Krvavá žatva; Kto pochoval Cézara

By Dashiell Hammett, Rex Stout

25,550 ratings - 3.97* vote

V prvej detektívke nás spisovateľ Dashiell Hammett zavedie do mestečka Personville. Syn bývalého najmocnejšieho pána v meste, Donald Wilsson, pozve do svojho rodiska detektíva zo San Francisca. Stretnutie sa neuskutoční, pretože Donald je zavraždený. Detektív odhalí vraždu, ale stretne sa s množstvom zločincov a dobrodruhov, ktorí ovládajú mesto. V druhej detektívke sa str V prvej detektívke nás spisovateľ Dashiell Hammett zavedie do mestečka Personville. Syn

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Book details

Hardcover, 384 pages
1967 by Tatran

(first published February 1st 1929)

Original Title
Red Harvest
ISBN
6176667 (ISBN13: 9780752852614)
Edition Language
Slovak

Community Reviews

Bill Kerwin


I’ll give you three good reasons—from least to most—why you should read Red Harvest: 1) it made possible the fine Leone film A Fistful of Dollars, 2) it inspired the Kurosawa masterpiece Iojimbo which influenced A Fistful of Dollars, and 3) it is an old school hard boiled, hardcore novel, with a detective as tough as Spade, Marlowe and Hammer put together, written in hard-as-nails prose, and set in a small West Coast city, a city with a heart of stone.

The City is Personville, and people call it “Poisonville,” but not because they are speaking with an accent. A few years before the book opens, mining tycoon and city boss Elihu Wilsson called in some thugs and goons to break a mining strike. Oh they broke it alright, but now these gangsters—with names like Lew Yard, “Whispers,” Pete the Finn—have carved Elihu’s little city into fiefdoms, and Boss Wilsson is not the boss anymore. Our detective, the nameless “Continental Op”--employed by the Continental Detective Agency—soon begins systematically destroying the rival gangs by sowing lies and discord among them. Sure, there is a murder the Op has to solve, but soon, in addition, we have stabbings, ambushes, furtive late night shootings and afternoon gun battles. And a good looking but slatternly gold digger too. Everything a reader could want.

At least you’d think so, wouldn’t you, and it would be enough for your average hard-boiled novel. But three-quarters of the way through, the Op begins to realize he likes all this killing, and after drinking too many laudanum-and-gins and dreaming some stone-crazy dope-head dreams, he wakes up to find a bloody ice pick in his hand. Now the Op has one last murder to solve, and he can't exclude himself as a suspect.

Red Harvest (1927) is certainly a genre classic, but it is also a great book on any terms. The prose is spare, the metaphors are crisp, and, although the narrative is often crowded with incident, the plot remains simple and clear and close to the bone.

Evgeny

The review is updated yet again on January 20, 2020.

“I first heard Personville called Poisonville by a red-haired mucker named Hickey Dewey in the Big Ship in Butte. He also called his shirt a shoit. I didn't think anything of what he had done to the city's name. Later I heard men who could manage their r's give it the same pronunciation. I still didn't see anything in it but the meaningless sort of humor that used to make richardsnary the thieves' word for dictionary. A few years later I went to Personville and learned better.”

Welcome to Poisonville I mean Personville, population 40,000. The local policemen are very friendly and truly enjoy doing their job:
The first policeman I saw needed a shave. The second had a couple of buttons off his shabby uniform. The third stood in the center of the city’s main intersection — Broadway and Union Street — directed traffic, with a cigar in one corner of his mouth. After that I stopped checking them up.
Policeman

All the people are very eager to help during a murder investigation:
'Who shot him’ I asked.
The grey man scratched the back of his neck and said: ‘Somebody with a gun.’

