Adam's Reviews > The Postman Always Rings Twice

The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain
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's review
May 29, 12

bookshelves: 1900-1969, prose
Read from April 29 to May 07, 2012

I don't really want to like James M. Cain. His work is real ugly and cynical, even for hardboiled crime fiction, and feels, often, less like it is dealing with things like racism and misogyny and more like indulging such attitudes. But The Postman Always Rings Twice, though it lacks almost entirely the charming bruised romanticism of Raymond Chandler or the sheerly brutal artistry of later hardboiled writers like Jim Thompson, is one hell of a book. This is literary work of the highest order, without the veneer that kept so many writers from really engaging with the more base of human emotions. This is not perfect work, but it is viscerally engaging and emotionally involving in ways that a lot of more 'perfect' works are not. The two major flaws are sometimes wooden dialogue, never a problem for Hammett, Chandler, or many of their contemporaries or successors, and an ending that, to me, rings emotionally hollow. Pros: evocative settings, great pulpy plot that is very well-told, good characters, and enough mystery and kinky sex to get you past the literary flaws, and to the point from which you can understand why this is ballsy, important, and sophisticated literature.
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