James M. Cain's Noir Novels: Background information when reading Sunburn

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by Laura Lippman

Sunburn by Laura Lippman X
Sunburn by Laura Lippman
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    Feb 2018, 384 pages

    Jul 2018, 320 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
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About this Book

James M. Cain's Noir Novels

This article relates to Sunburn

Print Review

At one point in Sunburn, Polly recalls having gone to a film series back in Baltimore, a showing of several films grouped under the title "Raising Cain." At the time, she didn't know what that meant, but savvy readers will pick up on Lippman's reference to her fellow Baltimorean James M. Cain, author of influential noir novels, several of which were turned into even more memorable films. Several of these works, especially The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity, and Mildred Pierce, directly influence Sunburn's language, tone, and even plot points. Perhaps after reading Sunburn, readers will be inspired to check out the classic films and have a "Raising Cain" film fest of their own!

Double IndemnityCain's Double Indemnity is a novella, originally published in serial form in 1936 and later adapted for film in 1944 by Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler. Starring Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck, the plot hinges on a complicated insurance scam, wrapped up in an illicit love affair. Nominated for several Academy Awards but failing to win any, the film has since been recognized by many critics as one of the finest examples of film noir.

Mildred PierceMildred Pierce, starring Joan Crawford, Jack Carson, and Zachary Scott, is a 1945 film based on Cain's 1941 novel of the same name. The film, about a woman who makes some questionable ethical choices in order to keep her family afloat, won Joan Crawford an Academy Award for Best Actress. It is actually more of a thriller than Cain's original novel, which focused on a psychological study of its title character.

The Postman Always Rings TwiceThe Postman Always Rings Twice is a 1946 film based on Cain's 1934 novel starring Lana Turner and John Garfield. In the film, a drifter stops at a diner owned by a beautiful young woman and her older husband. When the wife and drifter start an affair, they plot to murder the husband - and the repercussions of their crime may doom their love affair.

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Article by Norah Piehl

This "beyond the book article" relates to Sunburn. It originally ran in February 2018 and has been updated for the July 2018 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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