Mignon, James M. Cain, The Dial Press, New York, 1962
The last time I have had a chance to mention the work of James M. Cain in this space was a review of his classic noir films The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity, a couple of films that take place in the 1930-40’s in sunny California. As usual when I get ‘high’ on an author I like to run through most of his or her work to see where he or she is going with it. Thus, this review of a lesser work by Cain is something of an introduction to themes that he likes to give a work out in his literary efforts.
And what are those themes? Well, sex, steamy or otherwise, thwarted love, consummated love that will end badly and frankly, greed. Nothing new to add in Mignon, except that Cain does this with a use of language and sense of plot that is well above average for those who try these combinations. With Mignon moreover he addresses his familiar themes but backdates his place to New Orleans and his time to that of the American Civil War period. While some of his plot twist and turns are interesting the overall effect is that this is a very ordinary tale of betrayed love, frustration and financial fiasco that has been done much better when he sticks to California in the 1930-40’s. Yes, that is the real James M. Cain. That is the one that belongs in the second tier of the American literary pantheon. Stay tune for more.