An American author, journalist, and early hardboiled crime fiction writer, he is known for works such as The Postman Always Rings Twice, Serenade, and The Butterfly. Many of his novels and stories were adapted into films.
He worked as a journalist for both the Baltimore American and the Baltimore Sun.
A music lover, he wrote several novels (including Career in C Major, Serenade, and Mildred Pierce) in which opera figures prominently.
He married Mary Clough in 1919. The marriage ended in divorce, and Cain quickly remarried Elina Sjosted Tyszecka.
His 1943 novel, Double Indemnity, was made into a film starring Fred MacMurray.