Frank Chambers, the scuzzy main character in James M. Cain's noir masterpiece The Postman Always Rings Twice, is not a nice guy. He will not come to a happy end. Nor will his adulteress in crime, Cora. These folks are dour, desperate and defeated. They plot. They murder. They rot from inside out, like a tapeworm slowly sucking the humanity from their life-blood.
The Postman Always Rings Twice is the type of short novel that punches you in the gut from the first paragraph and keeps on jabbing at your spleen on the way up your throat till it hits a vital point. The vileness is addicting, the repugnance complete. The desperation of the main characters mirror the desperation of 1934 America stuck deep in the gorges of the Great Depression and hang onto the reader like the jaws of a rattler on a trapped mouse.
We're all familiar with the story of the aimless drifter roaming into town and seducing the wife of a local resident. We've seen the furtive eyes, the lustful clenches, the faraway looks of longing to be anyplace but where they reside and with anyone else but who they're with. This is such a story. But this is a story so well written, so psychologically brutal, so sparse in language that it's as if it were chiseled onto stone slabs to be read by tallow light.
The film adaptation of this novel is great, but read the book first.
Dan @ Washington Park