James M. Cain Additional Biography


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

James Mallahan Cain, born in Annapolis, Maryland, on July 1, 1892, was the first of the five children of James William Cain and Rose Mallahan Cain. His father was an academician, a professor at St. John’s College in Annapolis, and later, in Chesterton, Maryland, president of Washington College, from which James M. Cain was graduated in 1910 and where he later, from 1914 through 1917, taught English and mathematics and completed work on his master’s degree in dramatic arts. His early ambition to become a professional singer had been abandoned before his graduate work and teaching at Washington College, but his love of music never diminished. Throughout his life, Cain retained his ambition to become a successful playwright despite his repeated failures in dramaturgy and his own ultimate realization of the misdirection of this ambition.

Cain’s career in writing began with newspaper work, first with the Baltimore American in 1918 and then with the Baltimore Sun. He edited the Lorraine Cross, his infantry-company newspaper, during his service with the Seventy-ninth Infantry Division in France. He returned from World War I to resume work on the Baltimore Sun, and in 1920 he married Mary Rebecca Clough, the first of his four wives. Cain’s articles on the William Blizzard treason trial in 1922 were published by The Atlantic Monthly and The Nation. He then became a feature writer and columnist for the Baltimore Sun....

(The entire section is 609 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

James Mallahan Cain is a master of the genre of hard-boiled or tough guy novels that flourished during the 1930’s. The materials of his fiction are basic human drives: the pursuit of sex, money, and violence. Typical Cain characters are educated roughnecks and ruthless women. As lovers, they embark on high adventure and end up on what Cain calls “the love-rack.” For them, the wish that comes true proves a terrifying thing; when they get away with murder—the victim being, usually, the woman’s husband—and collect the insurance money, they turn on each other. The sex usually has a fake religious aura and often borders on the abnormal. Cain depicts the criminal behavior of men and women who are not all that remote from the...

(The entire section is 877 words.)