Sunday, March 13, 2011
Paris Review interviews James M. Cain
Ed here: If you know much about James M. Cain, who I think was a better writer than either Hammett or Chandler, you know that he had a fascinating career before, at age forty, he wrote Postman. David Zinsser at the Paris Review did the definitive Cain interview and here is a link to it. Fascinating takes on the people Cain worked with--not flattering at all of H.L. Mencken, mixed feelings about Harold Ross of The New Yorker, nothing but praise for Walter Lippmann. Thanks to Terry Butler for the link.
Oh yes, I can remember the beginning of The Postman. It was based on the Snyder-Gray case, which was in the papers about then. You ever hear of it? Well, Grey and this woman Snyder killed her husband for the insurance money. Walter Lippmann went to that trial one day and she brushed by him, what was her name? Lee Snyder.* Walter said it seemed very odd to be inhaling the perfume or being brushed by the dress of a woman he knew was going to be electrocuted. So the Snyder-Grey case provided the basis. The big influence in how I wrote The Postman Always Rings Twice was this strange guy, Vincent Lawrence, who had more effect on my writing than anyone else. He had a device which he thought was so important—the “love rack” he called it. I have never yet, as I sit here, figured out how this goddamn rack was spelled . . . whether it was wrack, or rack, or what dictionary connection could be found between the word and his concept. What he meant by the “love rack” was the poetic situation whereby the audience felt the love between the characters. He called this the “one, the two and the three.” Someone, I think it was Phil Goodman, the producer and another great influence, once reminded him that this one, two, and three was nothing more than Aristotle's beginning, middle, and end. “Okay, Goody,” Lawrence said, “who the hell was Aristotle, and who did he lick?” I always thought that was the perfect Philistinism.
for the rest go here: