79th Division Headquarters Troop: A Record.
First edition, first printing. Scarce, with OCLC showing six copies only and no copy in auction records. During the First World War, Cain, the future author of The Postman Always Rings Twice, Mildred Pierce, Double Indemnity, etc., served with Malcolm in the 79th Division, a unit raised at Camp Meade in Cain’s home state of Maryland in 1917. The 79th earned the nickname “Cross of Lorraine” – a symbol of both French regional pride, and national independence – for its services during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, the largest and bloodiest operation of the war for the American Expeditionary Force. Cain and Malcolm were co-editors of The Lorraine Cross, the divisional “trench newspaper”. This book precedes by 11 years what is generally regarded as Cain’s first book, Our Government, a collection of short stories which includes “The Taking of Montfaucon”, an autobiographical tale based on his harrowing experiences as a runner during the battle (first published in the American Mercury, June 1929, and Cain’s second published story). Laid-in is a typed letter signed, dated 18 April 1976, from Cain to Henry Tatnall Brown, who had served in the Red Cross under the aegis of the American Friends War Relief Service in France. Cain mentions The Lorraine Cross and the 79th Division, remarking that “as a class” the Red Cross were “the most co-operative, well-bred, likeable people there were”, concluding: “I don’t drive a car any more, it being unanimously agreed I could not only break my own neck but perhaps 25 others, on account of a tricky heart, but if you do, we can go to lunch and reminisce.”
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Tall quarto. Original blue cloth, titles to front board gilt, edges uncut. Frontispiece with vignettes in the text by Frank E. Horn. Tips slightly bumped and extremities a little rubbed. An excellent copy.