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The Cocktail Waitress (Hard Case Crime) [Kindle Edition]

James M. Cain
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Following her husband's death in a suspicious car accident, beautiful young widow Joan Medford is forced to take a job serving drinks in a cocktail lounge to make ends meet and to have a chance of regaining custody of her young son.

At the job she encounters two men who take an interest in her, a handsome young schemer
who makes her blood race and a wealthy but unwell older man who rewards her for her attentions with a $50,000 tip and an unconventional offer of marriage...

The last, lost crime novel by one of the greatest noir novelists of all time, author of Mildred Pierce, Double Indemnity, and The Postman Always Rings Twice. Now published for the very first time - including an afterword by editor Charles Ardai!


Editorial Reviews

Review

"This is vintage Cain ... Let's go get that book, baby. Let's read it. Let's get stinko." – The Washington Post

"entertaining and cleverly plotted" – Editors' Choice, New York Times

"Fittingly for the endpoint of a long and meaningful career, Cain saves his best twist for the very last page of his very last book, a haymaker from the blind side, so carefully finessed and camouflaged through the book as to bring a tear to a glass eye — another writer’s jealous acknowledgment. It is a moment that draws Joan’s world and Cain’s view of desire and consequence into tight focus. One thinks of the author well into his ninth decade, setting down those final passages with a hidden smile and a writer’s certain knowledge that they won’t see this coming. He was right." – New York Times

“I think James M. Cain is one novelist who has something to teach just about any writer, and delight just about any reader. The Postman Always Rings Twice was a work of genius. So it's good news that The Cocktail Waitress, Cain's last novel has finally been published.” – Anne Rice

“Swift and absorbing…pulses with more authentic primal energy than the work of any number of Cain imitators from the 1930s to the present.” – Wall Street Journal

"The Cocktail Waitress 
was found among his papers after a decade-long search and has never been published…until now. After burying her abusive husband on page 1 of the book, Joan takes a job waitressing to make ends meet, and winds up meeting two new men: a wealthy but repulsive older man and a handsome young schemer who makes her blood boil. Can you have any doubt that things will end badly for one or both of them? No, that’s not a spoiler – it’s a simple statement of fact when you’re talking about a Cain femme fatale, the deadliest species there is." – Huffington Post

"The Cocktail Waitress is a not-to-be missed crime thriller for all Cain fans ... A rare, hardboiled blast from the past." – Shelf Awareness

"It’s easy to fall for a previously unpublished work by Cain, whose oeuvre includes The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934) and Double Indemnity(1943). Fortunately, The Cocktail Waitress—which the author sought to complete before perishing in 1977—serves up ample delights (and a few familiar themes). It tells of Joan Medford, a captivating young mother whose abusive hubby has died under odd circumstances, and who then takes a job waiting tables in a dodgy cocktail lounge. There she meets a loaded elderly gent with a bum ticker, Earl K. White III, as well as the grabby, calculating Tom Barclay. She weds White out of pragmatism, rather than passion; but tensions in the continuing relationships between these three players guarantee trouble. We witness the unfolding drama through Joan’s eyes, while wondering what she’s withholding." – Kirkus

"the most important literary event of 2012 ... This book marks the greatest achievement of Hard Case Crime in its short existence ... ranks right up there with anything the author ever wrote in his prime. And in saying that, it is better than a lot of what gets published today ... Cain creates a timeless, claustrophobic nightmare that will rock you long after you put it down ... a noir masterpiece ... THE COCKTAIL WAITRESS is the book of 2012. And Hollywood should take note: this is going to be a great film noir movie someday." – Book Reporter

“This novel will capture you quickly.” “It’s spicy and riveting.” “This is the kind of book that makes people want to read Hard Case Crime. It’s perfect as an introduction to crime novels or as a refreshing new offering from an old favorite.” “You’re definitely going to want to pick up a copy.” – DNM Magazine

"The Cocktail Waitress is another gem for Cain fans - and all lovers of classic noir." – Noir Journal

Books of the year in the Evening Standard (London): "The posthumous publication of James M Cain's The Cocktail Waitress (Hard Case Crime, £16.99) showed the third great noir master – after Hammett and Chandler – as acute on febrile sexuality and dark human urges at the end of his life as he was in Double Indemnity.

