On the Case: Tracking James M. Cain in Tinseltown
For the Winter Issue (#166) of Mystery Scene magazine, I examine the relationship tough guy writer James M. Cain had with Hollywood. (You can order a copy online if your local newsstand is currently non-operational due to pandemic shut-downs.) Like many leading scribes of the 1930s, Cain was lured to La-La-Land by the paychecks. As Cain himself once put it, “Don’t get the idea that writing for movies is easy money. It ain’t. But I wanted the money.” Some of his West Coast work was forgettable (including a romantic comedy about opera!), but while he was there he got the idea for his gritty novel that shook up the crime genre: “The Postman Always Rings Twice.” More than a decade later, “Postman” was made into a film, but only after screen versions of Cain’s follow-up books, “Double Indemnity” and “Mildred Pierce.” That’s a 1-2-3 punch few writers can claim.