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The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain

This is the second or third reading for me of James M. Cain’s “The Postman Always Rings Twice”. I’ve probably seen the Nicholson/Lange movie several times as well. I am always amazed when I am re-reading a book that even a few scenes or characters have been forgotten about – not because they were unimportant or even secondary to the story, it is just that other characters and scenes stood out so much in my prior readings.

“The Postman Always Rings Twice” has now become a important American novel about adultery, forbidden love, and, quite possibly, murder. If you’ve never read the book and only seen the most recent film adaptation of the book, you should give it a read. Especially since Nicholson was absolutely the wrong choice to play the drifter and bum, Frank Chambers, read the book and let the writing and your imagination paint a picture of Chambers.

One of the things I find quite amazing about so many first novels is that some can be so damn good. Cain’s first novel is fantastic and never disappoints.

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Detour by Martin M. Goldsmith

Martin M. Goldsmith’s “Detour” was written in 1939 before Vegas was a thing. Alexander Roth finds himself somewhere in New Mexico as he is hitch-hiking to Los Angeles. Except for Phoenix and Tucson, there is nothing but desert between Roth and his goal, to meet up back with his girl, Sue Harvey. Both Harvey and Roth narrate this novel in alternating chapters. Roth begins the story by getting picked up by a Mr. Haskell. Roth tells the reader his story, what he can pick up of Haskell’s story and by the end of Chapter One, life changes drastically for both Roth and Haskell.

One of the things we learn about Roth is that he’s a liar and not a bright one at that. When Haskell asks Roth where he’s from, Haskell responds with Detroit rather with New York City. “I don’t know why I said that; there really was no call to lie. Maybe I was so accustomed to lying it had become a habit, I don’t know. But that’s me all over. For the life of me, I can’t figure myself out.”

Chapter Two ushers in Harvey’s voice which I didn’t find all that believable, not in the same sense I didn’t believe Roth, rather it is Goldmsith’s plundering about that makes Harvey seem unreal. Los Angeles really isn’t working out to well for Harvey.

It seemed scarcely believable, but only a few months before I too had thought Hollywood a glamorous place. I had arrived so thoroughly read-up on the misinformation of the fan magazines that it took me a full week before I realized that the “Mecca” was no more than a jerkwater suburb which publicity had sliced from Los Angeles—a suburb peopled chiefly by out and out hicks (the kind of dumbbells who think they are being wild and sophisticated if they stay up all night) or by Minnesota farmers and Brooklyn smart alecks who think they know it all. I soon saw that there were only two classes of society: the suckers, like myself, who had come to take the town; and the slickers who had come to take the suckers. Both groups were plotters and schemers and both on the verge of starvation.

There are some plot points as well as some character behavior that I had problems with, but “Detour” ended as a pulp novel should. As Roth narrates, “Whether people’s hopes are the result of pictures or pictures are based on hopes, I can’t say. However, in real life, things rarely happen so conveniently.”