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Red Harvest (1929)

by Dashiell Hammett

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Continental Op (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,742814,271 (3.85)182
The Continental Op investigates the killing of his client, the last honest citizen in an extremely corrupt town.
  1. 10
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    Vulco1: Classic noir tropes done well. Revenge, double crosses, dangerous men and women. Evocative language.
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    Vulco1: A detective who may or may not be in over his head has to figure out which sides are playing him.
  3. 12
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  4. 01
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    benfulton: Crimson Joy is not as bloody or as detailed, but still worthy.
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» See also 182 mentions

English (75)  Spanish (5)  French (1)  All languages (81)
Showing 1-5 of 75 (next | show all)
Personville ( what kind of name si that?) - or Poisonville in ... montana? I don't know where... Mr. Ops man must talngle with a while merry crew of bad guys and get them all to hurt or shoot or worse to each other because of a desire to clean up the rotten burg. It's all a bit over the top, but great. Also loved the main love interest - a gal with always torn stockings, cheap- but needy. It doesn't end well for her - too bad. Almost a super hero yarn. ( )
  apende | Jul 12, 2022 |
A Book From An Author You Love That You Haven’t Read Yet

Dahiell Hammett's first novel Red Harvest is far from his best, but it sings with the same voice as his later works. No one writing today could get the sentence "She looked as if she were telling the truth, though with women, especially blue-eyed women, that doesn't always mean anything." published. No character in a modern novel describes drinking as such a detached act void of significance: "I went into the kitchen, found a bottle of gin, tilted it to my mouth, and kept it there until I had to breathe." And you don't have to listen long or carefully to Mr. Charles Proctor Dawn speak in pretentious riddles before you hear Sydney Greenstreet's personification of Kasper Gutman.

Whereas his later novels limit themselves to serial individual murders, Red Harvest, true to its name, produces a cornucopia of dead bodies killed in myriad brutal ways - stabbed with knives and ice picks, machine-gunned, dynamited. These grisly scenes play out over the course of several weeks yet fail to attract the faintest attention outside the city in which they occur until near the novel's end, when a few out-of-town reporters make inconsequential, almost rumored, appearances.

Hammett's unnamed detective is as intuitively wise as Sam Spade (switching hotels and registering under assumed names often), as caustically observant as Nick Charles: "His clothes were dark and unclean looking without actually being dirty." He doesn't solve mysteries so much as relate events, and is the maestro orchestrating confrontations between rival factions. In a town where even the police and government are corrupt, he manages to stay alive and out of jail despite his primacy in the mayhem. His biggest worry seems to be getting in trouble with his employer, the San Francisco branch of the Continental Detective Agency.

Red Harvest is an easy, enjoyable read if you lower your expectations and accept that this is Hammett's first foray into a new type of fiction, one he gets significantly better at through repeated practice. ( )
  skavlanj | Jul 3, 2022 |
This is the first of two novels featuring the Continental Op, a detective with the Continental Detective Agency in San Francisco (presumably modelled on the Pinkerton agency). He’s been sent to town to meet with Donald Willsson, the publisher of the main newspaper in Personville. However, this town is riddled with corruption, and Willsson is murdered while on his way to meet with the op. The op soon discovers, in his quest to solve the murder, that Personville’s nickname of Poisonville is well earned, and that digging up rocks to expose the creatures lurking below brings more death and destruction.

I liked this book well enough. The beginning felt a bit slow, but it picked up pace eventually, and I had to keep reading to find out what would happen. Lots of people die in this book, so don’t get too attached to anyone. One death made me gasp out loud in shock because I was not expecting it. I’d certainly be interested in reading the other Continental Op novel, The Dain Curse, and the short stories as well. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Apr 17, 2022 |
This subject is probably discussed at great scholarly length elsewhere (perhaps in Joshua Waletsky's 1999 documentary "Dashiell Hammett: Detective, Writer") but, at the moment, I'm not sure where, so I'll add my 2¢'s worth: "Red Harvest" is about a detective hired to 'clean up' a town who pits various gangsters against each other in the process & destabilizes the criminal community into a bloodbath, a Red Harvest. The detective becomes increasingly psychotic as he begins to enjoy the mayhem he catalyzes. NOW, Hammett was a Pinkerton. The Pinkertons were strike breakers & union busters - mercenaries for robber barons, capitalism's thugs. Hammett was a Pinkerton in the town where the Anaconda Copper Mining Company was busy exploiting workers, ruining the environment, & making huge wads'o'dough. An IWW (International Workers of the World) union rep came there to agitate for better conditions. He was murdered. What was Hammett's connection, if any, to all this? & did it inspire the writing of "Red Harvest"? Hammett later went to jail for refusing to snitch to HUAC (House Unamerican Affairs Committee). Hopefully, I haven't garbled this story too much. I'm writing these reviews mostly off the top of my head. ( )
  tENTATIVELY | Apr 3, 2022 |
Dashiell Hammett is considered to be the inventor of the ‘hard-boiled’ crime story and Red Harvest is certainly a fine example of this type of fiction. This is the first in his Continental Op series about a private detective who works for the Continental Detective Agency, a PI for hire who knows how to get the job done.

In this outing, the nameless Continental Op is in a city called Personville, nicknamed Poisonville, to consult with newspaper publisher, Donald Willsson about the possibility of cleaning this crime controlled city up but before he can meet with Willsson, the publisher is shot to death. After almost getting killed himself, he gains a new client, the publisher’s father who founded the city and has played close to the edge himself but now wants the gangs gone. The Continental Op sets to work in earnest by sowing dissension between the rival mobs and the corrupt police force and we learn that the name Red Harvest is apt as the book is riddled with gun play, murders and violence.

A little over the top and slightly dated, Red Harvest is still a fun read filled with thugs, molls and a tough-as-nails hero. Written in abrupt, spare prose, with plenty of violence to spice up the simple story, Red Harvest is a classic of it genre and is known to have influenced many writers such as Raymond Chandler and James Ellroy. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Mar 11, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 75 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (58 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hammett, Dashiellprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dufris, WilliamNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hoffman, H. LawrenceCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marber, RomekCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ortlepp, GunnarTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Joseph Thompson Shaw
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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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The Continental Op investigates the killing of his client, the last honest citizen in an extremely corrupt town.

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Haiku summary
Personville poisoned
Hero pits all against all
Hardboiled cleansing
(hardboiled)

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