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The Butterfly

3.33  ·  Rating details ·  374 ratings  ·  40 reviews
The Butterfly by James M. Cain was first published in 1946. It takes place among the hills and hollers of West Virginia coal country. Cain uses his favorite form of narration, the first person confessional, in relating this unusual tale of deceit, incest and murder.

Jess Tyler is a church going mountain man. One day out of the blue, his estranged daughter, Kady, shows up at
Paperback, 127 pages
Published 1964 by Dell Publishing Co. (first published 1947)
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3.33  · 
Rating details
 ·  374 ratings  ·  40 reviews

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Aug 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
Never having read James M. Cain is like never having tasted a caramelo-filled churro. Both Delicious and Morally Wrong... the dessert not the novel. Desserty. Yup. That's accurate about this master of the noir washed over by human beauty.

Yup, unannointed Cainonites are seriously doin' themselves one huge disservice!!
Barry Pierce
Apr 29, 2015 rated it did not like it
James M. Cain wrote a book about a father who falls for his daughter. That's all you need to know. It has a nice final sentence but that doesn't save this trainwreck of a novel. Incest can be done well in fiction but not here.
This one is a peculiar piece of backwoods incest and hillbilly soap opera written by the godfather of noir, James M. Cain. It's been a long time since Jess Tyler's two-timing wife left him, taking their two young daughters with her. Since then he's been spending most of his time alone on his farm. All that changes when 19-year-old Kady shows up on his doorstep; he realizes she's his daughter and takes her in to live with him. And against all of Jess's Christian upbringing, not only do they start ...more
Dec 07, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Σίγουρα δεν ανήκει στις πιο δυνατές στιγμές του Cain. Εντούτοις, το ταλέντο δεν κρύβεται.
Mar 04, 2017 rated it liked it
I had no idea this was about incest when i bought it. Had I known, I obvs would've picked it up years ago.
Jun 25, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: crime
I ought to leave this as just "DEAD DOVE DO NOT EAT," because it makes me happy, but it's not really a fitting conclusion to my triptych of Cain reviews. (And why have I still not reviewed the superior Mildred Pierce, Double Indemnity, and The Postman Always Rings Twice? Your guess is as good as mine.)

I'll say, first of all, that a two-star book by Cain is still worth reading, because few writers do the sickening allure of a downward slide to hell better than James M. Cain. And this novel, like
Jun 18, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: incest fans, toothless survivalists
Shelves: pulp-fiction
Erskine Caldwell-styled hillbilly mung about a grizzled old poppa fallin' down hard for his lil' Ozark daughter Kady, all budding inta womanhood and fallin' for his rival's son.
They fight like grizzly bar's for Kady's tender touch, leadin' to murder in the coal mine! She has a baby and the only way you can tell who's the paw is a birthmark shaped like a butterfly. Dopey hillbilly books are always a hoot to read.
Philip Fracassi
Oct 29, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: genre, modern-lit
Let me synopsize for you so you don't have to bother:

"Hey daughter, I kinda like you."

"Oh Pa, I'm such a slut."

"Hey, that guy stole Ma!"

"I'm gonna kill that sumbitch."

"Coal mine moonshine? Count me in!"

"Oh no, everybody's dead...oh no..."

The End.
From BBC Radio 4 - The James Cain Series:
When Jess Tyler's two-timing wife left him he stayed on at the farm alone, growing corn and going to Church. Nearly twenty years later, a young woman turns up with a suitcase, and there's an immediate attraction between them. The problem is that the young woman is Jess's daughter, Kady. Or is she? Only the butterfly birthmark can settle the question for good. A tale of revenge, murder and forbidden love, adapted by Adrian Bean.

Description: It takes place among the hills and hollers of West Virginia coal country. Cain uses his favorite form of narration, the first person confessional, in relating this unusual tale of deceit, incest and murder.

