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The Baby in the Icebox and Other Short Fiction (Anglais) Relié – 1 septembre 1981
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com (beta)
The brief intros by Hoopes are interesting and a nice addition, but I'd recommend reading the stories first, then trying the intros to avoid any spoilers.
The highlight among these tales, Baby packs a lot of wallop into a very few pages. The characters emerge quickly and distinctly and the cat subplot dovetails perfectly and provides a satisfying conclusion. There is always a sense of justice in Cain's works, and here it's particularly pleasant.
Joy Ride and Embezzler are two other fine works in this collection, but each of the stories is worth reading. They might not all be perfect, but they're all pure Cain, and that's as good as this genre ever got, Hammett and Chandler included.
Anyway, the books are more dated and less interesting than the movies. Much of their success was due to shock value at the time of publication, something that will not impress modern readers, especially when compared to noir masters. The lesser movies based on Cain's work, and Cain's unsuccessful direct screenwriting, are forgettable or worse. His signature twist, that the criminals get away with it but are so wracked by guilt they confess or kill themselves, would need a better writer to carry off (fortunately, movie production codes forbade putting this in the film versions).
I knew that Cain had been famous as a newspaper and magazine writer before his Hollywood career, but had read only one or two of his stories. So I was curious enough to download this e-book version of an older collection of stories. I'm glad I did. Some of the stories are quite good, and collectively they did a lot to flesh out my understanding of Cain and his work. Alfred Johnson mentioned a comparison to O. Henry, but I don't agree. There are some last paragraph or last sentence twists, but they are a minor feature, no more surprising than are done by many other authors. The editor mentioned that Cain was a big Ring Lardner fan, and that influence was more obvious to me. Cain does not reach the heights of either bitterness or humor of Lardner, but you can definitely see the connection. And Cain was a better reporter than Lardner was a sportswriter (in the sense of telling what happened at the field as opposed to capturing the essence of the game in fiction).
Some of the best material in the book captures forgotten aspects of rural American history, fanning bees, mine blow outs, volunteer fire company fights; making their human sides come alive like Thomas Hardy did for agricultural England. Generally speaking, I liked the earlier material better than the later stuff.
The editor's comments were oddly repetitive and confusing about chronology, they could have benefited from another round of editing. Quis emend ipsos emendators? Nevertheless, some of the anecdotes and history gave insight into the stories.
Overall the book has some fair to pretty good writing by an author who is more interesting because he was very popular for a time, and for the works he inspired or blazed a path for, than for his actual stories. Of course James M. Cain fans should read it, as well as people interested in the history of American popular writing. Others, I think, will find it mildly entertaining but forgettable.
Of particular value to fans of Cain's work are the biographical / historical essays included herein; they were written by Roy Hoopes, who edited this volume and who published a full biography of Cain in 1982. I have learned a lot about Cain from this work, and gained a deeper appreciation for his career as a writer.