Crimezine discovers The Cocktail Waitress by James M. Cain

Posted: May 2, 2012 in Crime Fiction Books
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Cocktail Waitress

A beautiful young widow takes a job in a cocktail bar after her husband dies in mysterious circumstances…

Any mention of  Pulp crime writer James M. Cain will inevitably include talk of his classic books, The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934) and Double Indemnity—first serialized in Liberty magazine in 1936 but published in Pulp format in 1943. The classic era for Cain is undoubtedly the 1930’s and 40’s. As his success as a writer peaked, he got sucked into the Hollyweird writing pool and published a mere seven books during the final thirty years of his career.

When Cain died in 1977 he was finalizing his last novel The Cocktail Waitress. Cain revealed in Film Comment Magazine that the novel had given him difficulties and he had re-written it in the first person, after originally penning it in the third person. Cain also mentioned that the central motivation behind the story had given him problems, which perhaps explains why the story  remained unpublished at the time of his death.

Enter Internet moneybags and Pulp-fiction savior Charles Ardai. Chuck describes  The Cocktail Waitress as: The Holy Grail for crime fans. He is not the only one, Crimezine favorites Lawrence Block and Stephen King have both gushed effusively over this book—presumably they have received jealously guarded advanced copies, as it will not be available until September 2012. Though no doubt Crimezines copy is on the way as we speak.

Why the pregnant pause between publicity and publication? Well Ardai has spent a great deal of time, money and effort digging this relic up from the pulpish past, so presumably he wants to ensure that it will be the kind of  hit, that will push his niche publishing operation Hard Case Crime, into the publishing mainstream.

Crimezine hopes that The Cocktail Waitress will meet fevered expectations, as it will be a fitting, if much delayed tribute to the memory of one of Pulp fictions greatest talents, James M. Cain, A man whom literary legend Albert Camus described as America’s greatest writer.

  1. Jimbo says:

    Cain is overrated— everyone judges him by the films. Bet this book is pants

  2. tonybulmer says:

    By the 1970’s commercial publishing and the subjects covered by best-selling authors had changed substantially from Cain’s thirties noir heyday. Mario Puzo, Jack Higgins, John Le Carre, and Fredrick Forsyth were just some of the big name authors that Cain was up against. Plus, on May 25th 1977 (the year Cain died) a film called Star Wars was released, signifying that the fast receding world of thirties Noir was literally light years from the commercial mainstream.

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