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Customer Review

VINE VOICEon 9 January 2006
Aeschylus. The harvest of death is both plentiful and bloody in Dashiell Hammett's marvelous thriller "Red Harvest".
Dashiell Hammett, a former Pinkerton detective, pretty much invented the hard-boiled (U.S.) detective genre. The influence of Hammett's short stories and novels, "Red Harvest", "The Dain Curse", "The Glass Key", "The Thin Man" and "The Maltese Falcon" can be seen in much of the detective fiction writing that followed, including among others Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain, Jim Thompson, Ross Macdonald, James Ellroy, Robert Parker, James Lee Burke, and Michael Connelly. The plot of "Red Harvest", Hammett's first novel, also found its way into movies such as Akira Kurosawa's "Yojimbo", Sergio Leone's "For a Fistful of Dollars", and the Coen brother's "Miller's Crossing".
"Red Harvest" begins with the arrival of the Continental Op, Hammett's trademark "man with no name" in the town of Personville. The client he has been summoned to see is found murdered before the Op can meet him. In short order the Op finds that Personville's nickname, "Poisonville" is well-earned. It is a town filled with small town greed and big time corruption. The Ops arrival coincides with the onset of a turf war for control of the city between rival gangsters. The Op pays a call on the dead man's father, Elihu Willsson. The Op soon determines that the town's descent into a state approaching a low level of hell began when Willsson imported some mobsters to break up a strike. Their stay turned out to be far from a temporary one.
For reasons of his own, perhaps just to be stubborn or perhaps as a matter of some principle or warrior code, the Op decides to stay and clean up the town. His method is simple, pit each gang and its various factions and sub-factions against each other until the dust settles and it is discovered that they have pretty much killed themselves off. The Op is not afraid to pitch in and help the process along.
As noted above, "Red Harvest" was Hammett's first full length book. Perhaps as a result some of the sentences were longer and more `literary' than his later books, by which time he had perfected a leaner, staccato, machine gun style of dialogue. Nevertheless, "Red Harvest" was and remains an impressive and exciting piece of writing.
"Red Harvest" along with just about everything else Hammett ever wrote is well worth reading.
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