Galatea may seem strange Cain to those who link him with California and violent stories out of the West. But to those who knew him earlier, particularly his origins in Annapolis and his life in the counties near by, it will hardly come as a surprise. Cain returned to southern Maryland to find it startlingly changed. Cogitating this transformation from oxcarts, scrub woods, and plug tobacco to grand boulevards, lumber, and big auction rooms, he found himself inventing a novel about it. The result is Galatea, the story of Holly Valenty, a girl who is a product of the old dispensation, but who succumbs to the temptations of the new, a story with all the Cain magic — brutal, shocking, yet tender and believable.
This is a distinguished publishing event. Career in C Major and Other Fiction is the final anthology of previously uncollected short fiction by James M. Cain, the renowned author of Mildred Pierce, The Post matt Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity, and many other works. Cain died in 1977 at age eighty-five. Cain's novels made him, along with Hammett and Chandler, one of the best-selling American writers of the twentieth century. This is a book filled with delights. Included are the first hardcover reprint of Career in C Major, the classic Cain comic novel that has been out of print for many years; short fiction from Redbook, Liberty, and Esquire; and dramatic dialogues from The American Mercury. Career in C Major is just the main course of a feast that includes page after page of marvelously entertaining stories and dialogues. The selections have been chosen and illuminated with insightful commentaries by Roy Hoopes. Career in C Major and Other Fiction will occupy a place on bookshelves for many years to come.
Here are the swift pace, the hard, crisp prose, the almost unbearably tense dramatic situations which are typical of James Cain. But here also are a deeper view of life, a bigger subject, and a group of characters closer to the average reader’s experience than Mr. Cain has ever given us before. Here, in other words, is his most substantial and most ambitious novel. It is the story of a woman, her daughter, and her two husbands. At twenty- eight she was a “grass widow” without a cent. She learned to work; she created a business and built it into a notable success. Along the way she acquired two lovers, one of whom became her second husband. But none of that was important. What was important was her daughter Veda — the lovely, haughty, greedy, cruel child who knew what she wanted and got it. The relations between mother and daughter, between mother and husband and lover, between husband and daughter, intermingle and fuse into a shattering climax. Nine years have passed, and in this terrific moment all the characters are at last stripped and revealed, all the motives — good and evil — hared, all the ways of life finally chosen. It is a scene no one will easily forget.
MIGNON is James M. Cain’s first novel in nearly ten years. Readers of previous bestsellers such as The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity, and Mildred Pierce will find Mignon Fournet, the heroine of the new novel, as remarkable a creation as the women in those two celebrated books. Mignon is a beautiful young widow who, with her father, has come to New Orleans at the close of the Civil War in the hopes of improving their war-reduced fortunes. But the risky trade in contraband cotton has landed her father in jail and Mignon at the hotel room door of Bill Cresap. Cresap, recently discharged from the Union Army for wounds received in battle, has arrived in New Orleans to start a business with a friend. Reluctantly, but irrevocably, Cresap is drawn into the intrigues and dangers which engulf the irresistible Mignon. Also moving among the dark events of those tough, troubled times is a fascinating variety of richly drawn characters. There is Adolphe Landry, Mignon’s enigmatic father; Frank Burke, Landry’s unscrupulous partner; Gippo, Burke’s henchman, more animal than human; and Marie Tremaine, the beautiful, rich, and powerful chatelaine of a notorious New Orleans gambling house. From gaudy New Orleans, the scene shifts up-river to the bloody Red River battle. There, the personal and military dramas are joined. Cresap, in the turbulent actions which follow, finds himself not only involved in the intrigues of desperate men, but the passions of two beautiful women. In an explosion of violence and tragedy, the novel reaches its inevitable climax. Of MIGNON, Mr. Cain says: It is a continuation, in theme, of a previous book, Past All Dishonor, in which the hero is tempted, by his love for a girl, so slight his duty — not much, just a little bit. In MIGNON, Mr. Cain depicts the bafflement of large numbers of men, even in high places, who must wrestle the rules of war and slight them — not much, but a little bit. “Treason,” says Mr. Cain, “doesn’t invite my interest, at least as a narrative theme, being so stark it defies exploration. But its close relative, cheating just little bit, fascinates me. Sometimes, as in Mignon, it even manages to seem quite praiseworthy, which is where the trouble really starts.”