You really cannot get any more helpful than this.
Citizen

If you ever get in legal trouble, there is always a very competent and affordable lawyer available:
He's the guy that the joke was wrote about: "Is he a criminal lawyer?" "Yes, very."
Lawyer

Of all classic hard-boiled novels, this one has a record of having maximum number of dead bodies per page. To give an idea, one of the chapters in about two thirds of the book is titled Seventeenth Murder; after this one the killings were done wholesale and I lost count at about twentieth morgue visitor. A nameless narrator from Continental detective agency is invited to a city for corruption investigation by the city tycoon's son. Unfortunately, by the time the MC arrives, his potential employer is already killed. It does not take a genius to realize the city is rules by criminals with the entire police department being on their payroll and chief of the department being a member of criminal gang (reminds me of my humble metropolis now).
Gangsters

So, does it mean the end of the mission for the MC? Not in the least. He bullied the father of the victim to hire him to rid the city from criminals. What is the best way to do it without outside help? Turn them on each other. This is where the bodies start piling up. Double-crossings, back-stabbings, military-type operations of one gang against the other, and a single guy trying to just stay alive after kicking the hornet's nest – repeatedly when things slow down.

Not a single person in the book appears to be nice, including the main character. The guy scares himself when he realized he began enjoying putting bad guys against each other and watching the resulting fireworks. He admits that this way of cleaning the city is much easier and probably more effective than the legal one.
“This damned burg's getting me. If I don't get away soon I'll be going blood-simple like the natives.”

This novel is my ultimate cure for a book hangover. I read it bazillion times and it have never failed me. It also never became boring. It is the reason I am a fan of classic noir mysteries. It is the reason I put Dashiel Hammett in the list of the best world mystery writers of all time. It is the reason I do not like modern thrillers: most of them assume the reader and the main characters are retarded while Dashiel Hammett assumed relatively smart people read his works.

During every reread I find something new. This time I was able to quote some of the passages from memory and for this reason was not in a big rush to learn what happens next (big rush or no, I was able to read it in less than a day). I finally found time to draw breath and look around, so to speak. I was impressed with Hammett's prose. It was not as artistic as Chandler's (this guy created pure art in his novels), but they were precise, to the point, and ooze style - refer to countless quotes I included.

As you can guess this is non-stop action with not a single page being boring no matter how many times you read it, a wild roller-coaster ride: 6 stars. I only have one question remaining: where the heck is The Continental Op when you need him?

P.S. My fellow Canadians, you are in luck. Project Gutenberg Canada has this book for a free download. If you have even passing interest in classic noir mysteries there is no reason for you not to drop everything you are doing, get the book, and start reading it - yesterday.

James Thane

Originally published in 1929, Red Harvest is a classic crime novel that helped established the hard-boiled genre. This is most definitely not a polite, parlor mystery where most of the blood is spilled off of the page. As the title suggests, this book is filled with mayhem and the bodies are falling left and right.

The main protagonist is the Continental Op, who doesn't remotely resemble the genteel Hercule Poirot or any of the other fictional detectives who were so popular in the 1920s. The Op is certainly smart and skilled, but he's a squat, overweight man who's more than willing to cut whatever corners are necessary in order to achieve what he believes to be the greater good.

The Op, who is employed by the Continental Detective Agency in San Francisco, is detailed to the Personville, a mining town known to most as Poisonville. The town was, for a long time, under the thumb of Elihu Willsson who owned the Personville Mining Corporation, the local newspapers, and a number of other businesses as well. He also controlled all of the politicians of any consequence, up to and including the state governor.

During the First World War, Willsson had made whatever deals were necessary with the miners' unions to ensure that the company's operations were unimpeded. But once the war ended, he determined to break the unions and in doing so, invited in a number of thugs and crooks to assist him. The unions were effectively cowed, but the thugs and crooks stayed in town and carved out interests for themselves, effectively reducing Willsson's authority.

As the book opens, Elihu's son, Donald, has asked the Continental Detective Agency for assistance. Elihu has now turned the town's newspapers over to his son and the son is something of a reformer. But before the Op can even meet with Donald, Donald is murdered. The Op believes that it is his obligation to identify the killer. As he attempts to do so, old Elihu Willsson offers the Op $10,000.00 to clean up Personville. In reality, he wants to get rid of the gangs that are competing for control of the town so that he can dominate it unchallenged once again.

The Op is repulsed by the level of corruption in the town and by Elihu himself. But he decides to take the job so that he can indulge his own desire to clean up the town and cleverly drafts his agreement with Willsson to effectively give himself carte blanche, even if Willsson should ultimately change his mind about turning the Op loose on the problem.

