The Cocktail Waitress is the final “lost” novel of James M. Cain(Double Indemnity) published by Titan Books Hardcase Crime imprint. It is a quick solid read full of vice and vigor.
Cain never finished The Cocktail Waitress. Years later it was compiled from different drafts and compiled notes into the finished tome. You’d never guess it by reading the book though – it feels just as complete as if Cain were alive today. That is except that the book is rooted in the time period it was written.
The waitress in question and the protagonist of the book is the down on her luck widow Joan Medford. The book begins at her husbands funeral, though Joan doesn’t consider it a sad occasion. Her husband was abusive, and although he’s out of the picture his death is just the beginning of Joans problems. With her husband gone she has no income, her power is off and worst of all her son, Tad, has been taken custody of by her sister in law. The same sister in law who calls the police to falsely accuse Joan of murdering her late husband so that she will be able to keep Tad. This wouldn’t be much of a problem if it weren’t for the rookie cop who is investigating the murder who wants to find a case where there isn’t.
Desperate for work she finds a job as a waitress at a local bar. While there she makes friends and thanks to her striking looks – her legs are described more than a dozen times – a few admirers. There is the good looking Tom, or the rich but old Mr. White, both trying to woo her. Joan has to decide what is important to her, or if she can’t do that how she can play both sides.
Joan is a strong and selfish character who will do whatever she can to get her son back, and have a good life.
It’s a good setup and rarely is there a dull moment in the book. The characters are pretty one note, besides Joan. That said Joan herself is a conflicted and interesting character.
I’m not a big crime reader but from what I know characters with a very specific almost mechanical purpose are par for the course in the genre. The plot is interesting but in my opinion it leaves too many of it’s twists and turns for the very end, but it is quite an end.
The prose was occasionally odd sounding but it never got in the way of enjoyment. The book is pretty quick to read, at around 250 pages.
The afterword is also a good read. It describes the process of putting together the novel from its pieces as well as some of the things that a contemporary reader might miss(trust me it puts the last chapter into a whole different perspective.)
Speaking as someone who does not have a lot of experience reading crime I can not compare The Cocktail Waitress to other books in the genre, but I can tell you that it was an entertaining read. It was enjoyable, solid, and surprising in moments. However it was not a spell binder – none of the characters really connected to me and I was never compelled to keep reading just one more chapter.
It is a good read; if you’re a fan of the crime genre I would say pick this up just as a piece of history if nothing else and you’ll have a fun time reading it as well.
If you are not a fan of the genre but the description intrigues you, I’d say give it a shot and see if it grabs you.
Breaking bad is…really great. It’s extremely well acted, and written. Breaking Bad is the Emmy award winning show on AMC starring Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul. It’s fifth and final season is airing now, and I can’t wait to catch up.
What is it? The show follows Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher who is quite overqualified and who discovers he has lung cancer. He decides that he needs to leave money behind for his family, as he’s sure he won’t make it through the cancer. To do this he partners up with an old student and together they begin to cook meth.
As you can imagine, a lot of things can go wrong when you make the decision to cook meth and get involved with the criminal world. The show plays with Walters dealings with criminals and that aspect of his life along with his problems at home with his pregnant wife and his crippled teenage son. Skyler, the pregnant wife in question knows something is going on and investigates on her own time what Walter is getting up to. His son with cerebral palsy is wonderfully acted as a son who is grows distant from his father as cancer and stress take him. Rounding out the cast are Walters brother and sister in law who are a DEA agent and a doctor respectively.
What do I think about it?
The show is expertly shot with great sweeping shots. The creators really know how to let the camera tell the story.
Walter is a character who is both sympathetic and horrifying at times. He only wants what is best for his family but the lengths he will go to get it, and what that does to his family life can be terrible. Let it be said that every one in the show is a character and I mean that in the way that your parents would call a weird guy at a party. Everyone has problems and baggage, but they all want desperately to be good people. Even Jesse Pinkman who we meet as a drugged up dealer wants to get out. No one is happy with the decisions they’ve made that seem to spiral out of their control. It’s watching the characters reacting to decisions they made and dealing with the consequences that really make the show. If there’s one thing I’ve taken away from Breaking Bad it’s that bad choices lead to having to make more bad choices.
Each episode has a story in it, but every episode strings into the next. There is not always a cliffhanger, but episodes generally pick up right where the last left off. This gives the show a sense of intensity that things like LOST and BSG captured so well.
If you are skeptical if you will be able to like a show with a at times unlikable main character I’d recommend just giving the pilot a watch. I think the show is successful at making Walter sympathetic and if the Pilot doesn’t catch your attention than rest assured the show is not for you.
The first three episodes really start off the show with a bang. The rest of the season is very good, but they are slower and less action packed. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this show, but I think it helps if you know that this isn’t an action show. Most of the show is people talking, and lying and doing things behind the others backs. This isn’t a bad thing, there are tons of action shows out there to watch, but just know what your getting into. It’s a deliberately paced series with excellent points of tension and character building.
I can’t really think of anything bad to say about the show. I can only say that it won’t be for every one. If you are easily offended by drugs or language or sex, then this is not the show for you. If you don’t like real crime, or you don’t want a serious drama then this may not be for you. Know that going in.
I have seen the first few episodes of season 2 and it is really amazing. The tension they are able to create from the crazy situations that manifest in the show is truly incredible.