James M. Cain’s slender novel The Postman Always Rings Twice is a sordid story of adultery and murder—and it is superb reading. Seventy years after publication, it is as fresh and contemporary as human nature itself.
Frank Chambers drifts into a California fuel-and-sandwich joint. Owner Nick Papdakis offers Frank a job pumping gas. Work isn’t Frank’s line, but he takes the job after getting an eyeful of Nick’s sulky, raven-haired wife, Cora.
Before 24 hours pass, Frank has Cora in bed. Cora wants “to work and be something,” but she says she can’t do that without love. If Frank will love her, she’ll be a hellcat, just once.
Nick’s days are numbered.
Frank and Cora bump off the Greek on their second attempt, but their cover-up goes awry. Their lawyer gets them off, but also sets them up for blackmail. The more they struggle to get free, the more they are entangled. Eventually, fate steps with a last ironic twist to the plot.
Read The Postman Always Rings Twice instead of watching it on late night TV.
You’ll be glad you did. None of the four film versions is nearly as good as the book.The Postman Always Rings Twice By James M. Cain Grosset & Dunlap, 1934 188 pages