“The work is spellbinding and compelling, in the end challenging one’s values, beliefs, and prejudices.” – San Francisco Book Review
 

About the Author

James M Cain achieved worldwide overnight fame when he published his first novel, The Postman Always Rings Twice, in 1934.  The classics Double Indemnity and Mildred Pierce followed, reinforcing Cain’s reputation as the great chronicler of crimes of passion, typically set against a working-class backdrop during the Great Depression. His books have inspired many classic movies.

Product Details

  • File Size: 507 KB
  • Print Length: 223 pages
  • Publisher: Hard Case Crime (September 18, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0082YWMRA
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #114,684 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
(92)
3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars James Cain's Last Novel July 26, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
James M. Cain (1892 -- 1977) is best-known for his early novels including "The Postman Always Rings Twice", "Double Indemnity" and "Mildred Pierce" and for the many movies based on his writing. After these successes, written while working as a Hollywood screenwriter, Cain had mixed success and for a time was largely forgotten. He returned to his home in Hyattsville, Maryland (a suburb of Washington, D.C.) in 1948 and continued to write. Written just before his death, Cain's final novel, "The Cocktail Waitress" existed only in various partially editied manuscripts. Edited meticulously by Charles Ardai,the novel is being published in 2012 for the first time.

Cain's novel is largely set in Hyattsville and other Washington D.C. suburbia during the 1950s. The use of the drug Thalidomide during this time, which resulted in many severe birth defects, forms an important backdrop to the book. The book's primary character, a highly sexual femme fatale in her early 20's, Joan White, narrates the story. The daughter of a prosperous Pittsburgh family, Joan ran off to Washington D.C. when she rejected a suitor urged by her parents. She becomes pregnant by and marries an abusive young man, Ron who dies under the influence in a single-car accident under suspicious circumstances. Her sister-in-law takes custody of the couple's young child. In order to make ends meet, Joan takes a position as a cocktail waitress in a bar called Garden of Roses, where the services of the waitresses sometimes are for sale.

Joan tells the history of her relationship with two men. One of the patrons of the Garden of Roses is Earl White, a wealthy and elderly widower with a severe heart condition.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Love on the rocks. August 1, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The interesting and informative afterword to this Hard Case Crime installment was written by publisher and editor Charles Ardai. In it we learn that James M. Cain (1892-1977) composed many different drafts of The Cocktail Waitress during the last two years of his life. But when is it that the events described in its pages are supposed to have taken place? In chapter 12, reference is made to the Howdy Doody Show as still being on the air. That would mean the narrative is set in 1960 or earlier. Elsewhere in the book, the New York airport is referred to as Kennedy on more than one occasion. Well, in 1960, Kennedy Airport was still known as Idlewild. It was renamed Kennedy three years later. So it seems that The Cocktail Waitress is set in a year no later than 1960 but at the same time after 1963. I know, I'm nitpicking. Still...

Anyway getting back to the review. The subject matter is salacious; we'd expect no less from James M. Cain. At times it even borders on the pornographic. But the gritty realism contained in the classic novels he authored four decades earlier just isn't there. In its place is a soap opera type feel where bad things just keep happening in defiance of all logic. Moreover, much of the dialogue comes off as stilted, not the way people really talk to each other.

As a long lost James M. Cain manuscript, The Cocktail Waitress is worth reading for its historical value. But as a work of literature, it falls a bit short.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pink Cadillac October 4, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Charles Ardai, a devotee of "hard case" novels made his fortune in non-literary ventures. As a fan of "Black Mask" style hard-boiled fiction (such as appeared in the late and very much lamented, "Creative Arts/Black Lizard" series), Ardai had the resources (and inspiration) to pick up where Don Ellis left off. His "Hard Case Crime" imprint has re-issued several classics and published new works in the hard-boiled/noir category. Ardai found manuscript versions of famed author James M. Cain's unpublished final novel "The Cocktail Waitress". Claiming a major literary coup, Ardai edited and published "Waitress" clearly considering it more than a mere literary curiosity; rather unsurprisingly, he touts it as a worthy successor to Cain's three (early career) great novels. By the end of the WW-II era, Cain's career had pretty much tanked. Based on Cain's trajectory and the fact that "Waitress" was written at the end of the author's life, the prospects for a masterpiece were slim indeed.

