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The Postman Always Rings Twice is a 1934 crime novel written by James M. Cain.
Frank Chambers, a young drifter, finds himself in a dusty diner in rural California in search of a meal. At the diner, he finds a job and a seductive married woman named Cora. Their attraction is instantaneous, and so starts their passionate affair. Cora's tired of living her life this way, married to an old Greek man named Nick whom she doesn't truly love. She wants to start over but keep the diner. Frank and she come up with the perfect solution and The Perfect Crime-- to murder Nick. After an unsuccessful first try, they succeed. Too perfect a crime to have really succeeded, lawyers are onto them. Will they be caught, and how will they pay for their actions?
It was controversial in its day for the violence and the sadomasochistic sexual relations between Cora and Frank. It is considered one of the best novels of modern literature.
Tropes used by the novel:
- Amoral Attorney: Katz, who manages to get the protagonists acquitted - though he knows that they're guilty - just to win a bet with the prosecutor.
- Auto Erotica: Early in a novel, Cora and Frank have sex in a car.
- Beige Prose
- Betty and Veronica: A version that became popularized in Film Noir.
- The Drifter: Frank
- Death by Irony: Cora is killed in a car accident, the same way that they managed to kill Nick.
- Desperately Looking for a Purpose In Life: Cora
- Downer Ending
- Easy Amnesia: After the attempt to hit Nick's head and make it look like he drowned in the bathtub, Nick gets retrograde amnesia from the nonfatal blow Frank managed to get.
- Femme Fatale: Cora is a perfect example.
- Have a Gay Old Time: "He used to be a dick, but he's not a dick anymore."
- Insurance Fraud: Used as a plot point.
- Love Makes You A Criminal
- Non-Indicative Name: The postman never shows up and is not even alluded to. There's lots of speculation as to where the name comes from, but James M. Cain admits it was somewhat of a non-sequitor.
- The Perfect Crime