Friday, April 24, 2009

Reading Rainbow: Double Indemnity by James M. Cain

After aborting a month-long effort to get into For Whom The Bell Tolls, I decided that it was not worth it anymore and dove right into another of the many books sitting on my shelves unread.

This one was James M. Cain's masterpiece, Double Indemnity. I am sure most, if not all, of you faithful readers have seen the Billy Wilder directed adaptation of the film. If you haven't, do so. Now. Seeing 'cool' Fred MacMurray--and he pulls it off completely--is kind of mind-blowing.

The problem with attempting to read the source material for an iconic film--after all, the film version is largely credited as being the progenitor of the film noir genre--is that you probably already know where the book is going.

If that concern were applicable to this piece of literature, Cain's prose flows forth effortlessly, and it is told from the first-person so it reads very quickly--even with the occasional hurdle arising from its having been written very much in the parlance of its time. Walter Huff (the film version changed his surname to Neff) is an engaging narrator, and as the reader, you want to go along for the story.

Luckily, the film version does differ fairly dramatically in the third act from the novel, so any knowledge of the ending from the film is not applicable when reading the Cain novel. As is often the case, the book is better than the film--at least in that regard--although with this book, there is the unusual scenario that arises (in this time so far removed from the production of either piece of art) that the adaptation has become the much more prominent work. That is so much the case in this situation that the book has nearly been forgotten.

This should be rectified.

But don't take my word for it.

1 comment:

KRD said...

I read this again last summer. It's terrific. So is The Postman Always Rings Twice, another novel that outdoes the film versions--

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