Thursday, March 03, 2011


By Dashiell Hammett

Red Harvest is to detective novels as Jaws is to Finding Nemo, they are both about a fish. Dashiell Hammett didn’t invent the hard-boiled PI genre, but by God he perfected it!

This is a tale of a town called Personville, aka Poisonville. In true Hammett style the essence of the place is revealed in a parable. The narrator, Hammett’s nameless Continental Op, tells of a Duke in Renaissance Italy who promised his mercenaries a free hand if only they would subdue the Duke’s rebellious subjects in his city. Thus the Duke put down the rebels and lost his city just the same. The Continental Op moves in to clean up a Montana town with a bloody history of labor strife and gangsterism. In the process he nearly loses his tenuous grip on humanity in the bloody maelstrom of all out gang war. It is a dark tale with no clues in locked rooms to be picked up by elderly spinsters. Just people killing each other for greed or revenge and one man determined to wash a place clean in its own blood.

If you read this novel and find it overstated, just stroll on down to your library and pick up Bloody Williamson or A Knight of Another Sort for the true history of all-out war between strikers and strikebreakers, Klansmen and bootleggers in the small towns of Southern Illinois. You’ll find fiction was more restrained than fact.
-Dave Hardy


Charles Gramlich said...

My first and still my favorite Hammett.

Dave Hardy said...

I loved it as Yojimbo and A Fistful of Dollars too. I wasn't so jazzed on Last Man Standing though.

I kid, though. Those are very loose adaptions of Red Harvest.