I thought it would be appropriate if you listened to some music from the Thirties while reading my post. Enjoy!
And for your weekend reading pleasure:
Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
If all of Hammett's characters in every novel has a sameness to them, then it is in the context of Theme and Variations.
The tough dame is the same but her name is different as are her words and the dark adventure she participates in. Her name in Red Harvest is Dinah Brand. She is an able seductress who knows how to get money out of just about everyone. The men know it and love her irresistibly anyway. She may be alluring, but she's also big and tough and not above slapping men around.
The hard boiled detective is also the same and maybe that's why Hammett doesn't bother giving him a name. We know he's a Continental Op from San Francisco and as usual it's from his first person narrative that we learn the story.
Everyone else, including the cops, are crooks. They're mean as snakes, hard as nails, and value no one's life, including their own. Few of them survive the story.
In a nutshell, the Continental Op has been called to Personville (called "Poisonville" by everyone) by a Donald Willsson who is murdered before the Op gets to meet him. He then begins to investigate Willsson's murder and in the meantime discovers that Willsson's father, Elihu, owns Personville, but the thugs he brought in to help him control strikers have themselves taken over and gotten out of hand. Poisonville is a cess pool of competing gangs shooting each other up.
To see how the un-named Op cleans up you'll have to read the book.
For myself, I wonder what the fascination with the crime world was back in the first half of the century. Was everyone's life so sheltered that it provided a salacious thrill to read or watch on the big screen a bunch of crooks chasing each other around in cars while emptying machine guns all over the place?
It was a bit of a roller coaster ride, even for me. The Op gets around quickly and avoids getting himself killed very narrowly through out the story. There's no down time anywhere from beginning to conclusion.
Dashiell Hammett wrote his fiction based on his own experiences as an operative for the Pinkerton Detective Agency, from which he based his fictitious Continental Op Agency.
Red Harvest was inspired by the Anaconda Road massacre where company guards opened fire on striking minors in Butte Montana, killing sixteen of them.
Time magazine listed Red Harvest as one of the 100-best English language novels from 1923-2005 and Andre Gide called the book "the last word in atrocity, cynicism, and horror". (From Wikipedia)
If you're a Crime Noir fan, you'll enjoy this novel because crime doesn't get any more noir than Red Harvest.
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