ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Books, Literature, and Writing»
  • Books & Novels»
  • Fiction

The Butterfly - Book and Film by Cain

Updated on February 15, 2017
paperfacets profile image

Ms. Venegas believes reading is essential for understanding the rapidly changing world. She enjoys sharing books with others.


Author James M Cain Book and Film Gift

Many readers have their favorite authors and going through and reading each publication of the author is a goal to achieve. It is like the birder's life list or tasting every micro beer out there. One can not get enough.

The nuances of personal searches excite and invite adventures. Reading almost every Cain publication on the Internet can be costly. Most purchases are from ebay for the older novels, because he died on 1977.

The film industry has not ignored Cain. He tried to write scripts and failed even after many years on studio contracts. What he wrote for reading never came across in the script, according to studio execs. Studios loved his ideas, though, and made 17 films from his short stories and novels, using someone else to write the scripts.

For a gift idea get the matching pair of novel and film version of a Cain story. The film, The Butterfly, was made in 1982, five years after his death.

The Book

I have not read this novel since 1991, but it left an impression. As I was reading the story I started to realize I had seen this in movie version. I viewed it late night on TV as a cable station offering. The film was made in 1982 and I was a bit amazed film makers would use a 1946 written novel and make a movie of it almost 40 years later.

As I read more Cain novels I started to realize this author has his followers.

Seeing that book cover above I have to read it again.

The Butterfly
The Butterfly

When viewing do a thorough search because there are many different issues and printings of this book to choose from. The story was written in 1946 and takes place in the 1930s in the Kentucky mountains.


The James M Cain Style

One aspect of his writing was his skill in character relationships developed through dialogue. Add a few sentences of setting, action and character thoughts and you have the Cain style. He preferred to write in the first person. All his novels move fast. All the scenes you can tell are written by the consummate gentleman. Nothing raw or graphic, but subjects are explored, such as, murder, double crossing lovers, hateful daughters, the prostitute, underage love interests, finance, bank embezzlement, incest, The Depression, oil wildcatting, and even being fat!

He seemed to find angles and even some sympathy in untouched subjects and everyday events. As we progressed into the later 20th century his style appeared naive or corny. No matter to me and many admirers. Three of his later novels that he could not get published himself were published after his death.

He researched all of his story lines to get his facts right and made sure to visit the areas that the stories are set in. The setting for The Butterfly was a locale he was sent to in his early reporting days, spending some time in the Big Sandy during the mining company and union fights in 1921. He sent everyday news dispatches to the Baltimore Sun. He went back to the area in 1922 to get more information for a novel and got hired as a card carrying union miner. This novel about the area did not materialize till 1946.

One reason he got spooked about the project in his younger days was he was invited to dinner with company management and that resulted in the cold shoulder from his miner coworkers. He skipped town without even waiting for his paycheck.

Pia Zadora as Kady:image credit
Pia Zadora as Kady:image credit

In This Passage From the Book The Butterfly

Here the main character, Jess, is introduced to a baby boy.

"...for a long time something kept stabbing into my heart, and I'd look at him and feel so glad he was partly mine that I wanted to sing. His diaper slipped down a little and I almost died when I saw a brown bug on his stomach, or what I thought was a brown bug, just below the navel. I reached for it with my fingers, but Jane laughed.

"That's his birthmark."

"I thought it was some kind of a moth."

"It's his butterfly."

"It almost scared me to death."

The Film

I had viewed this DVD late at night and found it exciting and interesting. I saw it in the later eighties and Stacy Keach already had his downfall as an actor, but I tuned in to this movie because of his name and Pia Zadora's. After I read the credits, I also found out Orson Welles was featured. I did not pick him out while watching the film.

This film is about Kentucky's mining area: and incest? Seems stereotyped, but remember the novel was written in 1946, and as Cain wrote in the preface, (the preface is as entertaining as the novel), the characters are fictitious, but not the Big Sandy area or his experience there in 1922. Cain does continue with, "Yes, I have actually mined coal, and distilled liquor, as well as seen a girl in a pink dress, and seen her take it off."


R rated with some nudity.


Have You Read or Seen The Butterfly?

Are you familiar with The Butterfly?

See results

Explore ebay for Your Book/Film Duo Gift

Find a billing poster to go with the book and film. Knock the stocks off your entertainment lover recipient. He will think you a genius. The duo plus movie poster in any favorite book and film would be good for the next holiday present.

Pair any of the books and films that may be your recipient's favorite author. Add a film poster or other tie-in for extra effect with your presentation on gifting day.

See a list on Wikipedia of the 17 films that were made from James Cain's novels and novellas.

Internet Niche Going About James M Cain

I have a persist enthusiasm about my favorite author, so much so, I am a bit dismayed Squidoo does not give out Purple Stars anymore for my repeated lenses about Cain. I am hoping my written pages forms a following and if one page is a bit interesting go ahead and explore the other ones I have created about this early 20th century writer.

He is underrated and I always want to see his name mentioned with Raymond Chandler when they list crime novels of LA in newspaper articles, but sadly, he is skipped and not as well known to later generation readers. I am glad Roy Hoopes saw Cain's contribution to American literature and did extensive interviews with Cain before he died.


Information I mention is from this biography and book.

Hoopes, Roy. Cain: The Biography of James M. Cain. Carbondale and Edwardsville: Board of Trustees, Southern Illinois University, 1987.

Cain, James M. Three by Cain: Serenade, Love's Lovely Counterfeit, The Butterfly. New York. Vintage Books, A Division of Random House, Inc.,1989.

© 2013 Sherry Venegas

Book and Film Duo Gift for the person who has everything

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      Ibidii 3 years ago

      I did see both the 1941 version and the recent miniseries of Mildred Pierce. I loved them both. I think that I would love The Butterfly because of theauthoe and I really like Stacey Keach. Great review!

    • goldenrulecomics profile image

      goldenrulecomics 3 years ago

      I'm a fan of James M. Cain, and read The Butterfly about 20 years ago. Great story. I never saw the movie, but with Pia Zadora I don't have any interest. Nicely done review.

    • profile image

      burntchestnut 4 years ago

      I love the artwork on old book covers. I'm not familiar with James Cain. I like historical novels and mysteries without gore. Thanks for introducing James Cain.