Fiction & Film: Raising Cain


Dan Hedaya, as the jealous cuckold in Blood Simple.

Because “The Mark of Cain” was already taken? Yeah, maybe. That was the title of an excellent piece on precisely what I had planned to discuss today—in this, the first in a series I call “Fiction & Film.” My topic for today? The link between crime fiction writer James M. Cain and the Coen brothers (whom I can’t get out of my head, going back to November). “Raising Cain” also happens to be the name of a bad Brian DePalma film (starring—wait for it—John Lithgow and Lolita Davidovich), but it’s also suitable for a discussion of violence and bloody mayhem (given the biblical Cain’s infamous history).

There’s a lot of raising Cain in the recent Fargo series (especially if you consider the massive body count in Season 2). But I’m more interested in the particular Cain style—language, dialogue, plotting, and pacing—that’s evident in Joel and Ethan Coen’s films, including the noirish Miller’s Crossing (1990), Barton Fink (1991), and The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001). For today, though, I want to go back—way back—to the beginning. Let’s make it Simple. Blood Simple (1984).