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Today, the conventional wisdom is that he never equaled his debut novel, The Postman Always Rings Twice, despite the fact that Mildred Pierce was reviewed as Cain's first "serious" work, in part because literary critic Edmund Wilson had recently named Cain a rising star in American fiction. Cain, who didn't believe in advances, sold Mildred Pierce, his fourth novel, for $5,000, a significant sum at the time. To celebrate the sale, Hoopes writes, Cain bought a snowball maker, like the one he remembered from his boyhood. The snowballs weren't much good, but the machine made divine mint juleps. This is an apt metaphor for Mildred Pierce, a book that delivers much more of a wicked kick than expected, especially if you've been raised on the saccharine pieties of the film.