Well, here’s a genuine mystery. Got a letter this morning. I was already quite excited about that, as it clearly wasn’t a bill or junk. When I opened it, I found that it contained an old press release from 1985, for the Picador edition of The Five Great Novels of James M Cain. This is a book that I actually own, and it was still in my book shelves. I’d bought it in about 1986 or 7, I think, in Manchester, back when I was sort of collecting Picadors, for the beauty and simplicity of their spines. And it’s a wonderful collection – The Postman Always Rings Twice is one of the truly great novellas, and Mildred Pierce and Double Indemnity are also brilliant (though Serenade, a bizarre noir-opera mashup is terrible).
But this is all getting off the point.
There was no note with the press release, no indication at all why someone would send it to me. The writing on the envelope looks vaguely familiar, but I can’t tie it down.
I’m utterly baffled. Several of Cain’s stories involve blackmail – could that be it? But I’ve lived such a blameless life, if you exclude the overdue library books, and that incident with the porpoise. If anyone can solve this mystery for me, I’d be grateful, very grateful … In fact if anyone can explain it, I’ll send them a copy of one of my books.
Here they are, my battered old copy, the press release, the envelope.