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Red Harvest Paperback – July 17, 1989

4.4 out of 5 stars 158 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the Continental Op Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

The Continental Op, hero of this mystery, is a cool, experienced employee of the Continental Detective Agency. Client Donald Wilson has been killed, and the Op must track down his murderer. Personville, better known as Poisonville, is an unattractive company town, owned by Donald's father, Elihu, but controlled by several competing gangs. Alienated by the local turf wars, the Op finagles Elihu into paying for a second job, "cleaning up Poisonville." Confused yet? This is only the beginning of an incredibly convoluted plot. Hammett's exquisitely defined charactersDthe shabby, charming, and completely mercenary lady-of-the-evening; the lazy, humorous yet cold and avaricious police chief; and especially the tautly written, gradual disintegration of the Op's detached personalityDmake this a compelling read. In addition, William Dufris's performance is outstanding. Each character has his/her own unique vocal tag composed of both tonal inflections and speech patterns suited to his/her persona. Wonderful! The only flaw is the technical difficulty of cueing the "track book marked" CD format. An exceptional presentation of a lesser classic from the golden age of the mystery genre. Recommended for all but the smallest public and academic libraries.DI. Pour-El, Des Moines Area Community Coll., Boone, IA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"An acknowledged literary landmark."  --NY Times Book Review.

"Dashiell Hammett is an original. He is a master of the detective novel, yes, but also one hell of a writer." -- Boston Globe

"Hammett's prose [is] clean and entirely unique. His characters [are] as sharply and economically defined as any in American fiction."

--The New York Times

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard; Reprint edition (July 17, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679722610
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679722618
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (158 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,875 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Steven R. Harbin on September 10, 2002
Format: 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.
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Format: Paperback
"Red Harvest" was author Dashiell Hammett's first novel. The material was not entirely original; it first appeared in serial form in "Black Mask" magazine in 1927-1928 under the title "The Cleansing of Poisonville". Hammett reworked the story into novel form, and "Red Harvest" was published in 1929. This is also the first of Hammett's popular "Continental Op" novels, which feature an unnamed private detective employed by the Continental Detective Agency of San Francisco. "Red Harvest"'s narrator and veteran Continental operative defies any idea of a glamorous or attractive crime fighter. He's short, pot-bellied, alcoholic, and resolutely cynical. He's living in an immoral world, where success comes to those who fight fire with fire. Like all of Hammett's protagonists, he has little use for the law, but lives by a personal code to which he strictly adheres. That doesn't make him especially ethical, only principled. But Hammett's characters, like Hammett himself, are coping in their own way with the widespread corruption that ruled America's cities in the 1920s and 1930s.
"Red Harvest"'s opening paragraph is one of the best hooks I've ever read in a novel. It's fantastic. We are sucked into the mind of our narrator, the unnamed Continental operative, and we want only to read more about this man of such blunt wit. The Continental Op has been called to a town named Personville by the owner of the town's newspaper, Donald Willsson. He doesn't know what the job is, but before he can find out, the client is murdered. So the first order of business is to solve the murder. In doing so, our detective discovers how Personville got its nickname, Poisonville. Everything and everyone in this town is corrupt.
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Format: Paperback
The Continental Op, an anonymous agent of the Continental Detective Agency, comes to corrupt Personville (aka Poisonville) and investigates a series of murders. In succession he confronts the murder of the publisher of the local paper, the murder of the police chief's brother, and the murder of a beautiful woman. The publisher's father, convinced that local gangsters are responsible for his son's death, employs the Op to break up the organized crime stranglehold on Personville. The Continental Op determines that he cannot quickly destroy the crimelords by lawful means, so he decides to work outside the law to destroy them. The murder of the police chief's son provides him with a golden opportunity to maneuver the rival gangs into lethal conflict. During these investigations, peripheral characters drop like flies as rival gangs feud over turf. The Continental Op continues his investigations, stirs up strife among the gangs, and tries to elude arrest himself as the dance of death lumbers to its bloody denouement. It is near impossible to keep an accurate bodycount through the course of the novel. Despite the carnage, the detective work is excellent, the intrigue is gripping, and the mysteries are satisfying.
This book inspired three movies: Akira Kurosawa's "Yojimbo," the Clint Eastwood oater "A Fistful of Dollars," and the Bruce Willis prohibition era epic "Last Man Standing." I haven't seen "Yojimbo," but the Eastwood and Willis movies hardly compare to "Red Harvest" for complexity and character development. They accentuate the bloodshed and virtually ignore everything else.
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