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

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard (May 14 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679723234
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679723233
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2.6 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 381 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #414,280 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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.

From the Back Cover

James M. Cain hammered high art out of the crude matter of betrayal, bloodshed, and perversity. These three novels, now published together in one volume, display him at the peak of his form.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa4020750) out of 5 stars 13 reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f051354) out of 5 stars 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.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f0513a8) out of 5 stars 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.
HASH(0x9f051684) out of 5 stars Not at his best in SERENADE, Cain was still able Jan. 8 2016
By Art Louis - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The lead story in this volume, Serenade, is by far the best of the three novellas presented, and is the only subject of my review.

As Serenade opens, protagonist Jack Sharp is banished from Paradise, subsisting in Mexico as a kind of operatic stumblebum. He lost both his golden voice and his European Eden when his muse deserted him over the sin of homosexuality. The agent of his temptation and fall was rich, charming Winston Hawes, his maestro and mentor in Paris.

In his Mexico hell, Jack nevertheless finds his Eve, a three-peso whore named Juana Montes, who straightens his libido, helps heal his voice, and escapes with him for his second shot at fame and fortune in the good ol’ U.S. of A. Before long, he conquers Hollywood and reaches his ultimate goal, singing at the Met in New York. Naturally, Winston Hawes reappears at the height of Jack’s meteoric rise. Not long after, in a decadent party setting that resembles a drag ball, Juana fulfills her fate and crushes the devil/serpent underfoot.

Those who have been awarded a second sojourn in the Garden must, of course, endure another round of purgation in hell. To that end, Jack and Juana flee to South America for the denouement, deteriorating physically and mentally until they reach ground zero—the same Mexican town and milieu where they met. The ending is appropriately melodramatic, but is too long in coming. Cain has tried our patience by now with a lot of mopey agonizing about the lovers’ final breakup.

In spite of its faults, Serenade is mostly brisk and involving, a damn good read. You may be put off by Cain’s theory of homosexuality and by his lead character’s bias against Mexicans, but the former serves his story well, and the latter is ably countered by another character’s defense of Mexico and its people in Chapter Six.

Serenade falls short of Cain’s most celebrated work in The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity and Mildred Pierce. Give him credit, however, for tackling a difficult theme as far back as 1937. Here was a noted crime fiction author expounding on the relationship between homosexuality and creativity. An especially bold move, I think, because his many friends and acquaintances had to notice that James Cain’s own musicality and physical description matched up with those of his protagonist. Despite his three marriages, and despite the charge of homophobia that some have laid at his door, I find myself wondering whether Cain wrote Serenade, in part, as self-revelation.

Be aware that the film version of Serenade, starring Mario Lanza, is not the film noir equivalent of the novella, but a color-drenched and tuneful melodrama that converts the protagonist's gay nemesis into a femme fatale, portrayed by Joan Fontaine.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Truesy - Published on
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!
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f051768) out of 5 stars 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.