Career in C Major: and Other Fiction [NOOK Book]

Overview

From a famous tough-guy writer, a collection of shockingly funny stories
Ever since she got married, Doris has regretted giving up her singing career. After years of domestic drudgery, she decides to take one last crack at becoming an opera singer, even if it means sacrificing everything for the sake of her dream. Her contractor husband is fully supportive, having no idea that the family’s true musical genius isn’t Doris—it’s him.
In this and ...
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Career in C Major: and Other Fiction

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Overview

From a famous tough-guy writer, a collection of shockingly funny stories
Ever since she got married, Doris has regretted giving up her singing career. After years of domestic drudgery, she decides to take one last crack at becoming an opera singer, even if it means sacrificing everything for the sake of her dream. Her contractor husband is fully supportive, having no idea that the family’s true musical genius isn’t Doris—it’s him.
In this and other stories in Career in C Major, James M. Cain shows off a light comedic touch that will surprise readers who are familiar only with his crime novels The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity. But Cain had been publishing funny stories, articles, and satire since his early days as a reporter for H. L. Mencken’s Baltimore Sun, and was just as comfortable writing about singers as he was about killers. This collection of Cain’s lighter work shows that if an author is tough it doesn’t mean he can’t crack a smile.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781480436435
  • Publisher: MysteriousPress.com/Open Road
  • Publication date: 8/13/2013
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 287
  • Sales rank: 1,102,522
  • File size: 1,016 KB

Meet the Author

James M. Cain (1892–1977) was one of the most important authors in the history of crime fiction. Born in Maryland, he became a journalist after giving up on a childhood dream of singing opera. After two decades writing for newspapers in Baltimore, New York, and the army—and a brief stint as the managing editor of the New Yorker—Cain moved to Hollywood in the early 1930s. While writing for the movies, he turned to fiction, penning the novella The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934). This tightly wound tale of passion, murder, and greed became one of the most controversial bestsellers of its day, and remains one of the foremost examples of American noir writing. It set the tone for Cain’s next few novels, including Serenade (1937), Mildred Pierce (1941), Double Indemnity (1943), and The Butterfly (1947). Several of his books became equally successful noir films, particularly the classic 1940s adaptations of Mildred Pierce and Double Indemnity. Cain moved back to Maryland in 1948. Though he wrote prolifically until his death, Cain remains most famous for his early work.     
James M. Cain (1892–1977) was one of the most important authors in the history of crime fiction. Born in Maryland, he became a journalist after giving up on a childhood dream of singing opera. After two decades writing for newspapers in Baltimore, New York, and the army—and a brief stint as the managing editor of the New Yorker—Cain moved to Hollywood in the early 1930s. While writing for the movies, he turned to fiction, penning the novella The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934). This tightly wound tale of passion, murder, and greed became one of the most controversial bestsellers of its day, and remains one of the foremost examples of American noir writing. It set the tone for Cain’s next few novels, including Serenade (1937), Mildred Pierce (1941), Double Indemnity (1943), and The Butterfly (1947). Several of his books became equally successful noir films, particularly the classic 1940s adaptations of Mildred Pierce and Double Indemnity. Cain moved back to Maryland in 1948. Though he wrote prolifically until his death, Cain remains most famous for his early work.     
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Read an Excerpt

Career in C Major

And Other Fiction


By James M. Cain, Roy Hoopes

OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA

Copyright © 1986 Alice M. Piper
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4804-3643-5



CHAPTER 1

DIALOGUES

Introduction


The dialogues which cain began writing for Mencken and The American Mercury in 1925 were cast in the form of one-act plays and lampooned various aspects of our federal, state, and local governments. He wrote these devastating satires for five years, by which time he had accumulated almost enough for a book. So, encouraged by Alfred A. Knopf, Cain wrote a few more to include in a little volume of satire titled Our Government, published by Knopf in 1930.

If Our Government had been the kind of success Knopf, Mencken, and several of the critics thought it should have been, James M. Cain might today be best known primarily as a satiric writer of comic dialogues. Mencken, especially, never understood why Our Government did not "create a sensation ... there was capital stuff in it."

To emphasize the satire, Cain wrote a pretentious tongue-in-cheek Preface to Our Government in which he suggested that his "studies" of government were the inevitable result of having made the transition into the scientific era. "We live in an age," he said, "that has abandoned theory, except when theory can be made to serve as working hypothetic, in favor of fact. No longer do we start with cognito, ergo sum as a basis for deducing the principle of the universe; no longer do we believe that the principle of the universe can be deduced, or even stated. We incline to table such profundities as this in favor of things more objective: instead of concluding, by syllogistic processes, that since the patient is insane he must have a devil inside of him, we study his symptoms, trying to find out something about them; instead of indulging in great debates about the fairness of the income tax, we study the minutiae of economic phenomena, accumulating great columns of tables; instead of saying cognito, and letting it go at that, we study ourselves, seeking to find out how we cogitate, if at all. In other words, science has become descriptive."

