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Most readers and critics seem to agree that this novel is not one of Cain's best, and I agree with that judgment. However, it is nevertheless an interesting story, well worth reading.
First, the negatives: The plot is ludicrous, as others have noted, fit only for grand opera. In fact, the novel can be read on one level as a parody of grand opera. The main character is unbelievable. At least, he doesn't resemble anyone I've ever met. But it wouldn't be difficult to believe that Hollywood is populated by such people, and that Cain knew a number of them fairly well. Most of the secondary characters are cardboard stereotypes. The ending is an anti-climax and unimaginative. It's almost as if Cain got tired of the story and wanted to bring it to an end any old way, and so chose the most obvious and banal ending possible. The crude racial and sexual terminology the protagonist uses in his interior monologue will put off many modern readers. In addition to being offensive, it isn't quite believable that a person of Sharp's supposedly sophisticated background would think in such derogatory terms, even in the 1930's, but perhaps I am wrong about that.
Now for the positives: The settings are quite well done, and very interesting: The drive from Mexico City to Acapulco, the descriptions of the houses of prostitution, the concert at the Hollywood Bowl, the party scene in the Director's apartment, are all very well done. The sex scenes, while tame by modern standards, are quite good. The dialogue is sharp and believable. Sharp's interior monologues on music are entertaining and educational. However, the highlight of the story is Juana's character. She is a prostitute, and therefore a realist - uneducated but intelligent and perceptive. From her experience with males, she realizes from the beginning that John Howard Sharp is bisexual, but thinks that might make him a more tractable business partner. When he demonstrates a strong sexual interest in her, she accepts that in him and accepts a change in the terms of the relationship. Then when his sexual past becomes a threat to that relationship she acts decisively and with great courage, in effect trying to save John Howard Sharp from himself. He does not doubt that he loves her, and he does his best to act accordingly, but he is in the end incapable of the selflessness of true love, and lets her down. Juana didn't expect much from life, yet when love came her way she gave it everything she had. John Howard Sharp, much as he tried to be otherwise, was really only ever in love with music.
I'm not doing justice to the relationship between Sharp and Juana, as they each attempt and fail to transcend their limitations, but that is the human core of the novel, the part James M. Cain was very good at telling, the part that makes the story, with all its limitations, worth reading.