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

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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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 9 reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Great hard-boiled writing Feb. 18 2009
By Jake Barnes - Published on
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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
three of a kind and all of one mind April 17 2013
By christopher wyecross - Published on
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.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
James M Cain, Genius Sept. 8 2009
By liberal zen - Published on
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.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The best Cain story! May 31 2013
By Golden Oldie 71 - Published on
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!
Once you start... Aug. 10 2011
By Mal - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Once you start reading Cain, you have trouble stopping. He's a genius at communicating a lot in few words. Highly recommended.