Decades after it was put away with his other papers in the Library of Congress, James M. Cain’s short story “Blackmail” has finally been published.
Cain was known for his gritty noir settings in novels such as Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice. The author has had more modern adaptations of his work than any noir author and has been cited as a formative influence on modern writers such as Michael Connelly, Laura Lippman, and Elmore Leonard.
According to Strand Magazine managing editor, Andrew Gulli, “The best storytellers don’t need a lot of words to cover a lot of ground.” Gulli says that amazed him to see “how much Cain was able to do with a short story and three characters. There has always been something timeless about Cain’s works and the themes he dealt with, and ‘Blackmail’ is no different. Like so much of his work it speaks to the modern reader, which is why we are so excited which to publish it.”
Set in the aftermath of the Korean War, “Blackmail” takes a hard look at, greed, sacrifice, friendship, and redemption between three damaged and fallible characters. In just over 3000 words, Cain offers up all the noir elements we’ve come to expect from him, complete with gritty dialogue and a cunning antagonist, but puts in an unexpected twist that turns the tale on its head, offering a surprisingly nuanced take on these supposedly hard characters.
James Mallahan Cain (1892-1977) was an American novelist, journalist and screenwriter. He is widely regarded as one of the fathers of the hardboiled school of American crime fiction.
You can read “Blackmail” in the current issue of The Strand, available at better magazine sellers everywhere, or by subscription here. ◊