|Buddy, you are about to die. Still from the early movie version of The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934), by James Cain.|
The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934)
by James Cain
The Postman Always Rings Twice is popular in both book and movie form. In book form it is most certainly "hard boiled" but it is not detective fiction, because there is no detective involved. The Postman Always Rings Twice was shocking in its day, and actually got banned in Boston, and it was an immediate hit. The hard boiled sex and violence mask a complicated moral universe and the minimalist scenery disguises a book that is very grounded in the Southern California environment of the Great Depression. Frank Chambers, the narrator and central figure, is a classic drifter/hobo. An interrogation between Chambers and the local district attorney sounds like the description of a classic hobo lifestyle.
The Postman Always Rings Twice also touches of issues of class, race and gender- all the central issues of 20th century American life, wrapped in a thick blanket of tough guy talk and hottish sex. I'm a little disappointed that Double Indemnity, the other classic James Cain hit, didn't make the 1001 Books list. Its absence seems clear evidence of an anti-American tendency within the 1001 Books project (understandable most if not all of the selectors are English authors and academics.)