Jess Tyler is a church going mountain man. One day out of the blue, his estranged daughter, Kady, shows up at his cabin and starts throwing herself at him in a most undaughterly way. At least that's the way Jess tells it. Cain leaves a few h
Jun 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: miscellany
(2.5) It's an interesting story. I admire Cain's willingness to go there with the topic he examines. But the lead character isn't compelling enough to make the book itself rise into something competent. This leaves the reader with a mess of ideas and good prose but nothing to tie it all together.
Daniel Polansky
Appalachian incest, clan rivalries, moonshining, all the erotic and horrific thrills one would expect in a Cain novel. A good way to burn an hour.
Jeff Powers
Oct 27, 2014 rated it liked it
Though far from the best this great author wrote during his career, Butterfly is still a rather tight noirish thriller with an unlikely setting. Gone are the urban landscapes of California. This story of weakness and betrayal takes place in the small town, almost Western genre feel, of the eastern mountains. Cain writes deeply flawed broken characters whose only chance at survival is to claw their way through the human refuse around them. The world is painted a deep shade of grey. Filled with th ...more
Eva D.
Jun 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
So far as I have read, Nabokov is the only other author that has written about incest. I guess if a father happens to be a writer and cooks up a story about incest, he's in mortal terror he'll be so convincing about it that all the critics will think it's the truth. (Cain and Nabokov had no children, so they're in the clear.)

It's a heavy, messed up topic, but Cain moves through it elegantly. As with most of his novels, this one is written in a confessional format. Would definitely recommend if y
Feb 05, 2011 rated it it was ok
Daddy want pork daughter. Daughter take advantage. No end well. Duh.
Justin Grimbol
Jun 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book is the right kind of sleazy. I wish more noir was like this. Cause it has heart. And cause its effortless. Its raw and sweaty and the characters are down and out but never angsty.
Oct 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
I love James Cain's books............. right from the first page one is immersed in the book; none of this 4 pages of description but straight into the story. While the book was written in 1946, it's as well written and pertinent as today. The subject matter of incest is still regarded with revulsion (as it should be), there are twists and events of mistaken identity and the story is set in the col-mining country. The raw emotions, fights, secrets, loves and hates typical whenever people are inv ...more
Jun 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Story's alright, but I guess I picked a doozy when it came to the subject matter. Finished in a couple of hours, then had to take a shower.

(view spoiler)

Book would've been better if it was just about making bootl
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
James Cain wrote The Postman Always Rings Twice, Mildred Pierce, Double Indemnity and more. This is my first time reading a book of his. I saw the movies of those three books though. Good movies. I was not impressed with this book at all though. Maybe it’s one that I’ll need to chew on for awhile to decide it was good. I just didn’t get pulled into the story or attach to any characters. There was a good twist in it but it just didn’t do anything for me.
Feb 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Very strange story. Characters behave unpredictably and badly. Ending sequences very odd.
Don Gillette
Nov 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
An excellent noir novel by one of the masters of the genre. Every once in a while I go back and read some of this stuff and I'm always like... Whoa... These guys were good.
Guy Salvidge
Aug 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a short, hillybilly noir. It has moonshine, rifles, an abandoned mine and incest that might not be incest. I liked it fine.
Rowland Pasaribu
Aug 02, 2010 rated it liked it
Narrator Jess Tyler lives alone on his small farm in a coal town where they stopped mining years ago. His wife, Belle, left him ages ago and he's been alone ever since -- until the beginning of this story, when he comes home to find a very forward nineteen year-old girl sitting on his stoop.

She plays coy for a while, but finally lets him in on her secret: she's his daughter, Kady, whom he hasn't seen since she was small. "Your little girl. The one you like."

