advertisement 1
advertisement
SEARCH:
Thursday, February 22nd, 2018                                                 SUBSCRIBE TO OUR RSS FEEDrss feed

Remembering American Mercury Writer James M. Cain

Published by on October 27, 2010

Remembering American Mercury Writer James M. Cain thumbnail

JAMES MALLAHAN CAIN died 33 years ago today. Cain (July 1, 1892 – October 27, 1977) was a celebrated American author and journalist. Although Cain himself vehemently opposed labeling, he is usually associated with the hardboiled school of American crime fiction and seen as one of the creators of the roman noir. Several of his crime novels inspired highly successful movies.

Early life

Cain was born into an Irish Catholic family in Annapolis, Maryland. The son of a prominent educator and an opera singer, he had inherited his love for music from his mother, but his high hopes of starting a career as a singer himself were thwarted when she told him that his voice was not good enough. After graduating from Washington College where his father, James W. Cain served as president, in 1910, Cain began working as a journalist for the Baltimore Sun.

Cain was drafted into the United States Army and spent the final year of World War I in France writing for an Army magazine.

Career

Back in the States, he continued working as a journalist writing editorials for the New York World and articles for The American Mercury. He briefly served as the managing editor of the New Yorker, but later turned to screenplays and finally to fiction.

Although Cain spent many years in Hollywood working on screenplays, his name only appears on the credits of three films: Algiers, Stand Up and Fight, and Gypsy Wildcat.

Cain’s first novel, The Postman Always Rings Twice, was published in 1934. Two years later the serialized Double Indemnity [which was also made into a classic film, with screenplay collaboration by the great Raymond Chandler — Ed.] was published.

Cain made use of his love of music and of the opera in particular in at least three of his novels: Serenade (about an American opera singer who loses his voice and who, after spending part of his life south of the border, re-enters the States illegally with a Mexican prostitute in tow); Mildred Pierce (in which, as part of the subplot, the only daughter of a successful businesswoman trains as an opera singer); and Career in C Major, a short semi-comic novel about the unhappy husband of an aspiring opera singer who unexpectedly discovers that he has a better voice than she does (Cain’s fourth wife, Florence Macbeth, was a retired opera singer).

American Authors’ Authority

In July 1946, Cain wrote an article for Screen Writer magazine in which he proposed the creation of an American Authors’ Authority to hold writers’ copyrights and represent the writers in contract negotiations and court disputes. This idea was dubbed the “Cain plan” in the media. The plan was denounced as Communist by some writers, who formed the American Writers Association to oppose it. Although Cain worked vigorously to promoted the Authority, it did not gain widespread support and the idea died.

Personal life

Cain was married to Mary Clough in 1919. The marriage ended in divorce and he promptly married Elina Sjösted Tyszecka. Although Cain never had any children of his own, he was close to Elina’s two children from a prior marriage. In 1944 Cain married film actress Aileen Pringle, but the marriage was a tempestuous union and dissolved in a bitter divorce two years later. Cain married for the fourth time to Florence Macbeth, an opera singer. Their marriage lasted until her death in 1966.

Cain continued writing up to his death at the age of 85. However, the many novels he published from the late 1940s onward never rivaled his earlier successes.

Quotation

“I make no conscious effort to be tough, or hard-boiled, or grim, or any of the things I am usually called. I merely try to write as the character would write, and I never forget that the average man, from the fields, the streets, the bars, the offices, and even the gutters of his country, has acquired a vividness of speech that goes beyond anything I could invent, and that if I stick to this heritage, this logos of the American countryside, I shall attain a maximum of effectiveness with very little effort.”

