Monday, September 22, 2014

Not About a Killer Mailman? What?!

The Postman Always Rings TwiceThe Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Don't you love it when something you've heard about for ages turns out to be really good, but in a delightfully different way than expected? ...What do you mean, "no"? Go to hell!

I've been laboring under the misapprehension that this was a play about a killer mail carrier. Maybe that's because I grew up in a time when the phrase "going postal" was coined. (In a sidebar: Isn't it great how the English language is still evolving to incorporate new words and phrases?!) My mother had just recently joined the ranks of those crazy bastards and as the years progressed her bouts with pms turned our house into the Rumble in the Jungle once a month, so I readily expected her to go fully postal. Anyway, I'm getting sidetracked. It turns out the title is just allegorical!

The Postman Always Rings Twice is a taut noir about a drifter who thinks he's the sharpest knife in the draw. He snatches up a job in one of those highwayside nothings that you can still find out there in the California desert near the Arizona border. The drifter latches on to the wife of the goodly Greek gas station/diner owner. The wife hasn't realized her western dreams. The drifter is always looking for some easy scratch. A plot is hatched and nothing goes as you think it will.

That's the beauty of this aging novel: the surprises it still holds after all these years. After all the pulp crime dramas churned out for decade upon decade now, The Postman Always Ring Twice can still ring yer bell, toots.

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