Love’s Lovely Counterfeit - James M. Cain
James M. Cain started his novel-writing career with three bangs: The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934), Serenade (1937) and Mildred Pierce (1941). A falling off was Love’s Lovely Counterfeit (1942) because some characters have all the life of cardboard cutouts and the ending is pure melodrama. Even the background of weasels doing corruption as business as usual in city politics seems half-baked. Still, as a hard-guy mystery, it might be worth reading for its surprises and lurid moments, if you’re trapped on a trans-Pacific flight and have run out of other goodies to read.
But back to lurid. After not getting it on with Big Sister, the anti-hero gets close to Man-Crazy Little Sister by getting her to realize that they are both bad to the bone. They fall for each other, boy do they:
Obviously, they had got to a point where the word love, if either of them had uttered it, would have been somewhat inadequate. Insanity would have been better, and there was some suggestion of it as she raised her face to his.
The period touches and slang are cool. Cain must have liked describing people because he’s damn skillful at it, in a hard case kind of way. This about some bank robbers: “four wild kids, anywhere from eighteen to twenty, scared so bad the slobber is running out of their mouths, couple of them coked to the ears, their suspenders stretched double from the gats they got in their pants.”
After LLC, in 1943, the uneven Cain wrote the immortal Double Indemnity. In 1956 Hollywood based Slightly Scarlet on LLC, with eye-popping Arlene Dahl and good-gawd-awmighty Rhonda Fleming playing the sisters.
Readers that like Jim Thompson would probably like Cain. But novices should start with the three big bangs mentioned at the start of this review.