Books: Love's Lovely Confederates

PAST ALL DISHONOR (233 pp.)—James M. Cain—Knopf ($2).

James Cain's new novel is set in the period of the War Between the States, but readers will not have to leaf far to discover that it is about the same hair-raising war-between-the-sexes that chilled U.S. marrows in The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity, Mildred Pierce. A well-told tale whose deadpan savagery suggests that it was written with the tip of an icicle, it features enough lust and mayhem per page to shame a pulp novel.

By page 14, Hero Roger Duval, a youthful Confederate spy, has been saved from drowning in the Sacramento...

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