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Double Indemnity Reprint Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
James M. Cain is one of the indisputable greats of crime noir novels, and he also wrote the terrific "The Postman Always Rings Twice." The plot is fast-moving, and I love Cain's stattaco writing style. He also includes so much great detail, such as the "blood red curtains" in Phyllis' living room. Further, Cain makes the action very believable and doesn't overlook any plot holes, which is not always the case in this genre. I really liked this book.
Having said that, I think that the movie (1944, directed by the peerless Billy Wilder) is even better than the book. I know that's blasphemous, but the movie is one of the all-time great American movies. Read the book and don't miss the movie either!
The action follows insurance agent Walter Huff, who has at some point come up with an insurance scheme to off a guy and collect the insurance. He discovers his partner in crime, Phyllis Nirdlinger, when she inquires about accident insurance for her husband. But this is James Cain writing. It is not going to be that easy, is it? You bet not.
Phyllis turns out to be way, waaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyy more dangerous than Walter ever imagined her to be. He learns too late that he is just one more patsy in Phyllis's own plans, much bigger and nastier than the ones Walter himself formulated. Complicating the matter is Phyllis's step-daughter, Lola, whose wholesomeness actually touches some soft spot in Walter's heart.
Perhaps Cain mellowed a little bit between POSTMAN and DOUBLE INDEMNITY. The main character actually feels some degree of guilt for the crime and actually shows concern for someone besides himself. Jeez, what a softie. Do not worry, though. There is enough human darkness here to satisfy even the hardest of readers' hearts.
As is Cain's earlier book, "Double Indemnity" is set in Los Angeles in the 1930s and is a tale of violence and murder heavily influenced by sex. Both books are told in the first person by a perpetrator of the crimes nearing the end of his life. The men in both books are seduced by a femme fatale who wishes to be rid of a husband.
There are differences in the books. The "Postman Always Rings Twice" involves people at the lower reaches of society, a wandering, penniless drifter together with a young frustrated woman married to an older man, "the Greek", who operates a run-down gas station and restaurant. The supporting characters also are drawn from low life. The book has a strong sense of place. The descriptions of the shabbier sections of Los Angeles and its environs are as important to the book as its story of lust and murder.
In contrast, "Double Indemnity" is far more psychological and probes deeper into the inner lives of its characters. The sense of place is less important that it is in "Postman". Furthermore, "Double Indemnity" involves crime and lust among the middle and upper classes rather than by those on the margins. The main character and narrator, Walter Huff, age 34, is a modestly successful insurance salesman. His victim, Nirdlinger, is a succesful oil and gas executive. The femme fatale is Nirdlinger's wife Phylis, in her early thirties.Read more ›
POSTMAN's drifter is now a cocky insurance salesman (Walter Huff) who thinks he can both beat the odds and get the girl (Phyllis Nirdlinger), and -- why not? -- her daughter Lola as well. If you know anything about Greek tragedy, you can bet that the hubris mechanism is ready to spring into action with jaws agape.
James M Cain writes a tight novella that can easily be consumed in a single sitting. It's just that you feel you've been watching cockroaches mate from a great height. Few of Cain's novels show the least sign of sentiment, let alone liking, towards their characters. Raymond Chandler and Billy Wilder's script for the film is actually far superior because the character of Keyes is developed into a moral center around which the story unrolls. (It also helps that Cain's INDEMNITY has a really gonzo ending.)
Nonetheless, Cain is what he is -- and his stories are always worth reading. But do see the Billy Wilder movie version!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Cardboard and not quite believable characters. Superficial story development, but the book was engrossing and moved along quickly as a suspenseful short story.Published 26 days ago by Richard Sandler
The original source for the classic film noir. Loved the movie, loved the book. The plot is similar, but the ending goes in a different ( and very dark) direction.Published 1 month ago by Ruth Bain
This is a great American crime novel (of course) in California. A guy who works in the insurance business schemes to off the husband of a smoldering dame and split the insurance... Read morePublished 5 months ago by History Lover
"Double Indemnity" has to be one of the tightest written and cleverly plotted crime stories ever. Read morePublished 7 months ago by D. C. Cannon
A thrilling book that kept me turning the pages. I didn't expect this from an old book, but it was good.Published 7 months ago by Phenom N.
James Cain is the master of the pulp writing which were turned into iconic Film Noir movies. This work is one of them. Read morePublished 9 months ago by fosterjazz
If you enjoy films like Body Heat, read the inspiration behind them. Cain, Hammett, and Chandler are all masters of the genre.Published 10 months ago by J. S Thompson