Science, said Cain, would hazard no opinion on the principle of the universe until it knew what the universe was like. And "this little book represents an effort to make a beginning in this direction on behalf of our American government, perhaps the most baffling riddle of all. We have, heaven knows, no dearth of books on the theory of our government, on its functions, its virtues, and its defects. The libraries are full of such books, and the courthouses are even fuller, for every judicial decision is in some degree an analysis of these matters, and many judicial decisions are lengthy. But there is no book, so far as I know, which sets out to paint a portrait of our government; to depict, without bias or comment, the machine which passes our laws, educates our children, and polices our streets; to show the kind of men who man it, the matters that occupy them, and the nature of their deliberations."

His method of approach, he said, was "to select some typical problem of a particular branch of government, usually on the basis of newspaper clippings, and then reconstruct the manner in which it would be dealt with by the typical agents of that branch of government.... While it has its limitations, it was the best method, I believe, with which to achieve complete verisimilitude, which after all was the main desideratum."

Some of the reviewers completely missed the satire and were baffled by the contrasting serious tone of the Preface and the comic shenanigans that took place in the book. But most of them caught it, and some were positively ecstatic in their responses: John Carter, in Outlook, called Our Government a remarkably accurate picture of American politics and said, "It has just that touch of Aristophanes which is necessary to act as a preservative and make it as readable and comprehensible five centuries from now."

Our Government has long been out of print, but over the years many of the satires have been produced as one-act plays by small theater groups. The dialogues included here are from the "State Government" section of Our Government, and all but two ("Counsel" and "The Judiciary") originally appeared in The American Mercury. "The Governor" was also included in Katherine and E. B. White's Subtreasury of American Humor, which always pleased Cain, who wrote Mrs. White in 1941: "The piece is one of the few things I have written that I have real affection for and it means almost more to me than I care to admit to have it in there."

The last dialogue included here, "Don't Monkey with Uncle Sam," was written for Vanity Fair in 1933 and was an obvious attempt to revive the dialogue form for satirizing the government which had worked so well for Mencken, who left The Mercury in 1933. But it was Cain's last effort at this type of satire.


The Governor

The governor's office, about two o'clock in the afternoon. Ranged about the table, talking in whispers, area petitioner for a pardon, dressed in ordinary clothes but having a pasty pallor, a singularly close haircut, and a habit of starting nervously whenever he is addressed; two guards, carrying guns on their hips in holsters; a witness, a prosecutor, and counsel for the petitioner. The Governor enters, accompanied by a woman secretary, and they all stand up until he has sat down and donned his glasses. In a moment a lovely aroma begins to perfume the air. It is such an aroma as pervades a bonded distillery, and unmistakably it comes from the head of the table, where The Governor has taken his place.

The Governor

Gen'lemen, y' may p'ceed.

Counsel For The Petitioner

Yes, Yexcellency.

The Governor

'N I'll ashk y' t' be 's brief 's y' can, c'se busy af'noon w' me. Gi' me th' facksh, that's all I w'nt know. 'M plain, blunt man, got no time f' detailsh. Gi' me facksh, 'n y' won't have t' worry 'bout fair trea'm'nt f'm me.


Counsel

I think I speak for everybody here, Yexcellency, when I say we're all anxious to save Yexcellency's time, and—


The Governor

'Preciate 'at.


Counsel

And so I imagine the best way would be for me to sketch in for Yexcellency, briefly of course, the history of this case, I may say this very unusual case.


The Prosecutor

So unusual, Yexcellency, that the Parole Board threw up its hands and refused to have anything to do with it whatsoever, and that is why Yexcellency's valuable time—


The Governor

Nev' min' Parole Board. Is 't mer'tor's case, tha's all want know.


The Prosecutor

I understand that, Yexcellency. I only wanted to say that the prawscution regards this case as abslutely prepawstrous.


The Governor

A'right. Y'said it.


Counsel

Now, Yexcellency, this young man Greenfield Farms, this young man you see here—


The Governor

One mom'nt. When's ex'cution take plashe?


Counsel

I'm glad Yexcellency reminded me of that, because praps I ought to have explained it sooner. Fact of the matter, Yexcellency, this is not a capital case.


The Governor

Gi' me facksh, gi' me facksh! I got no time f detailsh. When's ex'cution take plashe, I said.


Counsel

Yes, Yexcellency. I was only telling Yexcellency that there won't be any execution, because—


The Governor

Wha's 'at?


Counsel

Because this young man Farms wasn't sentenced to death; he was sentenced to the penitentiary—


The Governor

Oh!


