Double Indemnity, by James M. Cain, actually starts off with a foreword by James Lee Burke which goes into a major gush about how the writing is amazing, the dialogue so lifelike, how he wished he’d found James M. Cain’s writing sooner etc etc.

Obviously after reading this I thought, woah this is going to be a good one. So I settled in and got comfy.

It was The Graduate all over again.

It’s 1950s America. Meaning, parts of it may as well be another language. Accurate dialogue? For who? Most of the time I struggled to even understand the sentence structure. I also found it hard to follow who was doing the talking at any given point and had to re-read back to get the characters straight in my mind.

The story itself is about an insurance broker who plans the perfect murder.

That is literally all I will tell you about the story as anything more would spoil it. The actual story, which I gathered in gist form, was great. Although the characters may as well have been speaking German for all I knew, the bits that I could follow along with, told a great story.

I think for me, as with The Graduate, it’s one that I hope to be able to better appreciate by watching the screen adaptation to see how the dialogue should be spoken – as 1950s America makes as much sense as Shakespeare for the language changes. In my eyes anyway.

So for Double Indemnity, I would recommend it, but perhaps watch the screen version first to get a feel for it, then read the book as you’ll have a better understanding of what the hell they’re actually going on about.

Next to be taken from the bookshelf, How to be a Woman, by Caitlin Moran.

Until next time.


5 thoughts on “Double Indemnity – James M. Cain – Review

  1. I’ve read the book and seen the film (a few months ago even). Though the film is different in some important ways, the adaptation helped me appreciate the book. Both are great for different reasons.

  2. I find/found James Cain’s Serenade to be a whopping powerhouse of language and a ride back in time. Others obviously did too. At least at the time. He wrote it in the late 30s or early 40s. I read it 20 years ago and was taken in. But then I love Robert Stone. He wrote Outerbridge Reach, which upset me, physically actually, for 24-48 hours. I have never read a book that did to me. If you go on goodreads.com, you’ll find that he gets very high and very low marks.

    • I just found out James Cain wrote the book of Mildred Pierce, I love the original film adaptation – perhaps I’ll give the book a go at some point and Serenade too. I’d not heard of Robert Stone or Outerbridge Reach, but I’ll add it to my pile of reads. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. I fell so completely in love with Double Indemnity that everything else of Cain’s I’ve tried has left me somewhat underwhelmed. This is the pinnacle of that 50s tough-guy/-dame sensibility, and stands head and shoulders above all other American crime writing from this period. It’s a piece of steel-edged poetry that only Jim Thopmson has come close to in my eyes, though Thompson was inevitably even more nihilistic in his own writing (see: The Killer Inside Me and Pop. 1280)

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