With film adaptations like Mildred Pierce, Double Indemnity, and The Postman Always Rings Twice, James M. Cain has more adaptations than any of the original noir authors. But few people realize the man behind these stories has more work to be discovered.
In 2012, The Strand released their first uncovered James M. Cain story, titled “Mommy is a Bar Fly”, a noir exploring infidelity and looming repercussions. Over a decade later, The Strand Magazine released another recently uncovered story from the great writer. “Blackmail” was published in the 69th issue of the magazine this past Friday.
Andrew F. Gulli, Managing Editor at The Strand Magazine speaks highly of the story, saying, “For those who love James M. Cain, they’ll have a lot of his vintage touches and for those who are new to Cain but weary of the darkness of noir, the story has something that might bring them on the Cain train.”
But what is “Blackmail” about? And why didn’t Cain ever publish this story?
“Blackmail” is a vintage noir that tackles, in typical Cain fashion, the harsher truths of reality. The brief yet gritty story follows two Korean War veterans caught up in manipulation and greed, with a surprising twist at the end.
“The story with a few broad strokes shows the reverberations of war and war injuries — rather than being a straight-up crime story, this tale is more about loyalty and sacrifice,” says Gulli.
“I have no idea why Cain never published this story, I can only think he was suffering a crisis of confidence, which makes me feel bad that this talent might have felt he was washed up. I think if Cain is watching us from above that he’d be very content that the reception of this story shows he has plenty of fans who were born after he died, but still appreciate this style.”
“Blackmail”, which comes in at around 3000 words, serves as the perfect teaser for readers previously unfamiliar with Cain’s work. It throws them right into a classic noir plot with lyrical writing, and characters that manage an inordinate amount of nuance in a short few pages.
“My hope is that people who start to read some of Cain’s novels and his lesser-known works, I’d call him the lyric poet of the noir quartet. Though the lyrical poet, his works could be harsh and violent, but he had the capacity to try to find ground with those fictional characters who were so removed from him,” comments Gulli.
Whether this is your first introduction to James M. Cain, or you’re a seasoned reader and fan of his numerous works and film adaptations, “Blackmail” is a story that is worth discovering.