James M. Cain

James M. Cain

Infobox Writer
name = James Mallahan Cain
birthdate = birth date|1892|7|01
birthplace = Annapolis, Maryland, United States
deathdate = death date and age|1977|10|27|1892|7|01
deathplace = University Park, Maryland, United States
occupation = Novelist, journalist
nationality = American
genre = Crime

James Mallahan Cain (July 1, 1892 – October 27, 1977) was an American journalist and novelist. Although Cain himself vehemently opposed labelling, he is usually associated with the hardboiled school of American crime fiction and seen as one of the creators of the "roman noir".

Early life

Cain was born into an Irish Catholic family in Annapolis, Maryland. The son of a prominent teacher and an opera singer, he had inherited his love for music from his mother, but his high hopes of starting a career as a singer himself were thwarted when she told him that his voice was not good enough. After graduating from Washington College in 1910, Cain was drafted into the United States Army and spent the final year of World War I in France writing for an Army magazine. Back in the States, he continued working as a journalist and briefly served as the managing editor of "The New Yorker", but later turned to screenplays and finally to fiction.


Cain made use of his love of music and of the opera in particular in at least three of his novels: "Serenade" (about an American opera singer who loses his voice and who, after spending part of his life south of the border, re-enters the States illegally with a Mexican prostitute in tow); "Mildred Pierce" (where, as part of the subplot, the only daughter of a successful businesswoman trains as an opera singer); and "Two Can Sing", a short semi-comic novel about the unhappy husband of an aspiring opera singer who unexpectedly discovers that he has a better voice than she does (Cain's third wife, Florence McBeth, was a retired opera singer).

Personal life

In 1944 Cain married film actress Aileen Pringle (second of his three wives), but the marriage was a tempestuous union and dissolved in a bitter divorce two years later.

Cain continued writing up to his death. However, the many novels he published from the late 1940s onward never rivalled his earlier successes. He died an alcoholic, aged 85.


:"I make no conscious effort to be tough, or hard-boiled, or grim, or any of the things I am usually called. I merely try to write as the character would write, and I never forget that the average man, from the fields, the streets, the bars, the offices and even the gutters of his country, has acquired a vividness of speech that goes beyond anything I could invent, and that if I stick to this heritage, this logos of the American countryside, I shall attain a maximum of effectiveness with very little effort."::(from the Preface to "Double Indemnity")


(with the dates of the first book publication)
*"Our Government" (1930)
*"The Postman Always Rings Twice" (1934) (filmed several times; first version by Pierre Chenal in 1939 — "Le Dernier tournant")
*"Serenade" (1937) (filmed by Anthony Mann in 1956 — see "Serenade")
*"Mildred Pierce" (1941) (filmed by Michael Curtiz in 1945 — see "Mildred Pierce")
*"Love's Lovely Counterfeit" (1942) (filmed by Allan Dwan in 1956 — see "Slightly Scarlet")
*"Career in C Major and Other Stories" (1943)
* "Double Indemnity" (1943) (first published in "Liberty Magazine", 1936) (filmed by Billy Wilder in 1944, script by Wilder and Raymond Chandler — see "Double Indemnity")
*"The Embezzler" (1944) (first published as "Money and the Woman", Liberty Magazine, 1938)
*"Past All Dishonor" (1946)
*"The Butterfly" (1947) (filmed by Matt Cimber in 1982 — see "Butterfly")
*"The Moth" (1948)
*"Sinful Woman" (1948)
*"Jealous Woman" (1950)
*"The Root of His Evil" (1951) (also published as "Shameless")
*"Galatea" (1953)
*"Mignon" (1962)
*"The Magician's Wife" (1965)
*"Rainbow's End" (1975)
*"The Institute" (1976)
*"The Baby in the Icebox" (1981) [Short Story collection]
*"Cloud Nine" (1983)
*"The Enchanted Isle" (1985) (filmed by Lucas Platt in 1995 as "Girl in the Cadillac")

External links

* [http://www.lib.umd.edu/RARE/Exhibits/HardBoiled/Cain.html James M. Cain's collection at the University of Maryland Library]
* [http://www.mysteryfile.com/Cain/Birthday.html Bibliography and reviews]
* [http://www.detnovel.com/Cain%20James.html "James M. Cain", an essay by William Marling]
* [http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/jmcain.htm Biography]

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