The young, well-endowed protagonist of "Waitress" has fallen from grace by dint of a mid-adolescent romantic crisis leading to complete estrangement from her "Social Registry" parents. An early marriage to an abusive, alcoholic and rapid progression to widowhood, followed by destitution and resurrection (as a scantily-clad cocktail waitress in a bar-eatery) sets the scene. At the "Garden" she meets a preposterously wealthy, cadaverous, elderly and physically debilitated gentleman who (naturally) falls for her, despite the obvious problems presented by an infatuation of this sort including impotence which he ascribes to coronary atherosclerosis.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful surprise for James M. Cain fans August 19, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
"You're a goddam good-looking gold-digger, and I go for you, plenty." They don't write 'em like that any more. Possibly with good reason. But it sure is fun to have a brand new good old pulp crime novel from the wonderful James M. Cain. Compared to Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice, and my favorite, Mildred Pierce (Movie Tie-in Edition) (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard), THE COCKTAIL WAITRESS, really doesn't merit 5 stars, but I have to give it the highest rating for the pleasure it brings to Cain fans to have this lost novel in print.

If you've read Cain's other classic novels or seen the great film noir versions from the mid-1940s, many of those novels' themes will be familiar... the overly-devoted mother who waitresses in order to provide for her child, the young wife married to an older man for his money, and the dangerously handsome young lover. It is so much fun to read another Cain novel that seems to come from his earlier period (although he was working on it when he died in 1977) that you hate to put it down and hate even more to come to the end.

If you are not familiar with Cain or the traditions and style of the pulp crime novels and early film noir, you may be puzzled by the many positive reviews of this one. If you didn't live through the 60s, you may not appreciate the powerfully ironic and disturbing twist of the last page, and I strongly encourage you to read the afterword by editor Charles Ardai (at least the few paragraphs).
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Keeps the reader in suspense right to the end.
Published 8 days ago by Sandra Link
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it!
Every page I turned kept me on the edge of my seat. This is such an exciting story that I didn't want it to end.
Published 24 days ago by June Rochford
1.0 out of 5 stars A Lost Manuscript Best Left Undiscovered
Tasteless ignoramus that I am, I had never read anything by James M. Cain until I got hold of a copy of his last novel, The Cocktail Waitress. Read more
Published 24 days ago by not a natural
4.0 out of 5 stars A great beach read
Page turner with twist in plot to keep you interested. A great beach read.
Published 1 month ago by David R Mandell
2.0 out of 5 stars so-so
the story was interesting, but the language was so stilted it was difficut to read. It just doesn'tflowwell.
Published 1 month ago by Barbara Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read.
Great book. James Cain can't be beat. Great story. A must read.
Published 2 months ago by Britney's #1 fan
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, seedy characters who are not quite what they ...
Interesting, seedy characters who are not quite what they seem to be on the surface, and a narrator who is clearly not telling the complete truth. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Lonely Lois
1.0 out of 5 stars Slow moving
main character with no morals and doesn't rise above it with the choices she makes. Slim feed on background. I just didn't connect and get any real enjoyment from the read.
Published 3 months ago by rebecca roath
4.0 out of 5 stars AN OLD SCHOOL CLASSIC MYSTERY..
By the time the reader gets to the end of chapter five of this already classic hard case crime novel, they may find themselves more emotionally attached to Joan Medford than they... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Greggorio!
3.0 out of 5 stars pulp fiction
I purchased this book due to the review provided by Stephen King. He recommended it on not only the strength of the story but that it had literary merit. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Ralin
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