Cain is justly famous for his three classic novels (Postman, Pierce, and Indemnity), but deserves more praise than he usually gets as a short story writer. These tales feature much of what makes his longer works excellent: sharp psychological portraits, lust and revenge hovering over all, a vivid sense of 1930s Southern California, and an endlessly wry narrator's take on everything. But these stories pare it all to the bone, and in most cases that makes Cain's taut, sinewy prose even more concise. The brief intros by Hoopes are interesting and a nice addition, but I'd recommend reading the stories first, then trying the intros to avoid any spoilers. The highlight among these tales, Baby packs a lot of wallop into a very few pages. The characters emerge quickly and distinctly and the cat subplot dovetails perfectly and provides a satisfying conclusion. There is always a sense of justice in Cain's works, and here it's particularly pleasant. Joy Ride and Embezzler are two other fine works in this collection, but each of the stories is worth reading. They might not all be perfect, but they're all pure Cain, and that's as good as this genre ever got, Hammett and Chandler included.
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 13 years ago
I have reviewed James M. Cain's two major works The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity elsewhere in this space. He is justly famous for those little literary potboilers. Not as well known, although they should be, are his short stories that are of the same caliber with the same kind of plot exploration and with quirkily little endings, a la O. Henry. The definitive example of this little collection is the title work-Baby In The Icebox. Here we have the inevitable California male drifter of indeterminate morals, the adulterous housewife of vague if intense longings, the seemingly inevitable symbolically meaningful wild cats that populate many of Cain's works and the intense, almost too intense, sexual stirrings that make the term potboiler very apt. The other stories follow with their own little twists. And hovering just below the surface is a literary examination of class, race and sex in 1930's America that seldom gets this kind of inspection not matter what period we are in. These will keep you glued to the page, read them.
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