Counsel

On a ten year term, ten years in prison, for participation in the armed march we had some years ago, when the miners made all that trouble. Or, as it's never been clear in my mind that Farms had any idea what he was doing at that time—


The Petitioner

Never did. I hope my die I just went out there to see what was going on—


A Guard

Hey! Sh!


Counsel

Praps I should have said alleged participation.


The Prosecutor

And another thing praps you should have said was that of his ten years in prison he has already served three and he'll get two more off for good behavior and that leaves five and five is a little different from ten.


The Governor

C'me on, c'me on!


The Prosecutor

I'm only—


The Governor

Y' only pett'fogg'n. Shu' up.


Counsel

Now, Yexcellency will recall that as a result of that uprising, six defendants, of which Farms was one, were convicted of treason to the State and the rest were allowed to plead guilty of unlawful assemblage—


The Governor

Don't was' m' time talk'n 'bout 'at upris'n. I know all 'bout it. I's right there 'a saw fi' thous'n of 'm march by m'own front ya'd. Get on 'th facksh.


Counsel

Then if Yexcellency is familiar with that, we're ready now for this witness, and after he has told his story I can outline briefly to Yexcellency the peculiar bearing it has on this case, and—


The Governor

Is 'at witness?


The Witness

Yes, sir.


The Governor

Sit over here where I c'n see y' better. 'N don't shtan' 'n awe 'f me. Washa name?


The Witness

Ote Bailey, sir.


The Governor

Shpeak right out, Bailey. 'M plain, blunt man 'n y' needn't shtan' 'n awe 'f me.


Counsel

Now, Bailey, if you'll tell the Governor in your own words what you told the Parole Board—


The Witness

Well, it was like this. I was coming down the street on the milk-wagon early in the morning, right down Center Street in Coal City, and it was cold and there was a thin skim of ice on the street. And the mare was a-slipping and sliding pretty near every step, because she was old and the cheap dairy company hadn't shoed her right for cold weather. And—

The Governor

Wha's 'at? Milk-wagon?


Counsel

Just a moment, Yexcellency. Now, Bailey, you forgot to tell the Governor when this was.


The Witness

This here was twenty-three year ago come next January.


Counsel

All right, now go ahead and—


The Governor

Hol' on, Bailey, hol' on. [To Counsel] Young man, I got worl' o' patience. 'M plain, blunt man, a'ls will'n t' help people 'n distress, p'ticularly when—p'ticularly—p'ticularly—h'm—p'ticularly. But wha's twen' three yea's 'go got t' do 'th 'is ex'cution? Tell me that.


Counsel

Well, Yexcellency, I thought it would save time if we let Bailey tell his story first, and then I can outline the bearing it has on this case. But if Yexcellency prefers, I'll be glad to—


The Governor

Young man, 're you trifl'n 'th me?


Counsel

Not at all, Yexcellency, I—


The Governor

I warn y' ri' now I won't shtan' f' trifl'n. Facksh, facksh, tha's what I want!


Counsel

Yes, Yexcellency.


The Governor

A' right, Bailey, g' on 'th it. I'll see 'f I c'n get facksh m'self.


The Witness

So pretty soon, the mare went down. She went right down in the shafts, and I seen I would have to unhook her to get her up.


The Governor

Y' right, y' qui' right. Y' can't get 'm up 'thout y' unhook 'm. No use try'n. G' on.


The Witness

So then I got down offen the wagon and commence unhooking her. And I just got one breeching unwrapped, 'cause they didn't have snap breechings then, when I heared something.


The Governor

Whasha hear?


The Witness

I heared a mewling.


The Governor

Mewl'n?


The Witness

That's right. First off, sound like a cat, but then it didn't sound like no cat. Sound funny.


The Governor

What sound like?


The Witness

Sound like a child.


The Governor

Y' sure?


The Witness

Yes, sir.


The Governor

Sound' like child. Thank God, now 'm gett'n some facksh. G' on. What 'en?


The Witness

So I left the mare, left her laying right where she was, and commence looking around to see where it was coming from.


The Governor

Where what was com'n f'm?


The Witness

This here mewling.


The Governor

Oh, yes. Mewl'n. F'got f' mom'nt. G' on, Bailey. Shpeak right out. Don't shtan' 'n awe 'f me. What 'en?


The Witness

So pretty soon I figured it must be coming from the sewer, what run down under Center Street, and I went over to the manhole and listened and sure enough that was where it was coming from.


The Governor

Shew'r?


The Witness

Yes, sir.


The Governor

Keep right on, Bailey. Y' g' me more facksh 'n fi' minutes 'n whole pack 'lawyersh gi' me 'n week.


Counsel

I assure Yexcellency—


The Governor

Keep out o' this, young man. Y' tried m' patience 'nough already. 'M after facksh 'n 'm gett'n 'm. G' on, Bailey.