The plot that unfolds is dense and convoluted, but the strength of the book lies in Hammett's prose style, in the characters he develops, and in picture he paints of Personville. As a practical matter, there is not a single moral, selfless person in the entire town, the Continental Op included. He quickly proves that he's ready to get down in the muck with the croooks, grafters and corrupt city officials and do whatever is necessary to complete the quest he's assigned himself.

As a young man, Hammett had worked as a detective for the Pinkerton agency in San Francisco and had spent some time during the war in the mining town of Butte, Montana as a strikebreaker. People have long speculated that "Poisonville" was modeled on Butte, a company town controlled by the Anaconda Mining Company. People have also speculated about Hammett's motives for writing the book, suggesting that he might have been seeking some redemption for the actions he had taken in Butte. Whatever the case, the result is a seminal work that stands as one of the great classics of American crime fiction and that has influenced scores of writers who have attempted to follow in Hammett's footsteps.

Ahmad Sharabiani

(664 From 1001 Books) - Red Harvest, Dashiell Hammett

The Continental Op is called to Personville by the newspaper publisher Donald Willsson, who is murdered before the Op has a chance to meet with him.

The Op begins to investigate Willsson's murder and meets with Willsson's father, Elihu Willsson, a local industrialist who has found his control of the city threatened by several competing gangs. Elihu had originally invited those gangs into Personville to help him impose and then enforce the end of a labor dispute.

In the meantime, the Op is spending time with Dinah Brand, a possible love interest of the late Donald Willsson and a moll for Max "Whisper" Thaler, a local gangster. Using information from Brand and Personville's crooked chief of police, Noonan, the Op manages to extract and spread incriminating information to all of the warring parties.

When the Op reveals that a bank robbery was staged by the cops and one of the mobs to discredit another mob, a gang war erupts.

The Op wakes up the next morning, though, to find Brand stabbed to death with the ice pick the Op handled the previous evening.

No signs of forced entry are visible. The Op becomes a suspect sought by the police for Brand's murder, and one of his fellow operatives, Dick Foley, leaves Personville because he is uncertain of the Op's innocence. ...

خرمن سرخ - داشیل همت (روزنه‌کار) ادبیات پلیسی؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و چهارم ماه دسامبر سال 2004میلادی

عنوان: خرمن سرخ؛ نویسنده: داشیل همت؛ مترجم فرهاد منشوری؛ تهران، روزنه‌ کار، 1381؛ در 264ص؛ شابک 9646728219؛ چاپ دیگر مشهد، ترانه، 1389؛ در 327ص؛ از مجموعه لبه تاریکی سه؛ شابک 9789645638623؛ موضوع: داستانهای پلیسی از نویسندگان امریکایی - سده 20م

داستان «خرمن سرخ»؛ درباره رخدادهایی است، که در شهر «پرسن ویل»، یا به نگارش نویسنده، در «پویزن ویل» رخ می‌دهند، که همان «شهر فاسد» رمان‌های سیاه است؛ شهر در دست گروه‌های گانگستر، اراذل و اوباش یک قمارخانه، رییس پلیس فاسد، و یک سیاستمدار پوسیده است؛ ماجرا از اینقرار است، که کارآگاهی، به دعوت مدیر روزنامه ی شهر، که پسر همان سیاستمدار یاد شده است، وارد شهر می‌شود، کارآگاه ضمن تماس با خانواده مدیر روزنامه، درمی‌یابد که برای مدیر روزنامه اتفاقی افتاده است؛ از این به بعد کارآگاه، درگیر ماجراهایی می‌شود، که رخدادهای اصلی داستان را شکل می‌دهند، که رویارویی با افراد شرور و بدکار، و آنهاییکه در پی به دست گرفتن قدرت، در شهر هستند، میشود

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 22/10/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی

Glenn Russell



Published in 1929, Red Harvest is the first of five classic novels written by Dashiell Hammett, inventor of the "hard-boiled" school of fiction. Since there are dozens of reviews already posted here, I will take a different slant, citing how quotes from nineteenth century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche apply to the novel’s unnamed main character/narrator, a man simply known as "Continental Op" and the city where the novel is located, Personville aka Poisonville, a dingy mining city of 40,000 squeezed between two Northern California mountains.

