“The Cocktail Waitress” Serves It Up

If you don’t know the name James M. Cain I’d be willing to bet money that you know the title “The Postman Always Rings Twice”.Cain authored his most well-known work in 1934 and it remains a much-loved work today.

He penned many works although the most well know remain“Mildred Pierce” and “Double Indemnity”.

Cain wrote right up until his death in 1977 but none of his works seemed on the path to the same level of popularity of his earliest works.

“The Cocktail Waitress” may change that. The unusual thing about “The Cocktail Waitress” is that it wasn’t discovered until after Cain’s death. The novel was rumor at first; Cain had mentioned he was working on a novel just before his death.

Max Allan Collins (author and contributor to Hard Case Crime) had heard about “The Cocktail Waitress” and Charles Ardai (Founder and editor of Hard Case Crime) spent “nine years tracking down the book and securing the rights to publish it.” (1)

On September 21, 2012 this long-lost work will be published. If you’re a fan of Cain’s work you’re definitely going to want to pick up a copy.

“The Cocktail Waitress” begins with the femme fatale, Joan Medford, recording her story. After getting involved with a man at a young age and becoming pregnant – Joan finds herself in a violent and unloving marriage. After a particularly nasty fight her husband drives off and dies in an automobile crash. When the police stop by to give Joan some details they also give her a tip about a restaurant that needs a waitress.

Joan doesn’t get the job as restaurant waitress but her legs and her bust get her a well-paying job as a cocktail waitress. She’s a quick learner and has a sharp memory for names and quickly endears herself to the staff.

But things aren’t simple for Joan. She meets two customers who offer her very different paths. Mr. White the third is a mysterious, wealthy and in attractive man. From the moment he sees Joan he is smitten with her. Marrying into wealth could give Joan a way to provide a wonderful life for her son.

The second customer that takes a liking to Joan is rakish and handsome. He is full of pie-in-the-sky ideas and little else.  The thing is that Joan is attracted to him.  She wants Tom more than she wants Mr. White with all his money.  The problem is that her heart might convince her that she needs the money.

This novel will capture you quickly.  Joan is a marvelous story-teller; her tale is woeful, and there were times when I wanted to scream at her – but she’s likable.  She’s caught between two worlds with blood on her hands and things spiral out of control quickly.  It’s spicy and riveting; the voices of the minor characters are creative and rich.

This is the kind of book that makes people want to read Hard Case Crime. It’s perfect as an introduction to crime novels or as a refreshing new offering from an old favorite.  Cain is truly one of the best and to be given this masterpiece 3 decades after his death is just remarkable.



From Titan Books:

Following her husband’s death in a suspicious car accident, beautiful young widow Joan Medford is forced to take a job serving drinks in a cocktail lounge to make ends meet and to have a chance of regaining custody of her young son. At the job she encounters two men who take an interest in her, a handsome young schemer who makes her blood race and a wealthy but unwell older man who rewards her for her attentions with a $50,000 tip and an unconventional offer of marriage…

Includes a 4,000 word feature on the locating of this “lost” Cain novel, by Hard Case Crime editor, Charles Ardai.


  • ISBN: 9781781160329
  • Dimensions: 234mm x 156mm
  • Hardback: 272pp
  • Publication date: 21 September 2012
  • All authors: 
    James M Cain

1. Ardai, Charles. Afterword. The Cocktail Waitress by James M. Cain. London: Titan Publishing group. 2012. p. 264

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