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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Love's Lovely Counterfeit

James M. Cain

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Love's Lovely Counterfeit

Title: Love's Lovely Counterfeit
Author: James M. Cain
Genre: Novel
Written: 1942
Length: 146 pages
Availability: in Three by Cain - US
in Three by Cain - UK
in Three by Cain - Canada
in Three by Cain - India
  • Love's Lovely Counterfeit was filmed as Slightly Scarlet in 1956. Allan Dwan directed, and it starred John Payne and Arlene Dahl.

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Our Assessment:

B+ : solid novel of small city crime

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The New Yorker . 10/10/1942 Vincent McHugh
The NY Times Book Review . 11/10/1942 William DuBois
Time . 12/10/1942 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "(I)f you can stomach the first chapter, it will hold you to the end -- even if the effect is comparable to a morning at the reptile-house in the zoo." - William DuBois, The New York Times Book Review

  • "In Love's Lovely Counterfeit Author Cain is in the groove again. (...) Love's Lovely Counterfeit is an expert thriller told by the most literate U.S. pulp writer. Incidentally, it reduces Author Cain's erstwhile social significance to trimmings as dutiful as the cherry in an Old-Fashioned cocktail." - Time

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Love's Lovely Counterfeit is set in fictional Lake City, a Midwest town where everyone -- including the mayor and the police-chief -- are slightly crooked, and the crook behind them all is Sol Caspar. Sol has a driver, Ben Grace, who doesn't like doing what he's doing all that much, but he knows he's in too deep to get out -- at least by conventional means.
       There's a mayoral election, and the incumbent looks like he's sitting pretty, but there's also been a bank robbery where someone got killed, and this provides Ben his golden opportunity. He leaks some information to June Lyons, who is helping the opposing candidate, and sets off a chain of events that propel the new guy into City Hall -- and drive Sol Caspar out of town, with the FBI and the police on his tail.
       Ben Grace decides he can do what Sol did too, and maybe even do it better. He becomes the new gangleader behind a couple of the shadier enterprises in town, and he does it pretty well -- but his heart isn't always entirely in it.
       June goes along with things because she's attracted to Ben -- and because she needs the extra cash that comes with playing along: she has a sister, Dorothy, who is a real bad seed. June and Ben have a hot (but secret) affair -- but the new mayor also has his eye on June, causing a bit of friction.
       Things get more complicated when Dorothy finally shows up. There are some things Ben can't resist ..... When, on top of that, Sol resurfaces everything comes to a head.
       There are some nice twists here, and it's spoiled only at the very end by a terrible melodramatic final scene. Overall, however, this is a solid, unassuming little thriller, the characters just that bit too weak to resist the temptations that then inevitably bring them down.
       Cain isn't too ambitious here, and he tells a good story. Ben's way of taking power is entertaining -- as is his comeuppance, especially the scene where everything comes crashing down (one tiny mistake ...).
       The romances are fairly well-handled too, in that fitting noirish-peculiar way that allows for descriptions such as:

Obviously, they had got to a point where the word love, if either of them had uttered it, would have been somewhat inadequate. Insanity would have been better, and there was some suggestion of it as she raised her face to his.
       Ben, the trusty (if not always trusting) Lefty, and Sol are all well-drawn characters, and if the women are a bit too simple, they're still the usual conniving, passionate gals typically found in Cain's novels (i.e. an entertaining bunch of broads).
       A solid little thriller.

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Three by Cain: Reviews: Slightly Scarlet - the film version of Love's Lovely Counterfeit: James M. Cain: Other books by James Cain under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       American author James Mallahan Cain (1892-1977) was, among other things, managing editor of The New Yorker and a screenwriter. He published his first novel when he was forty-two, and achieved great success with several hard-boiled classics.

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