawrence Durrell, but start with "The Black Book" before getting into the Alexandria quartet books.

Ok. All done for now. Haha. Cheers to both of you.


Trudi Jesus wept! as if my must-read pile isn't getting ready to topple over and crush me as it is!!!

I am intrigued by such vehemence! and the tantalizing promise of such awesomeness... This is quite the list Pablo! thanks so much for the suggestions. None of these would have been on my radar otherwise!


message 10: by Jacob (last edited Feb 03, 2012 10:42PM) (new)

Jacob Egads! Another jackpot! Although you assumed too much, I'm afraid--I've read none of these authors, yet. Heard of most of them though. My taste in fiction boils down to "whatever looks interesting," so I never seem to explore any particular genre before another catches my eye. But after reading Sherlock Holmes last year, I'm eager to branch out into more mystery/crime/thrillers/etc., so your list is going to be damn helpful!

(Obviously your list includes more than thrillers, etc., but you know what I mean)

Chesterton--haven't read. Used to own "Thursday," I think, years ago, but eventually got rid of it--but the Holmes stories sparked my interest in Chesterton again, especially the Father Brown stories. I have The Club of Queer Trades, and I actually ordered another copy of "Thursday" just a few days ago--so I can't drop everything else just yet, but soon.

I have Highsmith's uncollected stories, but I'll probably try your recommendations first.

Haven't read Hamsun yet. Or Duras. Or Durrell. Used to own Kelman's "How Late," got rid of it without reading (lots of turnover the last few years, still trying to organize a perfect library, somehow Kelman didn't make the cut). I've had my eye on McLean's "Bucket of Tongues," haven't read yet.

Haven't heard of the others, but will look them up. This is going to be awesome.


Cathy DuPont Trudi: Now I recall why I follow your reviews. Loved this book but my review didn't hold up to yours...easy to admit.

I'm trying to get through the 'old masters.' Been reading current writers of the crime detective, P.I. genre i.e. Connelly, Lescroart, James Lee Burke and my favorite Robert Crais. Thought I would go back to the beginning of the genre and glad I have.

Thanks for a great review.


Trudi Cathy wrote: "I'm trying to get through the 'old masters.' Been reading current writers ..."

Thanks so much Cathy! I just started reading in the 'detective'/ PI genre myself. I'm making my way through the Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder series and loving it.


Cathy DuPont Trudi: I love Block's writing. Just read a few of his books and short stories but really enjoy his clear/clean use of English language.

Read the first in Scudder...gave it five big stars and I'm stingy with that number! They don't come easy from me.

Reading about six series now. Don't read same author twice usually. Can't say that with Crais' Elvis and Joe. Read some back to back I enjoyed them so much.

I have to pull myself away to read non-fiction, bios or anything else for that matter. Force myself.

Glad you're reading these books which I love because your reviews are so much fun to read.


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