American author of crime fiction, born 1892 in Annapolis, MD, died 1977 somewhere else in Maryland.

With few exceptions, Cain's entire life took place between those two years. He served in WWI, and wrote for the Baltimore American and the Baltimore Sun from 1917 to 1923. At the American he met everybody's favorite ubermensch H.L. Mencken, and published in The American Mercury. When Harold Ross at The New Yorker ran amok collecting journalists in the 1930s, he collected Cain in 1931. Cain escaped within a year, fleeing to the West Coast, where he wrote for the movies until 1947.

Cain is best known for a pair of scarily good novels: The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934) and Double Indemnity (1936). Another novel, Mildred Pierce (1941) was made into a movie in 1944 starring Joan Crawford.

The only Cain I've read is Postman and Double Indemnity, so that's all I can discuss, but discuss I must.

Both of those novels are written in the first person, and Cain is at great pains to mimic the speech and outlook of "common men" -- a drifter and an insurance salesman, respectively. They're both psychological studies, attempts to get inside the heads of seemingly ordinary people who do strange and terrible things. They're sordid little people who wake up to some kind of moral sense only after it's too late, if at all (how well was he named, or what?!). It's grim stuff, but hard to put down.

Cain wrote lots else, the most gloriously named being The Baby in the Icebox and Other Short Fiction, 1981 (that'd be posthumous, if I can trust my arithmetic).

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