DRAW ONE— That’s waitress lingo. Means a cup of coffee. It’s a part of a language that Carrie Selden had spoken for a long time. Carrie was a hash-slinger. Lots of big business men ate at Karb’s just to watch her trim figure moving by their tables. Grant Harris was one of them — he watched, waited and was married by Carrie. The millionaire and the waitress. It was a newspaper field-day. In spite of everything she was called, Carrie felt she had to set the record straight. This is her candid story — the intimate details of the life of Carrie Selden Harris, who asks you to pass judgment on her only after you’ve read her story.
Four years after his sensational first novel, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Mr. Cain appears with a new one which definitely places him among the best story-tellers in America. The emphasis is hereby put upon the word story, for that, above everything else, is what this book is. It is an account of the lives of two men and one woman and of their relations with each other, which begins in a moment of tenseness and passion and moves forward with amazing speed, in the clipped and biting prose that Cain has made his own, to still greater heights — to emotion so taut that it must break in violence. The story is set in Mexico, Hollywood, and New York — a simple, primitive scene on the one hand, a brilliant, sophisticated one on the other. There are tenderness and beauty in the book, and also murder and vice. The arts of the film, the opera, and the bullfight are in it, and an incredible understanding of the strange nature of the human animal. But above all, a story is in it — a story full of fury and terror and love, which once begun must be finished and once read will be remembered.
It is the story of a farmer, and of the daughter who came back to him years after he had almost forgotten her, and of the wife who had deserted him. and of the man who had stolen his wife. It is, inevitably, swiftly paced, suffused with passion, knife-like in its descriptive power. Around the astonishing quadrangle of this talc swirl contrasting moods of brutality and tenderness with ever- increasing violence right up to the dramatic end.
Mandy Vernick is a girl with a problem. She is abused by her stepfather (with her mother’s tacit approval), and discovers that her mother is having an affair. With nowhere to turn, Mandy runs away from home, hoping to find her father in Baltimore. Vernick denies that he is Mandy’s father. Desperate and confused, the voluptuous six- teen-year-old becomes involved in a bank robbery that ends with three men dead. The Enchanted Isle has a bittersweet ending but, before Cain allows us to relax and share in Mandy’s joy, he strips the facade from a family’s carefully built house of lies and in the process keeps the reader wondering what will happen next... and to whom.
In The Moth James M. Cain has produced a novel of broad dimensions which will delight and surprise his vast following. It is his largest canvas. His background is the United States from coast to coast. His period spans the last quarter-century. His characters are as diverse as a cross section of the American people. In their story he at last reveals the promise of happiness for a man and his woman. The Moth is the story of John Dillon. It begins in the days when he amazed church congregations with the beauty of his boyish soprano. His rapid development into manhood and his subsequent career are striped with violence and passion. As a young man Dillon fell in love with a very young girl. Accused of leading her astray, he fled his home, losing himself in depression America. He experienced the life of a panhandler and hobo, the terror of a thief, the aching weariness of a fruit-picker, the pride of a successful oilman. He encountered a selfish and beautiful woman. After action in World War II, he was invalided to this country, where at last he found the girl whose image had never left him. The tremendous pace and swift action of Dillon s existence are related in that tightly packed style for which Cain is famous. But the brutality of much of his life is relieved on the unforgettable occasions when-signifying for him what was fine and good — the luna moth appeared before him. It is this symbol which gives us both the title and the theme of James ML Cain’s most important novel.
In The Magician's Wife, Cain returns to his classic themes of lust and greed. Clay Lockwood, a business executive, falls in love with the irresistible Sally Alexis, wife of a professional magician.