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Comment: This item is in good condition. All pages and covers are readable. There are no stains or tears. Dust jacket is present if applicable. May contain small amounts of writing and/or highlighting. Spine and cover may show signs of wear. May not contain supplementary items. We ship within 1 business day. Big Hearted Books shares its profits with schools, churches and non-profit groups throughout New England. Thank you for your support!
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The Postman Always Rings Twice Paperback – May 14, 1989

4.3 out of 5 stars 156 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Penzler Pick, April 2000: It is sometimes easy to trace a literary genre to its source, and James M. Cain's first novel, The Postman Always Rings Twice, is the noir novel that paved the way for all the noir fiction that followed. The famous film starring Lana Turner and John Garfield is notoriously dark, but the novel is even more full of despair and devoid of hope. It is a short book--little more than a novella--but its searing characterization and depiction of tawdry greed and lust is branded into every reader's memory.

Frank Chambers, a drifter, is dropped from the back of a truck at a rundown rural diner. When he spots Cora, the owner's wife, he instantly decides to stay. The sexy young woman, married to Nick, a violent and thuggish boor, is equally attracted to the younger man and sees him as her way out of her hopeless, boring life. They begin a clandestine affair and plot to kill Nick, beginning their own journey toward destruction.

Horace McCoy, David Goodis, Jim Thompson, and the other notable noir writers never achieved Cain's spare brilliance. Virtually all of his major works have been filmed, though several Hollywood studios refused to make the films, directors refused to be involved, and actors turned down roles because of their repugnance at the lack of morality inherent in all Cain's characters. Reading him may not be fit for a Sunday school class, but once you begin you will be unable to resist continuing, like picking at a painful scab or watching a tarantula inside a glass dome. --Otto Penzler --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"A good, swift, violent story." --Dashiell Hammett

"A poet of the tabloid murder." --Edmund Wilson

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 116 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (May 14, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679723250
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679723257
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (156 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #127,846 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Dennis Littrell HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on July 9, 2002
Format: Paperback
I spent some time trying to find out why this potboiler turned literature is called "The Postman Always Rings Twice" since at no place in the novel is a postman even mentioned. At first I thought it might be an echo of Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh, dreamt up by Knopf, Cain's publisher, to lend some literary pretension to a novel they weren't sure about; but that play wasn't written until some years after Postman was published in 1934. It was recently suggested to me (by Joseph Feinsinger, one of Amazon.com's best reviewers of literature) that it might be a rejoinder for the saying "opportunity knocks only once," which was the sort of pabulum given to out of work people during the depression. Cain's original title was "Bar-B-Que," which is entirely appropriate for a couple of reasons (the café, the burning car), but was perhaps a little too morbid for Knopf's sensibilities.

At any rate, the title finally chosen is somewhat magical as is the novel itself, the first of Cain's hard-boiled, loser tales that somehow caught the imagination and psyche of depression America. Re-reading the novel today one wonders why, but then again, I can see why.

First there's the raw sex with Frank forcing himself onto Cora, biting her lip, etc. and she loving it, that was somewhat shocking for its time. Ditto for the spontaneous sex they have in the dirt outside the car after Frank has beamed Nick. Then there is the fascination we have with stupid people doing vile deeds rather clumsily (with whom we might identify). But more than anything else it's the style.
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Format: Paperback
Whenever the question of the origin of the "hardboiled" school of detective literature comes up in conversation, three names always get mentioned: Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and James Cain. Hammett was the master of the character, Chandler of the atmosphere.
And Cain was the master of the plot. Not in the sense of trying to tease us with the "whodunit" like the great British talespinners; Cain's books are not mysteries in the true sense of the word, because we usually know almost from the outset Who Done It. But Cain will keep you on the edge of your seat following the incredible turns of fate that his characters experience. And perhaps that's the key to Cain, not only in this book but in all of his others: the real major character is an unfriendly fate, which sooner or later destroys the protagonists. Cain's stories are ugly - his characters are all either ugly and stupid or ugly and clever - and perhaps this is the ugliest story he ever wrote.
Hollywood was always both fascinated and repulsed by Cain; Warner Brothers made "Double Indemnity" into a movie, but only after they turned it over to Rayond Chandler to do the screenplay and "sanitize" it (Billy Wilder got screenplay credits along with Chandler, but the book was Cain's; it's more than worth a read too). "Postman" has been made into a movie twice, and while both versions are admirable each in their own way, neither one of them manages to express the utter futility of life, and the sense of just how amoral the average man can be in the right situation, that are the hallmarks of Cain's work.
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Format: Paperback
This novel comes on strong and the pace doesn't let up until the final paragraph. It's a burner in all of 116 pages, and I had it done in about 90 minutes.

Synopsis: A drifter stumbles into a L. A. area diner to find a hottie who thinks the world will open for her with her husband dead. Complications ensue.

The writing is simple and straightforward, in the first person past, very colloquial (for the early 1930s). The story is simple and straightforward, but there is a lot of space for the reader to explore. There is an awful lot going on between Frank and Cora that goes unsaid, and it's up to you to figure out which way it might go, before it very quickly does. It's two shallow, selfish, impulsive and not-that-bright people coming up with plans that fit themselves perfectly, and it doesn't go well.

Frank is a fast mover, itinerant and restless, and Cora has dreams and designs of success and contentment unburdened by thoughts of preparation or achievement. Both are after something better, although neither knows what that might look like. Their collision is hot stuff, right from the eighth page. The novel was tried for obscenity in Boston but that was more than 80 years ago, and by today's standards this is all relatively tame, prime-time content, both the sex and the violence (there are some fun, saucy plays on the word "hard"). This book is suitable for high schoolers, and is the seminal example of American noir writing.

Reading through this, I couldn't help but think of Blood Simple]. Move this novel to Texas, and you've got almost the same thing. Mix sex, money and murder and trust goes out the window.
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