The Postman Always Rings Twice. Unless He's Dead

So news broke earlier today that a lost novel written by James M. Cain has been found and will be published by Hard Case Crime next year.

Charles Ardai, the founder and editor of Hard Case Crime, said in a telephone interview that he had been alerted to the existence of the work, “The Cocktail Waitress,” by the mystery writer Max Allan Collins. Mr. Ardai said he found further references to “The Cocktail Waitress” in the writing of Cain, who died in 1977, and in a biography by Roy Hoopes. But he was unable to obtain the manuscript for nearly five years until it turned up in a set of papers that were inherited by Mr. Ardai’s agent from another literary representative who worked with bygone Hollywood writers.

Mr. Ardai said that when he finally received a copy of Cain’s manuscript for “The Cocktail Waitress,” “it was this wonderful moment like out of a Spielberg movie, where you open the chest and the light comes up from inside, and you don’t ask the question, ‘Where is the light coming from?’ ”

Now I've talked before about my feelings regarding posthumous novels, and those feelings haven't really changed. Especially with works that are incomplete. Such as is the case with The Cocktail Waitress:

Among the tasks remaining for Mr. Ardai is to reconcile the different versions of the novel’s ending that Cain left behind, and to decipher some of Cain’s more cryptic handwritten margin notes.

So the novel's ending that will eventually be published may not really be the ending that Cain had originally envisioned. Of course, there's no way to know for certain in any event, but still, something about it just doesn't feel right from a writer's standpoint. Then again, from a reader's standpoint it doesn't feel right either. You know how protective fans get. Just look at what happened to Robert B. Parker's Killing the Blues by Michael Brandman. Currently 15 one-star reviews on Amazon, most of which complain that the new writer sucks.

Though, to be honest, Parker wasn't the greatest writer in his later years.

Cain, let's hope, was.

And let's hope that The Cocktail Waitress stays as true to the author's vision as possible.