James M. Cain
James M. Cain was born in Annapolis on July 1, 1892. He was raised in Chestertown,
Maryland, and graduated from Washington College, where his father was president.
After serving in World War I, he returned to Baltimore where he began working
as a reporter. He first worked for the Baltimore American and then for
the Baltimore Sun until 1923.
After a time in New York, Cain moved to Hollywood.
There he tried screenwriting, but found greater success when he turned
to fiction. His first novel, The Postman Always Rings Twice, was published
in 1934 and was a runaway bestseller. Cain returned to Maryland in 1948,
settling in Hyattsville. He continued to write and was a familiar figure
on the College Park campus. James M. Cain died October 27th, 1977.
Cain did not write mysteries or detective fiction; he wrote novels of
crime, sex and violence. The majority of Cain's plots follow the same predictable
plan: a man falls for a woman, becomes involved in criminal activity with
the woman, and is eventually betrayed by the woman. Although predictable,
this basic plot line was used to great success, and continues to be serviceable
today -- such as in the Cain-inspired films Body Heat or Blood Simple.
Cain's writing style is hard boiled, pared down to essential phrases with
terse, almost brutal simplicity.
The University of Maryland's James M. Cain collection of published works is one of its
treasures. All of the hardbacks are first editions, and all have been inscribed
by the author. The department is attempting to build a comprehensive collection
of Cain, including paperback reprints (some of which are displayed in this
exhibit), to demonstrate the continued popularity of this great Maryland
Electronic exhibit of Cain's work
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