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The Postman Always Rings Twice [Paperback]

James M. Cain
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 14 1989 Vintage Crime/Black Lizard
An amoral young tramp.  A beautiful, sullen woman with an inconvenient husband.  A problem that has only one grisly solution--a solution that only creates other problems that no one can ever solve.

First published in 1934 and banned in Boston for its explosive mixture of violence and eroticism, The Postman Always Rings Twice is a classic of the roman noir. It established James M. Cain as a major novelist with an unsparing vision of America's bleak underside, and was acknowledged by Albert Camus as the model for The Stranger.

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

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

From the Back Cover

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

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

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Excerpt
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A bit bare-bones but the heart's all there. Feb. 1 2013
The Postman Always Rings Twice is a classic landmark work of crime fiction and very much worth a read both for its cultural significance and on the merits of the story itself. Vintage's release is fairly bare bones, with extras limited to a small back cover summary, a one page introductory bio of Cain, and a list of his works also published by Vintage, so if you're looking for cultural context or a critical analysis this edition may prove a bit too bare-bones for your taste, but so long as you're in it for the story and willing to do a little independent searching should you have a taste for context and criticism, this little edition will do the job nicely and take up only a tiny bit of shelf space -- and look quite nice up there, too.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Full of Despair May 19 2004
This slim novel was first publishedin 1934, it felt timeless to me and was finished in one sitting without pause. The lead characters Frank and Cora are bleak and cold, totally lacking in redeeming qualities. What makes the book so gripping to me is that the style of the writing, the sparse use of words and it's coldness exactly matches them.
The content is not suitable for young children and at one time Cain faced prosecution for this publication. Today as the world has changed Postman would not have had the same impact in those terms, but as a literary work I think it is still stunning.
The plot is the murder of a small time diner owner by his wife and her drifter lover who comes to work for them and the destruction of what affection they had for each other through their own amoral natures.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Despair and degradation as art April 17 2004
This is a book you read once and can't stop thinking about. It's what I call a 'blue book', one that is soulful and strangely mellow. It actually makes me feel like I'm underneath a very shady tree on a sunny day. Reason being that the light is very blue green, so a 'blue' book.
Before I try to make sense of this, let's continue.
Frank Chambers is a young drifter who rolls into town, goes to work in a diner for Nick, a tough Greek, falls for Nick's young wife Cora, then decides, with Cora's help, to murder Nick and take over the restaurant. What should be simple becomes more complex. The first murder attempt fails, the second one is successful but easy to see through. With the help of a very smart and very crooked lawyer, both Frank and Cora are soon free. That, really, is where the problems start.
Frank and Cora love and hate each other fiercely, speaking with remarkably accurate, real dialogue. Cain doesn't even attribute his dialogue, so pay close attention to who's speaking. The book is mostly just people talking, in very real language, full of slang and fragmented sentences. It's like listening to a REALLY interesting conversation.
Frank and Cora are two very small, unremarkable, inconsequential people caught up in something too big for them to understand. They mistake happiness and hope for lust, hate, anger and even apathy. And just when things look alright, one little, honest accident washes it all away. This book shows us how fragile everything is, or at least how fragile it can be. That's what elevates this to the level of tragedy. This is something to live with and dwell upon, something you can never quite shake off, no matter how hard you try.
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5.0 out of 5 stars a master a work Dec 23 2003
A blurb on the back dubbed this "a swift, violent story". Yes! Bracing and breathtaking in its economy and speed. Apparently L'Etranger used this as its model. Whether or not you like the early 20c american school of minimalist, hard-boiled writing, this is worth reading for the invigorating pleasure of seeing an absolute master at work. Could be read at a single sitting.
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Poolroom hustler, con artist, auto mechanic, bum--Frank Chambers, after being thrown off a hay truck he'd stowed away on the night before, wanders into the Twin Oaks Tavern and talks the owner into a giving him a free lunch. Then the owner offers him a job fixing cars. Frank hesitates. Then he sees the owner's wife. Frank takes the job.

Thus begins this tawdry tale of desperation, lust and lies. Published in 1934 and banned in Boston for its violence and eroticism, "The Postman Always Rings Twice" is like back alley fisticuffs--it ain't pretty, but it works.

"I sunk my teeth into her lips so deep I could feel the blood spurt into my mouth. It was running down her neck when I carried her upstairs."

No, this isn't "Romeo and Juliet." It's two careless people who somehow fall in love in spite of each other and then convince themselves they can get away with murder.

The results are less than spectacular.

This story is bare-knuckled, unflinchingly masculine, and briskly told in 116 pages. Frank Chambers himself narrates, peppering the narrative with 1930s colloquialisms and a drifter's outlook.

It's as American as a motorcycle cop on a California highway.

I should also state for the record, both movie versions of this book were terribly miscast.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Don't tempt fate July 21 2003
Opportunity may knock once, but fate may ring at your door more than once and has a strange way of turning on you.
The characters in this story went about life without any consideration or thought for anyone but themselves and in doing so, set the stage for an almost comical tragedy! Though it's hard to feel sorry for the main character after his hand in murder, you still do, but only slightly! After all, he did tempt fate, and fate turned on him and gave him what he, and most of the others deserved.
As for the writing, this book gave birth to a genre that we still enjoy today! Hard to believe that a story with the twists and turns of this one could be told so sparcely in words, and yet be so compelling in just over 100 pages! A glimpse into an earlier era, though not much in the way of moral evolution seems to have occured since this was written...
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Oldie, but a goldie...
Classic ! A little old fashioned, but that's what's charming about the book. The story is well told. I was not disappointed...
Published on July 14 2003 by Jean-Marc M Salama
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect
This was a perfect adultery/murder/cover-up story. The writing style is very simple, but vivid, and the story will have you on the edge of your seat. Read more
Published on June 21 2003 by P. Costello
4.0 out of 5 stars Good afternoon read
This classic noir novel does not disappoint, even in our cynical age. This would make a good book for an airline flight or some time when you have a few hours to kill. Read more
Published on Jan. 23 2003 by Scott Swindle
4.0 out of 5 stars A thrilling roller coaster of a read!
Once you start to read this book, you will be gripped. I couldn't put the darn thing down for a minute. Read more
Published on Nov. 19 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Novella Noir Muy Bien
I just came upon The Postman Always Rings Twice by chance from traversing the Modern Library's top 100 novels of the 20th Century and then checked it out on Amazon. Read more
Published on Oct. 8 2002 by Chris Salzer
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful Noir
This is the classic story of murder and adultery tied up in a tightly woven style that is in your face from the opening paragraph. Read more
Published on Aug. 22 2002 by Untouchable
4.0 out of 5 stars I'm impressed
I had to read this book for my AP English class as summer reading. I usually hate the books that my school makes me read. However, right from the first page, it had me hooked. Read more
Published on Aug. 15 2002 by Sherry Berry
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