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Double Indemnity Paperback – May 14 1989

4.1 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard; 1 edition (May 14 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679723226
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679723226
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 0.9 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 136 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #172,834 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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When smalltime insurance salesman Walter Huff meets seductive Phyllis Nirdlinger, the wife of one of his wealthy clients, it takes him only minutes to determine that she wants to get rid of her husband--and not much longer to decide to help her do it. Walter knows that accident insurance pays double indemnity on railroad mishaps, so he and Phyllis plot frantically to get Nirdlinger on--and off--a train without arousing the suspicions of the police, the insurance company, Nirdlinger's dishy daughter, her mysterious boyfriend, or Nirdlinger himself. This brief but complex novel is a perfect example of the ordinary-guy-gone-disastrously-wrong story that Cain always pulls off brilliantly.


[A] fine idea for a series... They already have a superb noir backlist. but adding Philip K Dick's Minority Report and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? improves the mix. SCOTSMAN --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By lawyeraau TOP 500 REVIEWER on July 24 2006
Format: Paperback
This book, more novella than novel, is intricately plotted and a very quick read. Wholly plot-driven, the book is a classic morality tale. A seductive woman, Phyllis Nirdlinger, desires to kill her wealthy husband. An otherwise intelligent insurance agent, Walter Huff, falls under her spell. Together they put together a seemingly failsafe plan to do the dastardly deed, making it appear as if it were an accident, so that the double indemnity clause in an insurance policy will kick into play. The problem is that all is not as it initially seems.

Written as a first person narrative by the insurance agent, the writing is tight, spare, and lean. No word is wasted. Yet, the minimalism works to the advantage of the story, as it makes the intricacy of the plotting clear to the reader. Having seen the film with Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck in the lead roles, I kept hearing Fred MacMurray's voice in my head as I read the book. While the film deviates from the book in a number of ways, it is classic film noir at its best and well-worth viewing. Likewise, the book is a classic in its own right, and those who like hard-boiled crime fiction will not be disappointed.
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Format: Paperback
James M. Cain's reputation as a master of the noir genre rests largely on his phenomenally grim 1934 story "The Postman Always Rings Twice" and this short tale, the 1935 classic "Double Indemnity." No other noir writer's reputation-whether Raymond Chandler, Dashell Hammett, or Cornell Woolrich-rests on only two stories. Well, you could throw in "Mildred Pierce" as another Cain classic, but that still leaves only three bleak yarns worth mentioning. How is it possible to sustain a literary legacy based on two, maybe three, stories that you could read in three single sittings? Think movies. You can thank Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler for Cain's enduring legacy. These two guys collaborated on the script for "Double Indemnity" the film, a film that has since become one of the classics of American cinema. And don't forget Joan Crawford won an Oscar for her work in the screen version of "Mildred Pierce." Too, if memory serves correctly, there are two film versions of "The Postman Always Rings Twice," one of them starring Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange. If I were a writer, I wouldn't be too enthusiastic that my legacy rested on film versions of my stories. From what I've read of the noir masters, Cain isn't nearly as good of a storyteller as Chandler, Hammett, or Woolrich. He isn't as good as Jim Thompson or David Goodis either, for that matter.
"Double Indemnity" tells the disastrous story of one Walter Huff. An insurance salesman working a route in California in the 1930s, Huff spends his days trying to get clients to increase their insurance holdings. His life changes for the worse when he calls on a household where he falls under the poisonous charms of Phyllis Nirdlinger, the wife of a wealthy oil executive.
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Format: Paperback
Walter Huff is a pretty decent and basically honest insurance salesman, until he meets Phyllis Nirdlinger, the wife of a successful California businessman. Phyllis isn't the most attractive woman, but she's a true seductress. Huff immediately knows that Phyllis will be trouble, but he can't resist her, and she quickly involves him in a plot to kill her husband. Things become even more complicated when Phyllis' step-daughter, Lola, enters the scene and bonds with Huff.
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!
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Format: Paperback
In many ways, DOUBLE INDEMNITY is POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE redux -- the main exception being that POSTMAN's greasy spoon is replaced by a cozy upper middle class Spanish suburban house. In both books, a man is inspired by a sexy, discontented married woman into murdering hubby for gain.
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!
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