Sunday, 25 September 2011

Cain Enabled

I just discovered that the Guardian this week ran an article announcing the discovery of a lost novel by one of my favourite authors, James M. Cain. Like a hardboiled Hemingway, Cain's pen gave us  stories we've all come across: Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Galatea, Serenade, The Butterfly - many of them made into films, including the recently re-made Mildred Pierce. Writing mainly in the 1930s and 40s, Cain first found success with The Postman Always Rings Twice (what a novel to start a career with!) and his books have always been in publication. I've been a fan since the 80s when I was able to pick up some of his hard to get novels when I was working in the States. So I was overjoyed that writer Max Alan Collins was responsible in part for this piece of literary detective work and the novel (The Cocktail Waitress) has in fact been discovered, is currently being edited and will be published sometime next year. 

Apparently Cain had re-written the ending just before his death and mentioned it in an interview. Both versions have been found and it will be interesting to see which version ends up on the printed page. Hard Case Crime who are publishing the novel said that handwritten notes and edits appear in the margins of numerous pages of the manuscript, and that Cain was working on final revisions until close to the end of his life in the late 70s. Cain died in 1977 at age 85 somewhat dejected that his magnum opus was refused publication - he'd spent 20 years of his life in semi-retirement polishing the novel only to have it knocked back by publishers. So, a cause for celebration in this household and I'll be interested to see what his writing was like in his old age.

Burn brightly, Pete

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