December 5, 2022

Cocktail Talk: Double Indemnity

Double Indemnity James M. CainI’ve had a few James M. Cain Cocktail Talks here, which makes pretty swell sense, as he is a noir master, and I like those kinds of books lots, lots I tell you. It’s mad to think that perhaps the most classic of the Cain classics (though opinions may vary, with good reason), The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity, came out within a year of each other, or very close. What a whammo one two punch in the brain that was! The other day I had an urge to pick up a book that I could read probably in a single day, at the most two, and I reached for the latter of that deadly duo, Double Indemnity. It’d been a bit since I’d re-read a Cain, and also, it’s just not a very long book, my copy clocks in at 125 pages, and it moves scenically, emotionally, crazily, so quickly through its tale of murder, insurance fraud, and madness (in a way). Such good pacing, and such a master class in economical writing, if there are people who haven’t read it, well, they should! Calculating (to say it mildly) narrator, femme fatale, sideways sort-of hero (or crime solver), multiple crimes, maybe the noir-est ending out there, what a book! And what a quote below about not being able to get stinko!

I didn’t dare call her up, because for all I knew even now her wires might be tapped. I did that night what I had done the other two nights, while I was waiting on the inquest, I got stinko, or tried to. I knocked off a quart of Cognac, but it didn’t have any effect. My legs felt funny, and my ears rang, but my eyes kept staring at the dark, and my mind kept pounding on it, what I was going to do. I didn’t know. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t even get drunk.

–James M. Cain, Double Indemnity

April 27, 2021

Cocktail Talk: She Shall Make Murder

homicide-houseOur third Day Keene Cocktail Talk (!) from the murderously-named Homicide House (!) collection of stories he originally published in the pulp mags (!) takes us into a sort-of bad-man-redemption-or-not kind of story, where you can’t help but try to guess what the last turn will be, and probably fail in the guessing – which is a fun kind of a story! The below quote isn’t really a traditional Cocktail Talk one, as it doesn’t mention a specific booze type or drink or drink type. But it does have one of my favorite words for drunk/tipsy in it, so I have to highlight it (and speaking of highlighting things, don’t miss the other Homicide House Cocktail Talks, which so far include “My Little Gypsy Cheat-heart” and “If A Body Meet A Body“).


I had been positively identified by three barman along the highway as the driver of the car. The last barman had refused to serve me. According to the paper he has told investigating officers, “I sez to the guy, look, chum. You’re stinko right now. One more drink under your belt and you’ll drive that high-power job of yours right into the drink. And it would seem he did.”


–Day Keene, “She Shall Make Murder”

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