(from the preface to Double Indemnity)

Read the full article on Poe Forward

Related Articles:

Readers' Comments





  • Her killer was made into a hero
  • Literature, US News »

    Homeless Jack on “Grabbing Some Pussy”

    November 7, 2016

    Homeless Jack on “Grabbing Some Pussy” thumbnail

    We discovered this piece scrawled on some foolscap left on our doorstep, an all-lower-case Kerouac-style stream of consciousness rap, and offer it as we found it. by H. Millard trump is an american original and a throwback to the days when americans were bursting with confidence and energy and the sheer joy of freedom and […]

    Africa, History »

    ‘The Choice of Achilles’: John Alan Coey Against the New World Order

    January 3, 2013

    ‘The Choice of Achilles’: John Alan Coey Against the New World Order thumbnail

    by T.R. Bennington AS EVER, BUT ESPECIALLY in our present state of civilizational malaise, there is a need for figures with the power to inspire — men who in less confused and cynical times would have been unabashedly described as heroic. One such figure is Corporal John Alan Coey, a young soldier who has perhaps […]

    Science »

    Quarter of Americans Convinced Sun Revolves Around Earth

    March 2, 2015

    Quarter of Americans Convinced Sun Revolves Around Earth thumbnail

    “DOES the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth?” If you answered the latter, you’re among a quarter of Americans who also got it wrong, according to a new report by the National Science Foundation. A survey of 2,200 people that was released Friday revealed some alarming truths about […]

  • Reader’s Comments

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Pages

  • Login / Register / RSS

  • Vintage Mercury »

    Jailbirds

    June 7, 2017

    Jailbirds thumbnail

    by Jim Tully; from The American Mercury, September, 1928; transcribed by Kevin I. Slaughter THE jail room was thirty-five feet long, twenty-five feet wide, and seven feet high. In this large cage were fifty prisoners. Some had been sentenced and were serving jail terms; others awaited trial, or removal to the penitentiary. The floor was of […]

    Opinion »

    The Old Right and the Antichrist

    June 7, 2017

    The Old Right and the Antichrist thumbnail

    by Richard Spencer (pictured) The following address was given to the H.L. Mencken Club’s Annual Meeting; November 21-23, 2008. BEFORE William F. Buckley settled on writing God and Man at Yale in 1951, the 25 year-old had something quite different in mind as a debut volume. Buckley planned, and may have begun drafting, a book caustically […]

    Literature »

    The Fame of a Dead Man’s Deeds Audio Book: Schooling

    February 19, 2018

    <em>The Fame of a Dead Man’s Deeds</em> Audio Book: Schooling thumbnail

    by Bradford L. Huie for The American Mercury DR. WILLIAM PIERCE says our education system is failing, and that egalitarianism, multiculturalism, and feminism are to blame. The solutions he suggests as the only possible remedies — racial separation being the first but far from the only one — are ones that most modern educators would rather […]

  • Names and Topics



  • FEATURED ARTICLES

    Frank Audio Books, History »

    New Audio Book: The American Mercury on Leo Frank – Dorsey’s Closing Arguments, part 2

    October 20, 2017

    New Audio Book: The American Mercury on Leo Frank – Dorsey’s Closing Arguments, part 2 thumbnail

    THIS WEEK WE present the second part of the closing arguments of Solicitor Hugh Dorsey (pictured in a  contemporary newspaper illustration), the prosecutor in the 1913 murder trial of Leo Frank for the slaying of his sweatshop employee Mary Phagan. This prosecution has been presented in the major media as a case of “anti-Semitism” — […]

    Literature »

    The Fame of a Dead Man’s Deeds Audio Book: Our Cause

    October 15, 2017

    <em>The Fame of a Dead Man’s Deeds</em> Audio Book: Our Cause thumbnail

    by Bradford L. Huie for The American Mercury THIS WEEK in our audio biography of William Pierce (pictured), read by Miss Vanessa Neubauer, we present author Robert S. Griffin’s exploration of Dr. Pierce’s spiritual ideals, as expressed in his seminal speech Our Cause. Click here for all the chapters of this book that we’ve published so […]

    Frank Audio Books, History »

    New Audio Book: The American Mercury on Leo Frank – Dorsey’s Closing Arguments, part 1

    October 13, 2017

    New Audio Book: The American Mercury on Leo Frank – Dorsey’s Closing Arguments, part 1 thumbnail

    TODAY WE present the closing arguments of Solicitor Hugh Dorsey (pictured), which were the very last arguments heard by the jury, in the 1913 murder trial of Leo Max Frank for the murder of Mary Phagan. These powerful, successful, and historic arguments span some six hours, and they will be presented here over the next […]

    Literature »

    The Fame of a Dead Man’s Deeds Audio Book: Timothy McVeigh

    October 8, 2017

    <em>The Fame of a Dead Man’s Deeds</em> Audio Book: Timothy McVeigh thumbnail

    by Bradford L. Huie for The American Mercury AGAIN AND AGAIN the claim is made that Dr. William Pierce’s novel The Turner Diaries was the “inspiration” for Timothy McVeigh’s 1995 attack on the Federal Building in Oklahoma City. But was that true? Professor Robert S. Griffin asks Dr. Pierce tough questions on his, his novel’s, and […]

    Frank Audio Books, History »

    New Audio Book: The American Mercury on Leo Frank – Rosser’s Closing Arguments, part 2

    October 6, 2017

    New Audio Book: The American Mercury on Leo Frank – Rosser’s Closing Arguments, part 2 thumbnail

    THIS WEEK in our audio book series we present part 2, the final part, of the powerful, skillful closing arguments of Luther Z. Rosser for the defense of Leo Frank (pictured) in his trial for the murder of Mary Phagan, read by Vanessa Neubauer. Rosser, possibly the most feared lawyer in Atlanta in his day, […]

    Literature »

    The Fame of a Dead Man’s Deeds Audio Book: Pierce on The Turner Diaries

    October 1, 2017

    <em>The Fame of a Dead Man’s Deeds</em> Audio Book: Pierce on The Turner Diaries thumbnail

    by Bradford L. Huie for The American Mercury TODAY WE ENTER the mind of the author of the most controversial novel ever written — The Turner Diaries. Professor Robert S. Griffin interviews and probes fearlessly into the thinking of Dr. William Pierce, the subject his unique biography, The Fame of a Dead Man’s Deeds. What was William […]

    Frank Audio Books, History »

    New Audio Book: The American Mercury on Leo Frank – Rosser’s Closing Arguments, part 1

    September 27, 2017

    New Audio Book: The American Mercury on Leo Frank – Rosser’s Closing Arguments, part 1 thumbnail

    THIS WEEK in our audio book series we present part 1 of the powerful, skillful closing arguments of Luther Z. Rosser (pictured) for the defense of Leo Frank in his trial for the murder of Mary Phagan, read by Vanessa Neubauer. Rosser was respected — and feared — as one of the best attorneys of […]

    Literature »

    The Fame of a Dead Man’s Deeds Audio Book: The Turner Diaries

    September 24, 2017

    <em>The Fame of a Dead Man’s Deeds</em> Audio Book: The Turner Diaries thumbnail

    by Bradford L. Huie for The American Mercury WHAT IS PROBABLY the most controversial novel ever written — The Turner Diaries — is the subject of this week’s chapter of our new audio book, The Fame of a Dead Man’s Deeds. (ILLUS.: The cover and autographed title page of a first edition copy of The Turner Diaries, […]

    Frank Audio Books, History »

    New Audio Book: The American Mercury on Leo Frank – Arnold’s Closing Arguments, part 2

    September 20, 2017

    New Audio Book: The American Mercury on Leo Frank – Arnold’s Closing Arguments, part 2 thumbnail

    REUBEN ARNOLD’S closing arguments (part 2) for the defense of Leo Frank — on the charge of murdering his sweatshop employee Mary Phagan — are our presentation this week in our new audio book series, read by Vanessa Neubauer. This series encompasses the American Mercury’s coverage of the 1913 trial and conviction of Jewish sex killer […]

    Literature »

    The Fame of a Dead Man’s Deeds Audio Book: Revilo P. Oliver

    September 17, 2017

    <em>The Fame of a Dead Man’s Deeds</em> Audio Book: Revilo P. Oliver thumbnail

    by Bradford L. Huie for The American Mercury RESPECTED PROFESSOR of the classics — co-founder of the John Birch Society — radical racial-nationalist — witness before the Warren Commission — and profound influence on William Luther Pierce: All of these things describe Revilo Pendleton Oliver, who is the subject of this week’s chapter of our new […]