He takes her in. Problem is, she plays
George K.
Oct 05, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: crime-mystery
Τρίτο βιβλίο του Τζέιμς Κέιν που διαβάζω και με διαφορά είναι το πιο αδύναμο. Το κλασικό "Ο ταχυδρόμος χτυπά πάντα δυο φορές" δεν με ξετρέλανε αλλά σίγουρα μου άρεσε και αξίζει να μνημονεύεται και το επίσης κλασικό "Διπλό άλλοθι" μου φάνηκε τρομερό, από τα καλύτερα νουάρ μυθιστορήματα που έχω διαβάσει.

Η "Πεταλούδα" όμως μου φάνηκε αρκετά μέτρια, πιο παλπ και από παλπ. Η υπόθεση είναι κάπως μπερδεμένη και πρέπει να γράψω μπόλικες σειρές για να την συνοψίσω σωστά, απλά έχει να κάνει με έναν πατέρ
In the preface, Cain said he was originally working on a story about a family that migrates from rural Kentucky to California during the lean years, looking to improve their station in life. But then Steinbeck published his magisterial Grapes of Wrath, so he scrapped the project. As time went on, he collected more and more ideas for other stories. When he finally wrote The Butterfly, he picked and chose various disparate elements from these stories to create one cohesive narrative. All I can say ...more
Jan 25, 2011 rated it liked it
Erskine Caldwell meet Jim Cain!

This is the last novel in my collection of Cain books I'm reading this year. My edition has Pia Zadora on the cover to go along with the releae of the film.

Strangely enough, I like this book. It' hardly rivals Mildred Pierce or Postman, but I liked to watch trainwrecks sometimes. Beside, I went to high school with a girl who liked to brag that she was sleeping with her father. I have no idea if she really was, and she was absolutely no Cady/Pia/or Anais Nin for tha
Aug 22, 2012 rated it liked it
It's not quite up to par with Cain's legendary noir classics (DOUBLE INDEMNITY, THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE). But it's not quite as awful as its subject matter (hillbilly incest) and its adaptation (the legendarily awful 1981 Pia Zadora film) might imply. If you must read it, save Cain's introduction for last. He manages to blow several key plot points as he discusses false starts on the road to writing the novel. However, his curiously defensive responses to critics comparing his work to the ...more
Jun 26, 2007 rated it really liked it
After reading this book, I understand why Raymond Chandler hated James Cain's fiction. Chandler's ideal hero was urbane, sophisticated, and strong. Cain's heroes are weak-willed, desperate men forced into brutality by desire for an unattainable, and usually evil, woman.

The Butterfly is a story about a man's incestuous desire for his daughter. It gets worse from there.
Noir Mystery

Originally published in 1946, when I discovered this story was about incest, I quit reading it. The subject is not something I feel comfortable reading about, even though it's authored by James M. Cain.

Loose ends, twists and mysteries compelled me to pick it up again. I was intrigued by sub-plots going on. There were surprises, but I can't say I'd recommend this to anyone. Hillbilly-like characters, rather than Cain's usual sunny California locations.
Howard Goodman
Sep 11, 2013 rated it liked it
James M. Cain leaves the shady side of Southern California to take us to Appalachia for a mangled love story involving incest, feuds and bloody misunderstandings among the hill-and-holler people.

With this book, he shows he was much more than a genre novelist. Recommended to anyone with an interest in this writer.
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James Mallahan Cain was an American journalist and novelist. Although Cain himself vehemently opposed labelling, he is usually associated with the hardboiled school of American crime fiction and seen as one of the creators of the 'roman noir'.

He was born into an Irish Catholic family in Annapolis, Maryland, the son of a prominent educator and an opera singer. He inherited his love for music from h
“...if he can write a book at all, a writer cannot do it by peeping over his shoulder at somebody else, any more than a woman can have a baby by watching some other woman have one. It is a genital process, and all of its stages are intra-abdominal;” 4 likes
“Yes, I have actually mined coal, and distilled liquor, as well as seen a girl in a pink dress, and seen her take it off. I am 54 years old, weigh 220 pounds, and look like the chief dispatcher of a long-distance driving concern. I am a registered Democrat. I drink.” 4 likes
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