“Without music, life would be a mistake.”
There isn’t one reference to music in the entire novel. Not surprising, since, from the perspective of music and the arts, this grimy berg run by gangsters, bootleggers, crooked cops and gritty thugs could be considered one colossal mistake. Of course, I’m not entirely serious, but imagining a Personville String Quartet playing an evening of Mozart at the town’s public building would be belly-laughable. Not laughable, that is, for the townspeople, who would probably protest such music by riddling the musicians with bullets after playing the first few bars of their Mozart.

“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”
The Continental Op is a private detective for a national agency; he’s insulted, double-crossed, and has to listen to the lies and cons from the city’s sleazy power-boys as well as dodge unending gunfire. All in a day’s work as he goes about seeking revenge for being set up to be bumped off by Noonan, the fat chief-of-police. Such a ‘why ‘and ‘how’ is the stuff of Hammett’s riveting story.

“The best enemy against an enemy is another enemy.”
This Nietzsche quote could have been used by Hammett as the novel’s epigraph. The Continental Op sets gangsters, bootleggers, professional thieves, police and politicians all against one another. The result? Too many dead bodies to count. With dozens and dozens of murders, Red Harvest qualifies as a 200 page blood bath. But, please don’t be put off by all the blood; fortunately, for lovers of great literature, this is great literature. Always good to keep in mind many works of great literature, for example The Iliad and Richard III are chock full of blood.

“Ah, women. They make the highs higher and the lows more frequent.”
Meet Poinsonville’s femme fatale: Dinah Brand. If you are a man and would like to pick lead out of your belly, hang around Dinah. Here is the Continental Op’s reflections on meeting Ms. Brand for the first time, “She was an inch or two taller than I, which made her about five feet eight. She had a broad-shouldered, full-breasted, round-hipped body and big muscular legs. The hand she gave me was soft, warm, strong. Her face was the face of a girl of twenty-five already showing signs of wear. Little lines crossed the corners of her big ripe mouth. Fainter lines were beginning to make nets around her thick-lashed eyes. They were large eyes, blue and a bit blood-shot. Her coarse hair--brown--needed trimming and was parted crookedly. One side of her upper lip had been rouged higher than the other. Her dress was of a particularly unbecoming wine color, and it gaped here and there down one side, where she had neglected to snap the fasteners or they had popped open. There was a run down the front of her left stocking.”


"He who fights with monsters must take care lest he thereby become a monster.”
Here is a quote from the Continental Op after taking the necessary steps in starting to clean up the city for his double-crossing client, old Elihu Willsson. "Look. I sat at Willsson's table tonight and played them like you'd play trout, and got just as much fun out of it. I looked at Noonan and knew he hadn't a chance in a thousand of living another day because of what I had done to him, and I laughed, and felt warm and happy inside. That's not me. I've got hard skin all over what's left of my soul, and after twenty years of messing around with crime I can look at any sort of a murder without seeing anything in it but my bread and butter, the day's work. But this getting a rear out of planning deaths is not natural to me. It's what this place has done to me." The Continental Op knows the truth of Nietzsche’s words from his own first-hand experience.


“Of all that is written, I love only what a person has written with his own blood.”
Dashiell Hammett spent some years with the Pinkerton agency as a detective. He had his first-hand Poisonville-like experience in Butte, Montana where he probably had occasion to see his own blood flow in the line of service. So, if there ever was a book that could have been written with the author’s own blood, Red Harvest is that book.

Stephen

Question: How to induce a gushing, mind-blowing noirgasm?

Answer: Have your amoral, no-nonsense, no-name main character bust out with slick, cool-dripping phrases like: "I poured out a couple of hookers of gin [while] She went into the kitchen for another siphon and more ice.

Friends, if there’s a unit of measurement more loaded with juicy, quintessential noirness than “a hooker of gin,” please let me know because I spent my entire happy wad when I read that. No offense to fans of Raymond Chandler (who I think is terrific), but after The Maltese Falcon and now this gem, Dashiell Hammett has super-glued himself atop my pyramid of classic crime noir authors.