The Witness

So I tried to get the cover offen the manhole, but I couldn't lift it. I tried hard as I could, but I couldn't budge it.


The Governor

Busha tried?


The Witness

Yes, sir.


The Governor

Thasha shtuff! G' on.


The Witness

So then I figured the best thing was to get some help and I run all the way up and down the street looking for a cop. And pretty soon I found a couple of them. And first off they didn't believe it, but then when they come to the manhole and heared this here mewling, they tried to lift the cover with me, and all three of us couldn't move it, and why we couldn't move it was it was froze to the rim.


The Governor

F'oze?


The Witness

Yes, sir.


The Governor

F'oze. G' on.


The Witness

So then we figured the best thing to do would be to put in a alarm. We figured if we got the fire company down there, maybe they would have something to move it with.


The Governor

G' on. Keep right on till I tell y' to shtop, Bailey.


The Witness

So we went to the box and put in a alarm. And pretty soon here come the hook-and- ladder galloping down the street. And five fellows what was members of the Coal City Volunteer Fire Department was on it, because they was still setting in the fire-house playing a poker game what they had started the night before after supper.


The Governor

The Coal City Vol'teer Fi' D'pa'ment?


The Witness

Yes, sir. So then—


The Governor

Wait minute. Wait minute, Bailey. Y' touch m' heart now. The ol' Coal City Vol'teer Fi' D'pa'ment, wha' y' know 'bout 'at? I was mem' that m'self. I was mem' that—le's see, mus' been thirty yea's 'go.


Counsel

I hear it was a wonderful company in those days, Yexcellency.


The Governor

Won'ful 'n 'en some. We won State ca'nival three times runn'n. C'n y' 'magine 'at?


Counsel

You don't mean it, Yexcellency!


The Governor

Well, well! Y' touch m' heart now, Bailey, y' cert'ny have. 'S goin' be ha'd f' me t' send y' t' chair 'f y' was mem' old Coal City

Vol'teer Fi' D'pa'ment. G' on. What 'en?


The Witness

—?


Counsel

Don't sit there with your mouth hanging open like that, Bailey. The Governor was thinking of something else, of course.


The Witness

Oh! So then them fellows pulled in their horses and got down offen the hook-and-ladder and commence hollering where was the fire. So we told them it wasn't no fire, but a child down the sewer, and then they got sore, because they claim we broke up their poker game and it was roodles.


The Governor

What 'en?


The Witness

So we ast them to help us get the cover off, and they wasn't going to do it. But just then this here mewling come again, just a little bit. It had kind of died off, but now it started up again, and them fellows, soon as they heared it, they got busy. 'Cause this here mewling, it give you the shivers right up and down your back.


The Governor

What 'en?


The Witness

So then we put the blade of one of them axes next to the cover, between it and the rim, and beat on it with another ax. And that broke it loose and we got it off.


The Governor

What 'en?


The Witness

So then them firemen put a belt on me, what they use to hook on the hose when they shove it up on them ladders, and let me down in the sewer. And I struck a match and sure enough there was a child, all wrapped up in a bunch of rags, laying out on the sewer water. And why it hadn't sunk was that the sewer water was froze and a good thing we didn't shove no ladder down there because if we had the ice would of got broke and the child would of fell in.


The Governor

What 'en?


The Witness

So I grabbed the child, and them fellows pulled me up, and then we all got on the hook-and-ladder and whipped up them horses for the Coal City Hospital, 'cause it looked like to me that child was half froze to death, but when we give it in to the hospital we found out that being in the sewer hadn't hurt it none and it was all right.


The Governor

So y' saved child?


The Witness

Yes, sir.


The Governor

Tha's good! ... Well, Bailey, y' made good case f' y'self. I don't min' say'n, 'm 'pressed.


Counsel

But this witness isn't quite finished with his testimony, Yexcellency.


The Governor

Wha's 'at? He saved child, didn' he? 'A's all wan' know. Facksh, facksh, tha's what I go on!


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Career in C Major by James M. Cain, Roy Hoopes. Copyright © 1986 Alice M. Piper. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Contents

Introduction: Was the "Tough Guy" Really a Humorist at Heart?,
Prophecy,
Hunting the Radical,
The American Eagle,
Sealing Wax,
1. Dialogues,
Introduction,
The Governor,
The Legislature,
The Administration of Justice (in Three Parts),
1. Counsel,
2. The Judiciary,
3. The Jury,
The Commissioners,
Don't Monkey with Uncle Sam,
2. Light Fiction,
Introduction,
The Whale, the Cluck and the Diving Venus,
Come-Back,
Hip, Hip, The Hippo,
Everything But the Truth,
The Visitor,
3. The Light Novel,
Introduction,
Career in C Major,

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