MIGNON is James M. Cain’s first novel in nearly ten years. Readers of previous bestsellers such as and will find Mignon Fournet, the heroine of the new novel, as remarkable a creation as the women in those two celebrated books.
Mignon is a beautiful young widow who, with her father, has come to New Orleans at the close of the Civil War in the hopes of improving their war-reduced fortunes. But the risky trade in contraband cotton has landed her father in jail and Mignon at the hotel room door of Bill Cresap. Cresap, recently discharged from the Union Army for wounds received in battle, has arrived in New Orleans to start a business with a friend. Reluctantly, but irrevocably, Cresap is drawn into the intrigues and dangers which engulf the irresistible Mignon.
Also moving among the dark events of those tough, troubled times is a fascinating variety of richly drawn characters. There is Adolphe Landry, Mignon’s enigmatic father; Frank Burke, Landry’s unscrupulous partner; Gippo, Burke’s henchman, more animal than human; and Marie Tremaine, the beautiful, rich, and powerful chatelaine of a notorious New Orleans gambling house.
From gaudy New Orleans, the scene shifts up-river to the bloody Red River battle. There, the personal and military dramas are joined. Cresap, in the turbulent actions which follow, finds himself not only involved in the intrigues of desperate men, but the passions of two beautiful women. In an explosion of violence and tragedy, the novel reaches its inevitable climax.
Of MIGNON, Mr. Cain says: It is a continuation, in theme, of a previous book, Past All Dishonor, in which the hero is tempted, by his love for a girl, so slight his duty — not much, just a little bit. In MIGNON, Mr. Cain depicts the bafflement of large numbers of men, even in high places, who must wrestle the rules of war and slight them — not much, but a little bit. “Treason,” says Mr. Cain, “doesn’t invite my interest, at least as a narrative theme, being so stark it defies exploration. But its close relative, cheating just little bit, fascinates me. Sometimes, as in Mignon, it even manages to seem quite praiseworthy, which is where the trouble really starts.”