Stodghill Says So

An opinionated posting on a variety of subjects by a former newspaper reporter and columnist whose daily column was named best in Indiana by UPI. The Blog title is that used in his high school sports predictions for the Muncie Evening Press.

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Location: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, United States

At the age of 18 I was a 4th Infantry Division rifleman in the invasion of Normandy, then later was called back for the Korean War. Put in a couple of years as a Pinkerton detective. Much of my life was spent as a newspaper reporter, sports writer and daily columnist. Published three books on high school sports in Ohio and Indiana. I write mystery fiction for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and others. Three books, Normandy 1944 - A Young Rifleman's War, The Hoosier Hot Shots, and From Devout Catholic to Communist Agitator are now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. So are four collections of short mysteries: Jack Eddy Stories Volumes 1 and 2, Midland Murders, and The Rough Old Stuff From Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine.

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Saturday, August 09, 2008

Cain knew how to write a novel


Jackie was somewhat perturbed when I bought two more bags of pipe tobacco this morning. That makes 13 in my stash and each contains 16 ounces of natural cavendish. Now I have 208 ounces in reserve. I use about eight ounces a week.
She said, "What am I going to do with this after you're gone?"
"Where am I going?"
"Oh, just go wait outside."
When we got to the car she said, "Do you want me to drive? You're tired."
"I promise not to have more than two accidents on the way home."
"The first time you have an accident I'm taking your driver's license away."
While laughing, I couldn't help notice she wasn't smiling.
Without intending to, after arriving home we watched an old movie, Too Many Husbands, with Jean Arthur, Fred MacMurray and Melvin Douglas. I mentioned that MacMurray was in a lot of silly films but his best was deadly serious - Double Indemnity. After naming several of James M. Cain's great novels I said I liked the title of one of his short stories,
The Baby in the Icebox.
"
It's food for thought," I said.
"Would you care to restate that?"
H'mmm. Baby in the icebox, food for thought. Well, maybe I should.
Then I remembered that after reading several Norman Mailer novels, Tom Wolfe wrote that Mailer should read some James M. Cain and learn how to write a novel. Mailer was outraged, of course, but Tom Wolfe was right.
Cain's best known novels are The Postman Always Rings Twice, Mildred Pierce, and Double Indemnity, but he wrote others equally as enthralling.
Tom Wolfe wrote this as part of a lengthy introduction to a reissue of the big three: "Cain's trick here - well, it is no trick. It is a feat, one that dates back at least as far as Crime and Punishment. Namely, in book after book Cain puts you inside the skin of one utterly egocentric heel after another, losers who will stop at nothing - and makes you care about them."
The underlying theme of Cain's work was betrayal. Pace and forward movement of a story were paramount. Details of scenery and surroundings are minimal. Don't take my word for it, take Tom Wolfe's. Long after his death, Cain's work is available nearly everywhere. Missing it would be a crime.


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