This is noir at its grittiest and most violent with characters that are all shades of shady and more murders than Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween and Friday the 13th…combined. Add to that an ever constant flow of so much booze-swilling that the alcohol seems to sweat off the page and you have a dark, gritty and spectacular slice of crime literature. Seriously, the only thing getting killed faster than people is the liquor…

…and the last vestiges of my faith in decency and humanity.

PLOT SUMMARY

Our narrator, known only as The Continental Op is sent by his employer, the San Francisco branch of the Continental Detective Agency (CDA), to a company town called Personville (aka "Poisonville"). The CDA was hired by Donald Willsson to investigate corruption in the town, but is given a lethal hot lead injection before our man has a chance to get the details. From there, the Op begins investigating the murder and runs across a whole host of people with cemeteries full of skeleton’s in their closets including:

**The deceased’s father, who founded Poisonville and has seen his control threatened by several gangs his originally brought in to break a labor strike.

**Dinah Brand, a hard drinking and harder loving femme fatale more twisted than a corkscrew and just as sharp.

**A host of local gangsters and thugs led by Max "Whisper" Thaler.

**A fat, sweaty stereotype of the crooked chief of police that reminded me of the guy from the movie Mississippi Burning (great flick by the way).

As the body count rises, The Continental Op manages to pit all of the bad guys against one another creating a powder keg that bill blow the lid of the town and bring all the rats scurrying out of the dark.

THOUGHTS

If you like noir crime novels, it’s hard for me to imagine you wouldn’t like this. This is noir at its most filthy and you can feel the wet, slimy villainy staining each and every page as Hammett’s sparse, clipped prose is deftly navigates the story.

My only qualm with the narrative is probably my own failing as a reader. This is the most complicated crime mystery plot I have come across and the total number of players and victims, the myriad of double, triple and quadruple crosses and the extremely convoluted central mystery was at times hard to keep straight in my itty, bitty brain. To make matters worse, Hammett provides no training wheels in the form of info-dumps or recaps to help the reader so you are pretty much stranded and on your own. Just like his narrator.

Thus, my strong 4.5 star rating for this (rather than 5 stars) is based solely on my inability to completely follow the trail of sleaze from beginning to end. I intend to re-read this at some point and if all of the pieces end up falling into place, this may well get bumped to 5 stars and receive an engraved apology for my lack of plot comprehension.

As it is, this is about as good as it gets when it comes to noir and Hammett has created another superb work that reads as well now as it did back in 1929. That says a lot for the man’s talent. Here are a couple of classic quotes that I thought were just full of awesome:

"Be still while I get up or I'll make an opening in your head for brains to leak in."

"If I don't get away soon I'll be going blood simple like the natives," says the Op. "I've arranged a killing or two in my time, when they were necessary. But this is the first time I've ever got the fever"

"[spoiler] tried to assassinate me last night. I don’t like it. I’m just mean enough to want to ruin him for it. Now I’m going to have my fun. I’ve got ten thousand dollars of your money to play with. I’m going to use it opening Poisonville up from Adam's apple to ankles.”

We bumped over dead [Spoiler] legs and headed for home. We covered one block of the distance with safety if not comfort. After that we had neither."

It’s enough to bring out the O face.

Photobucket

4.5 stars. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!!

P.S. I listened to the recently released audio version of this story as read by Richard Ferrone and I thought he did a very good job with it. Certainly one to check out if you like audio books.

Kemper

An operative from the Continental Detective Agency is summoned to Personville (a/k/a Poisonville) by a crusading newspaper publisher, but the man is murdered before the Continental Op can meet with him. The Op quickly learns that Poisonville has a crime problem that would make Gotham City seem like Topeka by comparison. After getting a look at its seedy underbelly the Op browbeats the dead publisher’s wealthy father into paying him to clean up the town even though he’s a big part of the problem.

The Op starts working angles, playing criminals and crooked cops and every corrupt person he runs across against each other. Bodies start dropping and warfare between various factions looms as everyone is looking to move up the food chain. The Op exploits this in every way he can, but the increasing carnage starts to take a toll on him as he fears that he’s becoming as bad as the people he’s up against:

“This damned burg’s getting to me. If I don’t get away soon I’ll be going blood simple like the natives.”

