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Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett

Red Harvest (1929)

by Dashiell Hammett

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Continental Op (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,402714,273 (3.85)150
The Continental Op investigates the killing of his client, the last honest citizen in an extremely corrupt town.
Recently added bydthuleen, Serrana, Conor.Murphy, jose0122, private library, scottyn73, Grant_McLeester
Legacy LibrariesRobert Ranke Graves , Carl Sandburg
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» See also 150 mentions

English (65)  Spanish (5)  French (1)  All languages (71)
Showing 1-5 of 65 (next | show all)
I turned to Dashiell Hammet since he was one of the first authors to popularize the hardboiled genre. This style is one of my favorites, and I've read examples of it from American and Japanese authors. I really love Raymond Chandler, who is sometimes called Hammet's successor. On a meta-level, I was also excited that Hammet was born in my adopted state of Maryland (in St. Mary's County) and grew up in Philly (my hometown) and Baltimore (my new hometown and where I worked for many years). Alas, the stars didn't align to make this a great book for me.

The hardboiled style of fast-paced, staccato writing is absolutely there. Hammet has mastered the art of story telling and I wanted to finish the book almost from the very first page. However, unlike Chandler, there was no social context or message. I have called Chandler a hardboiled Steinbeck: dealing with social issues while still telling a great detective story. Hammet's characters are two-dimensional cut outs who lack any nuanced behaviors or redeeming factors. They have no backstory or clear motivation. There's no discussion of the overall social situation, how things got the way they were, why it should be fixed and how that might not work anyway.

In Red Harvest, one has a very utilitarian story of bad guys getting taken down by the scheming of an unnamed and shady detective. This feels ore like the script for a late 20th/early 21st century Hollywood film. Lots of "shoot 'em up", sexiness and drinking, rather than a well-honed novel from the early 20th. Alas, I probably won't read any more Hammet. ( )
  drew_asson | Mar 22, 2020 |
This book confused me. Not because of the plot was convoluted, but because I don't understand why the main character did some of the things he did. Maybe that's because I'm used to reading books where the main character is the good guy, where the Op in Red Harvest is more grey then anything. He has no problems exacting revenge on anyone, even if it means him doing illegal things.

Overall the plot of the book wasn't so much a mystery novel as a caper as the Op tries to pit various factions that have taken over a city against each other. The actual mystery that the book starts with is just a subplot and is solved and hardly mentioned again by chapter 3. ( )
  nmorse | Dec 3, 2019 |
"She looked as if she were telling the truth, though with women, especially blue-eyed women, that doesn't always mean anything."

Does anyone write sexier hardboiled prose than Hammett? Never have I enjoyed so much killing so much. The extended meditation on the dulling of conscience brought on by extreme violence is a sharp psychological take. The language of the late '20s sounds so lively, with modern-sounding terms like "Reno's un-friend" and "here's the proposish" sprinkled throughout.

I also like Hammett's always-keen sense of place. When Dinah tells him they should go down to Salt Lake, and when he ends the novel by going to Ogden for a week before San Francisco, it really evoked my American West home.

Especially a propos today with much of Mexico in just such a state of gang violence. Probably the best examination of the sociology of crime I have ever read, fiction or no. ( )
  charlyk | Nov 15, 2019 |
Red Harvest. The title gave me hope I’d be reading a communist revolutionary-farmer action thriller. No such luck. The “red” is blood and a plentiful harvest is made of it. This could have been a police procedural except that the police here are criminal rat bastards. So are pretty much everyone else. An exception is the unnamed P.I. (the “Continental Op”). He’s barely more moral in his acts but does know how to honor a contract. Luckily, a femme fatale (rather worn by that role) stirs the air at intervals. It’s set in Montana and inspired, it would seem, by the sordid chapters of that state’s mining industry. Otherwise, there’s so little sense of place that it could as well have been Missouri, Minnesota, or Manitoba.

The plot goes off in lots of directions and soon you expect that every time anyone arrives at a building something bad will happen. Accompanying the action are some decent lines. Examples:
“Donald Willson sent for me. I was waiting to see him while he was being killed.”
“Like a lot of people, I looked most honest when I was lying.”

Despite the violence, I didn’t find the story as heart-pounding as I’d have liked, but it is good at confronting us with the threatening habits of hard-hearted men. Not a waste of our time then, and the brisk pace is helped by Hammett not being a writer over fond of sentences needing commas. It’s as if he had suffered the misfortune, when young, of spending scarce cash on late-period Henry James. I’d be bitter too.

To conclude, and to give credit where credit is due: Hammett’s Op proves himself one “mucker” of a detective. ( )
1 vote dypaloh | Oct 15, 2019 |
Wow, lots of crime, corruption, killing and, of course, quaffing (the hard stuff).

So, the Continental Op goes to a small town, where his summoner is killed before he can even meet with him. The summoner's father, who essentially owns the town asks the Continental Op to clean up the corruption (then off and on changes his mind). The clean-up essentially involves getting all the various gangsters to kill each other.

I suppose this is a good yarn, and a classic example of its genre. I have issues with a book who's protagonist is essentially anonymous. I'd read some Continental Op stories before and had the same feeling. Much better, IMHO is Chandler's Philip Marlow. Both Chandler and Hammett feature private detectives midst a background of crime, corruption and killing, but somehow having a "known" protagonist is more satisfying. ( )
  lgpiper | Jun 21, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 65 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (21 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dashiell Hammettprimary authorall editionscalculated
Hoffman, H. LawrenceCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I first heard Personville called Poisonville by a red-haired mucker named Hickey Dewey in the Big Ship in Butte.
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Personville poisoned
Hero pits all against all
Hardboiled cleansing

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