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April 2020 Notable Author: James M. Cain, Roman Noir

James M. Cain Karlin, Roman Noir

“I merely try to write as the character would write, and I never forget that the average man ... has acquired a vividness of speech that goes beyond anything I could invent.”  –  James M. Cain

James M. Cain (July 1, 1892 – October 27, 1977) was an American author and journalist. He is considered one of the creators of the roman noir or noir genre which is associated with the hardboiled school of American crime fiction.

Cain was born into an Irish Catholic family in Annapolis, Maryland. The family moved to Chestertown, Maryland, in 1903. In 1910, Cain graduated from Washington College. By 1914, Cain had decided to become a writer. He began working as a journalist for the Baltimore American and then the Baltimore Sun.

Cain was drafted into the United States Army for the final year of World War I.  He was assigned to France where he wrote for an army magazine. After returning from the war, he went to work as a journalist.  He published his first novel, The Postman Always Rings Twice, in 1934. That book became a best seller and would go on to be made into films in 1946 and in 1981. He wrote continuously until his death at the age of 85.

Genre: Roman Noir or Noir

Noir fiction is a subgenre of crime fiction. In this subgenre, right and wrong are not clearly defined, while the protagonists are seriously and often tragically flawed.  Their speech is usually vivid.

A reading list of Cain's work includes: The Postman Always Rings Twice, Serenade, Mildred Pierce, Love's Lovely Counterfeit, The Butterfly, Sinful, the Magician's Wife, Rainbow's End, The Institute

Writer's Prompt - Fun With Words

MWA invites you to have fun writing Roman Noir or Noir using up to 100 words. Pick a protagonist who is working on Maryland water/waterfront in the crime field and show their conflict between right and wrong while revealing they are also seriously or tragically flawed.  Make their speech vivid, without using swear words. Have fun and send us your result.

Submit by the 25th of the month and receive an MWA Fun With Words Submission Certificate.  

Submit Your FUN WITH WORDS Prompt


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