Tag: mildred peirce

The Cocktail Waitress by James M. Cain

Posted October 28, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Pulp / 0 Comments

The Cocktail Waitress by James M. CainTitle: The Cocktail Waitress (Goodreads)
Author: James M. Cain
Series: Hard Case Crime #109
Published: Hard Case Crime, 2012
Pages: 270
Genres: Pulp
My Copy: Hardcover

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Joan Medford is a young beautiful woman in an unhealthy marriage, but when her husband dies in a suspicious car accident, does that mean her life will improve? No, she now has to take a job as a cocktail waitress to make ends meet and somehow make enough money to finally be able to take her son back from her mother in law. On the job, two men take a special interest in her, one really gets Joan’s blood racing and the other is a very wealthy older man who tips very generously if she gives him her attention.

It’s no secret that I’m a huge James M. Cain fan; The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity are two classic noir novels that I highly recommend but there is another side to this author. Cain wrote a very emotionally charged noir novel called Mildred Pierce which makes up the top three essential Cain novels. The Cocktail Waitress really reminds me of Mildred Pierce, you have all the noir elements plus the female protagonist not to mention the emotionally charged plot. This is a previously unfinished novel by Cain but don’t let that worry you, he did finish the novel but he had not finished the revisions before he died, but it took over thirty years for this book to finally come out. The editor, Charles Ardai used Cain’s notes to finish the revisions of this book and it still reads and feels very much what you expect from a book by this Noir master. He was even quoted in saying; “Together with Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain is universally considered one of the three greatest writers of noir crime fiction who ever lived, and for fans of the genre, The Cocktail Waitress is the Holy Grail. It’s like finding a lost manuscript by Hemingway or a lost score by Gershwin – that’s how big a deal this is.”

Joan is everything you want from the protagonist; strong, witty and beautiful. She knows what she want (her son back) and she is determined to make her life better on her own. But the drama of working in a cocktail lounge might be a little too much for her. Her mother in law is now convinced that cocktail waitress is just code from something more. Joan’s on a mission and won’t let anyone or anything stand in her way; which makes her a great femme fatale.

The Cocktail Waitress is a fast paced, hard hitting novel with complexity; a well-crafted book that was just a joy to read.  I loved the sinister elements that transported this from just an emotional journey to a classic James M. Cain style noir novel. I’m so glad that Charles Ardai took the time and effort in finishing this book so we can all enjoy it. If you liked Mildred Piece then you are going to love reading The Cocktail Waitress.

“Here, long after anyone would have expected it, is the voice of James M. Cain, as fresh and as relevant as ever. The Cocktail Waitress will involve you, and then shock you with an ending you’ll never forget. This is a true rarity: a reader’s novel that’s also a literary event.” – Stephen King