May 22, 2024

Rare James M. Cain Story 'Blackmail'
Published for First Time

In May 2023, literary detective and editor-in-chief of the Strand Magazine, Andrew Gulli, announced the discovery and release of an unpublished short story by James M. Cain, titled Blackmail.

Blackmail is set in Washington DC in the aftermath of the Korean War. The story is based on a blind Korean war veteran tormented by his sister-in-law, and it delves deep into themes of greed, sacrifice, friendship, and redemption between damaged and fallible characters. In just over 3,000 words, Cain offers up all the noir elements we’ve come to expect from him, complete with gritty dialogue and a cunning antagonist, but puts in an unexpected twist that turns the tale on its head, offering a surprisingly nuanced take on these supposedly tough characters.

It begins: “In a rough board shack on a one-block alley in south-east Washington DC, a blind man emerged from a bedroom and groped along a wall. He was dressed neatly, in dark hat, suit, and overcoat, as if to go out for the evening, and though a big, silent shadow followed every move he made, he asked no help.”

Gulli made the discovery by asking the Library of Congress to look in its Cain papers, and he worked with International Literary Properties to celebrate this ‘lost’ story worthy of publication.

Read more here in The Strand Magazine.