Saturday, September 29, 2012

Review: 'The Cocktail Waitress' by James M. Cain

The Cocktail WaitressCharles Ardai, editor of Hardcase Crime brings to life the lost James M Cain novel 'The Cocktail Waitress' - through a fascinating insight into the novels discovery to eventual publication as written at the end of the hardcover edition, Ardai provides context and a sense of establishment to the novel. I love it when books contain these 'extras'. Ardai's Afterword also contains multiple versions of a single passage, as Cain himself fussed over the correct wording, naming, and direction of the novel. There is also a little something about Hardcase Crime and a glimpse into the creative process used for selecting books for publication. I urge readers to give this Afterword due time, it'll enhance the experience of reading 'The Cocktail Waitress'.
I can safely say that this book will feature of my 2012 'best reads' list. Keep an eye out for that list on Jan 1 2013. Now for the review:
'The Cocktail Waitress' reaffirms James M Cain as a true master of noir. An intelligent and emotionally satisfying portrayal of a middle class beauty living below the poverty line who only wants the best for her son. A victim of domestic abuse and punished for her curvaceous body and move star looks, Joan Medford faces adversity in every mirror. Public perception immediately ridicules and downgrades her intellect and ambition, yet through a strong reserve and perhaps a muddled sense of justice, she strives to improve her family's quality of life.
A widow with little by way of job prospects, Joan lands a job as a cocktail waitress at the Garden Bar. Using her assets to advantage she quickly collects admirers, one a handsome young man with an eye for future wealth, the other, an old man suffering from angina whose wealth is a temptation beyond Joan's will. Both suitors are not without drama and before long Joan's world is once again turned upside down - murder, cash, and her very home all thrown at her or threatened to be taken away.
'The Cocktail Waitress' is a fast paced read lead by a linear plot that's as crafty as it is enjoyable. The first person perspective storytelling clouds Joan's intentions and honesty, keeping the reader guessing the whole way through. Viewed through eyes hidden behind a veil to eyes wide open with opportunity and sass, Joan's complexity is a joy to read. The victimised persona wavers just enough to show a sinister side threatening to bubble to the surface. The subtle and obstructed truth haunts each page turn and amounts to a captivating telling of a femme fatale whose unseen actions dominate the readers perception.
A little something extra:
Acclaimed author of noir Megan Abbott gives 'The Cocktail Waitress' a once over here:
Hardcase Crime have the first chapter available to read here:

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