Like many people, I saw the film Double Indemnity first, and it is, of course, a top-notch film noir, arguably one of the best — but I love the book just as much. Leaner, simpler, James M. Cain’s novel is a lightning-fast, tension-laced read full of pulpy goodness, exploring themes of obsession and the corruption of the soul through Cain’s everyman-gone-wrong, Walter Huff. The end of the book — completely different from the film, by the way — is a great example of how deftly Cain works poetry into his hard-boiled simplicity. Quintessentially noir and quintessentially American, it is, above all, just a damn good time. Recommended By Gigi L., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
James M. Cain, virtuoso of the roman noir, gives us a tautly narrated and excruciatingly suspenseful story in Double Indemnity, an X-ray view of guilt, of duplicity, and of the kind of obsessive, loveless love that devastates everything it touches.
Walter Huff was an insurance salesman with an unfailing instinct for clients who might be in trouble, and his instinct led him to Phyllis Nirdlinger.
Phyllis wanted to buy an accident policy on her husband. Then she wanted her husband to have an accident. Walter wanted Phyllis. To get her, he would arrange the perfect murder and betray everything he had ever lived for.
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. Johns College in Annapolis and a stint at The New Yorker as managing editor before he went to Hollywood as a script writer. Cains 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 Cains 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.