Hammett was obviously doing something over the top here with a town where murder is seen as the first and best solution to almost every problem. While it’s got that pulpy kind of story, Hammett was also drawing on his experience as a former Pinkerton agent to paint in some of the details and give it just enough gritty reality to make it seem plausible. The plot he cooks up about a tough guy trying to bring down a corrupt town by playing sides against each other was hugely influential in crime fiction and in the movies.* There’s also a line you have to admire on just about every page.

I don’t think this quite measure up to The Maltese Falcon, but this violent tale about one man trying to clean out a corrupt city earns it’s reputation as one of the best of the genre for a reason.

*You can read more about how Red Harvest has inspired many movies in this Salon article.

Bobby Underwood

I've always been the dissenting opinion on this one. Yeah, it was influential, but since Hammett himself was copying John Carroll Daly's new hardboiled style, maybe we should give him a bit of the credit. Cynical and definitely hardboiled, Hammett’s Red Harvest is missing the one ingredient which might have made it work for me — Raymond Chandler. Compare this to Raymond Chandler’s first novel, The Big Sleep. Both novels have elements cannibalized from their respective pulp stories, both have bodies dropping left and right, and both are terribly convoluted. Yet Red Harvest comes off as simply a dark and unpleasant tale of corruption and violence, while The Big Sleep is wildly entertaining, almost dream-like. There is nowhere to lay the blame except at Hammett’s doorstep.

Chandler could turn a simple phrase into visual magic. Hammett often took a circuitous route, as though in love with his own literary voice. In Red Harvest we get all kinds of lengthy descriptive detours which bogs down any narrative pace whatsoever. And by narrative pace, I mean the next body dropping. It almost feels when you go back and read this one after many years, that this might have been a better tale had Hammett not chosen to insert his Continental Op from the pulps, even though it's a string of Op stories strung together. Instead, Hammett could have turned this into a noir melodrama, an unsuspecting stranger encountering the town and getting twisted up in its corruption. Hardboiled doesn't have to be this bloody, and what's worse, we don't really care about the people dropping left and right, can't even keep track of all the players.

Hammett subtly uses Personville/Poisonville as a metaphor for all of America, painting it as corrupt and violent at its core, and crime-laden due to the “evils” of capitalism. There are plenty of rather quiet and vague marxist underpinnings to the serpentine goings on in the corrupt town, which Hammett based on his own experiences in Montana during a miner’s strike. This would be neither here nor there, if this were a good story, like The Glass Key, or delightful fun like his The Thin Man, but it’s just an unpleasant mess.

Perhaps because Hammett himself hadn’t yet distanced himself from the pulps, this comes off as an ambiguous hodgepodge of some wonderfully written moments, and some that go on much too long. Even the metaphor angle is ambivalent, as Hammett doesn’t proffer any alternatives. If the left-leaning Hammett had an argument to make, he chose not to make it, leaving us with only the violence and ugliness, and a tepid underpinning.

Red Harvest is certainly bloody enough for a hardboiled detective novel — the Op takes a body count while talking with Dinah Brand before an ice pick finds her, and it’s staggering — and there are flashes of good writing — really good writing — but the convoluted plot isn’t offset by an entertaining enough narrative to rank this one as high as Hammett’s better stuff.

I truly believe if this had been handed in outline form to Raymond Chandler, after a few stiff drinks, he’d have made this so readable and entertaining we wouldn’t care about its underpinnings or its flaws. In Hammett’s hands, at least at this point in his career, this is a herky-jerky ride. There is some good stuff here, even great stuff, but it isn’t put together well enough to make it a great read for this reader, or in my opinion, the average reader unfamiliar with the genre. For me, Red Harvest is a reminder why I’ve always preferred Chandler to Hammett.

