Monday, May 5, 2014


One of the most tightly written books I've ever read, by the godfather of the type of noir fiction that I love. Not. A. Word. Wasted. In the book, Walter Huff goes to the Hollywood Hills to sell a car
insurance renewal to Mr. Nirdlinger. But he gets caught up and starts falling hard for Mrs. Nirdlinger, who doesn't waste any time asking about accident insurance. We can pretty much guess where that leads! But even though we know where this is going, like a car crash, we can't take our eyes away. Even Walter knows where it's heading but he can't turn away either, because to his horror, he realizes that he's in love.  
"I knew then what I had done. I had killed a man. I had killed a man to get a woman. I had put myself in her power, so there was one person in the world that could point a a finger at me, and I would have to die. I had done all that for her, and I never want to see her again as long as I lived.

That’s all it takes, one drop of fear, to curdle love into hate."
This is the perfect introduction to classic noir and it inspired everything that came afterward. It's even better than the classic, The Postman Always Rings Twice, but it has a more disappointing ending. This is one of the closest examples of a perfect book to me but falls a bit short because of that strange resolution. If it had Postman's ending it would be perfect! But still, it feels like Cain took everything good about Postman and ramped it up a notch here. This book seems like a better draft of that book, making it even tighter, more suspenseful, and even more razor sharp, with an even more relentless pace and even stronger characters (how awesome was Keyes?) and dialogue. And in 1944, Billy Wilder teamed up with Raymond Chandler and churned out a movie that might be even better! But Double Indemnity is everything that I look for in crime writing and in books in general. Cain doesn't waste any damn time with bullshit. It is a lean, efficient, and suspenseful piece of writing, and dark as the grave... 
"I loved her like a rabbit loves a rattlesnake. That night I did something I hadn't done in years. I prayed."

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