35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Classic novel pits lone PI against the odds.,
This review is from: Red Harvest (Paperback)
Dashiell Hammett took the mystery story out of the drawing room and put it squarely into the American street with his stories of his nameless Continental Detective Agency Private Eye during the 1920's. Known as "the Continental Op" Hammett's hero, a short middle aged, slightly fattish loner was a break from the past as regards mystery stories. Hammett, along with Carroll John Daly and other BLACK MASK MAGAZINE pulp writers revolutionized the detective story with their gritty realism and adventurous stories of gats, guns, and molls.
RED HARVEST is probably the Continental Op's best know adventure, pitting him against the forces of corruption and crime in a small town named Personville. The Op calls the burg "Poisonville" and the cast of villainous characters that he encounters and goes up against make the nickname quite apt.
If you've seen the movies "A Fistful of Dollars", "Last Man Standing", or "Yojimbo" then you have a general idea of what the tale is about. While none of these follows Hammett's intricate plot, the premise of a lone gunman outsmarting and out dueling the whole town is what the story is about. From the time that the Op breezes into town to talk with his client, whom is murdered before the Op can ever meet with him, till the end of the story, there is lots of violence, murder, double dealing and cynical observations by the narrating detective. While we never learn very much about the Op his driven and unswerving dedication to riding the town of any and all opponents takes on the role of obsession and vigilantism by the end of the novel, so much so that the Op himself even begins to have some doubts. Not enough to stop him from completing the job however.
Hammett's spare lean style of writing isn't for everybody, especially those who want in-depth character studies where the protagonist spends a lot of time mulling over the state of the universe and his own personal angst. However if you want action and good tight writing then he's your man. A justly acclaimed classic ever since it came out, this novel is the one that started the "hard boiled" school of writing ball rolling.