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Three by Cain: Serenade, Love's Lovely Counterfeit, The Butterfly Paperback – May 14, 1989

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Three by Cain: Serenade, Love's Lovely Counterfeit, The Butterfly + The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity, Mildred Pierce, and Selected Stories (Everyman's Library Classics)
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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

All three books are written with an enduring view of the dark corners of the American psyche. Cain hammered high art out of the crude matter of betrayal, bloodshed, and perversity.

About the Author

James Mallahan Cain (1892 - 1977) was a first-rate writer of American hard-boiled crime fiction. Born in Baltimore, the son of the president of Washington College, Cain began his career as a reporter, serving in the American Expeditionary Force in World War I and writing for The Cross of Lorraine, the newspaper of the 79th Division. He returned from the war to embark on a literay career that included a professorship at St. John’s College in Annapolis and a stint at The New Yorker as managing editor before he went to Hollywood as a script writer. Cain’s famous first novel, The Postman Always Rings Twice, was published in 1934 when he was forty-two, and became an instant sensation. It was tried for obscenity in Boston and was said by Albert Camus to have inspired his own book, The Stranger. The infamous novel was staged in 1936, and filmed in 1946 and 1981. The story of a young hobo who has an affair with a married woman and plots with her to murder her husband and collect his insurance, The Postman Always Rings Twice is a benchmark of classic crime fiction and film noir. Two of Cain’s other novels, Mildred Pierce (1941) and Double Indemnity (1943), were also made into film noir classics. In 1974, James M. Cain was awarded the Grand Master Award by the Mystery Writers of America. Cain published eighteen books in all and was working on his autobiography at the time of his death.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 455 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage Books ed edition (May 14, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679723234
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679723233
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #456,101 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Jake Barnes on February 18, 2009
Format: Paperback
If you're a fan of Cain's prose these three short novels will satisfy. These are quite different from his more famous noir novels(Postman; Double Indemnity) but they still contain his unique brand of hard-boiled writing: minimalist sentences, crisp dialogue, and spare, economical description.

Serenade deals with an American opera singer (Cain trained as an opera singer before turning to journalism) who falls for a Mexican prostitute and brings her illegally back into the states where he begins a meteoric rise to fame, until something goes horribly wrong.

Love's Lovely Counterfeit is a tale of small town crime. A solid thriller.

The final novel, The Butterfly, is the most unique as it deals with the subject of incest in a West Virginia coal mining town. A nineteen year old girl shows up at a man's farm claiming to be his daughter, and takes things a little far with her sexual teasing. The plot takes several turns in its slim 90 pages, but I've never read another book quite like The Butterfly. The subject matter lends itself to Cain's spare, objective prose, because you need some distance from a topic like incest, and Cain hadles it well.

The book also contains a short preface to The Butterfly, where the author talks a bit about his biography and his approach to writing.

All three books are a solid 'B' grade, and fans of Cain, especially his writing style, should seek this book out.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By christopher wyecross on April 17, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The idea behind "Three of a Kind" is to package three of James M Cain's novels between two covers. The three novels (or novelettes) are supposed to share some common denominators of most of Cain's books: common themes, common characters, common stylistic features and common plot tendencies. On the whole the idea works, at least for me, because I am a long-time Cain fan. If you are not or are curious about his writings I think they are worth reading. The stories are not necessarily of the same value (I can't say I liked them equally) but they all partake of the noir category of literature (dark landscape, hard-boiled men and women, lots of violence peppered with sex, and endings that are usually inconclusive). If all of this does not turn you off, then try it -- you might like it.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By liberal zen on September 8, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There is no such thing as a bad Cain book. One of my favorite authors and these stories are great stuff.
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James M. Cain is not for the faint hearted. Violence and sex in a heartless America is his usual calling card but Loves Lovely Counterfeit is a masterfully believable story told with a surprising tone I haven't seen any other examples of his work. A memorable second read.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Truesy on November 6, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Having loved James Cain's novel, The Cocktail Waitress, I decided to read this trilogy. These three novelettes are gritty, gripping, and quick paced. They also reflect the social values of the time in which they were taking place - 50's - early 60's (?). By this I mean that there are very unflattering comments about Mexicans and homosexuals,while at the same time, this is integral to the plot and characters. These stories are full of surprises, unexpected events and characters. This is not uplifting but if you like dark, punctuated by shocking moments, it is compelling. The writing is spare, reminiscent of Hemingway or Steinbeck, and looks at the dark underbelly of society. The writing does not dwell on detail. There is no deep insight on the part of the characters. The reader is always in the moment. I was torn between giving this book two stars or five stars. In the end, it depends upon personal taste. I recommend downloading a sample and see what you think!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Golden Oldie 71 on May 31, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I got caught up with Cain's novels when a friend gave me "The Cocktail Waitress", which I thoroughly enjoyed. Things went downhill from there with several of his more famous works like "Double Indemnity" and "The Postman Always Rings Twice". Yes they were page-tuners, but the rat-a-tat-tat noir narrations and silly plots were a turn off. And where was the Postman anyway? The along came "Serenade"! I was blown away by the beautiful story, well nuanced and full of rich classical music references. Unlike any other Cain novel, yet still with enough of his signature brevity and hard edged language. All this with characters you really care about. Highly recommended!
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