James M. Cain
Hard Case Crime (Winterfall
September 18, 2012 / ISBN 978-1781160329
Hardboiled Crime / Detective Fiction
by Mark J. Brock-Farrington
Cocktail Waitress" was James M. Cain's final novel. It
was written in 1975 just two years prior to his death. It was just
recently published for the first time by Hard Case Crime - an excellent
and fitting publisher of hardboiled fiction. "The Cocktail
Waitress" will easily join the list of James M. Cain's
earlier genre masterworks (such as The Postman Always Rings
Twice and Mildred Pierce). The writing is pure Cain.
Cain chooses his words like a gifted artist choosing the perfect
hues and brush-strokes to paint the exact pictures and convey the
exact emotions he wishes the reader to see and experience. His plotline
moves like real-life ...in unpredictable bursts, with unexpected
twists and turns. The characters are real and fleshed-out and are
limited only by the personal experience of the first person perspective
from which they are experienced by the protagonist. Cain holds the
reader to the end. The story demands contemplation after the final
words are read... but this is not due to dissatisfaction with the
ending. It is a contemplation of subtle possibilities and things
unsaid. This makes the entire tale and its' characters remain with
the reader long after the story ends.
The story is
told by the young protagonist, Joan Medford. The story begins with
the death of Joan's abusive, unemployed, alcoholic husband and then
follows her through her desperate struggle to survive and care for
her child with no family support, money or other needed resources.
In fact she must also deal with hostile in-laws and suspicious law
enforcement officials who seem determined to lay the blame for her
husband's accidental death at her feet.
The story is
hardboiled fiction and is classic noir. The violence is sparse but
real but without any gratuitousness. The sex is also real and necessary
to the plot; however, the sex is mostly insinuated rather than being
openly graphic. The adult language is minimal with very sparse to
non-existent profanity. Needless to say, this is adult fiction and
deals with adult situations and themes.
This book is highly recommended for lovers of hardboiled fiction
and for readers of classic noir. It is James M. Cain's final masterwork
and is a must-read and must-have for any collector of classic crime
fiction. This work rates an easy 5 of 5 stars.