Anne

So far this is my least favorite of Hammett's books. <--and yet, it has a sequel?
Hmmm. I'm can't say I'm crazy about this particular detective (the unnamed Continental Operative) but there was certainly a large cast of colorful characters.

description

The gist is this guy from a detective agency gets hired by the man who runs the newspaper, but Mr. Newspaper gets killed before Mr. Detective can even see what he wants. However, Newpaper's dad (who runs the city), hires him to clean up the town and flush out the corruption. <--because he's afraid those guys are coming after him next.

description

Mr. Detective takes his job seriously, so even when Newspaper's Dad tells him to back off, he keeps right on going. Inciting a war between the cops, bootleggers, and gangs in the area that damn near kills everyone.

description

Like I said, it's not my favorite, but it's also not a bad book if you're looking for a classic hardboiled P.I. story.

Lynda

”Discovering pulp fiction now, right now, is a bit like finding a lost treasure. You are unearthing something that will entertain, enlighten, amuse, horrify, mangle, jangle, keep you riveted. Decades after they were written, these stories still manage to have an edge.”
--Harlan Coben

I'm in heaven.

Well, maybe not literally…but certainly in a literary sense!



I've discovered pulp fiction. I am excited. Deliriously so.

I've:
• secured a couple of telephone directory sized compendiums of hardboiled and pulp noir - The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps and The Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories.
• made great progress in the collection of the Hard Case Crime Series.
• been introduced to my first John D Macdonald ‘Travis McGee’ novel.

AND...the pièce de résistance…

• just read my first Dashiell Hammett novel.

What a revelation!

"The writers who really have never read pulp fiction are writers the rest of us do not associate with. They have poor self-esteem. They had a troubled home life. They are not fun at parties."
--Harlan Coben

Hell…I don't want to be one of those readers either! I'm confident. Had a good upbringing. Like fun. Like parties. Like having fun at parties. I want in!
COUNT ME IN!

In the ‘20s, ‘30s, ‘40s & early ‘50s, the biggest names in the crime fiction pulp world were all published by Black Mask and other major pulp publications; Chandler, Daly, Gardner, Hammett, McCoy, Nebel, Whitfield, to name but a few. It is said that Hammett was (and remains) the “gold standard” for hardboiled crime fiction.

Fittingly, although not known at the time of my choosing, my first Hammett was in fact Hammett's first novel Red Harvest. It first appeared in Black Mask, serialized over four issues, spanning October 1927 to January 1928. Hammett reworked it somewhat for hardback publication in February 1929. It could best be described as an extraordinary tale of gunmen, gin, and gangsters.



In Red Harvest, Hammett introduces the reader to a private investigator (PI), an unnamed Operative (Op) from the Continental Detective Agency, San Francisco branch. The Op finds himself in a corrupt Montana town named Personville (which is sardonically referred to by the locals as “Poisonville”), where there’s a power struggle among contending factions. Virtually all of them, the hoods, the lawmen, the lowlifes, the local grandees, are lying and corrupt. Essentially we have a literary image of the United States as a violent, greedy, power-hungry society. The main villains are wealthy influential people who use thugs to defend their often ill-gotten wealth and the power derived from it.

The Op, a short, heavy-set, overweight, often a little drunk, is no movie star. He’s a hero all the same, a man on his own, maneuvering among the crocodiles, frequently with fists and firepower, always with a brutal and amusing efficiency.

There are some great reviews on Goodreads that discuss the plot further; three are included below:
Kemper's review
James' review
Algernon's review

What I personally liked about this novel was the wonderful characterization of the Op, the complexity of the story, the history of the time period, and the obvious intelligence, insight and wit of Hammett. There's both irony and comedy in the humor:
"We bumped over dead Hank O'Meara's legs and headed for home. We covered one block of the distance with safety if not comfort. After that we had neither."
"Be still while I get up or I'll make an opening in your head for brains to leak in."
"'Who shot him’ I asked.
The grey man scratched the back of his neck and said: ‘Somebody with a gun.’”

Hammett was one of the few writers of PI fiction who had actual experience as a private detective, having worked for the famous Pinkerton Agency.

"Edge. That might be the key for me. These stories still cut, still tear, still even shock a bit. These guys experimented. They wrote on the move. They went places maybe they shouldn't have and we love them for it.
I like edge. I like it a lot. I think you will too."

--Harlan Coben

Yes Harlan, I sure do.

Red Harvest is a pulp classic that fires from the first page to the last. If you're a Noir devotee or have yet to read the genre, Red Harvest is an essential novel.

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