Customer Reviews for

Red Harvest

Average Rating 4.5
( 33 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 33 Customer Reviews
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  • Posted March 8, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    "A Sweet Mess"

    "A sweet mess" is how the unnamed San Francisco Op refers to the mining (lying, stealing, blackmailing, killing)town of Poisonville (Personville).

    And what a mess it is. I lost count of the bodies at 17, about two-thirds the way through the book.

    What a tight, well-written and (despite the escalating body count) realistic book. The protagonist fears for his life, every woman doesn't automatically disrobe and sit on his face, he loses fights, gets outsmarted, admits he's 40 and out of shape.

    What a freaking breath of fresh air!

    And I only had to travel back to 1929 to get away from today's hard drinking, black belt, sniper trained, jet pilot, computer savvy superheroes who are somehow governed by their own, peculiar laws of physiology and physics.

    Here's one example from Hammett's hero: "There is nothing in running down streets with automobiles in pursuit. I stopped, facing this one. It came on."

    Reading this book I felt as if I were being written to, rather than written down at.

    Hammett is the man for all the right reasons.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 28, 2012

    Noir greatness! It has it all, the hard nosed smart detective, t

    Noir greatness! It has it all, the hard nosed smart detective, the dame, the multiple bad guys, a mystery or two to solve along the way and don't forget the grit and gore. I loved the story where our hero is one step ahead of his enemies and the reader. You never know what is happening next you just know you want to. I read this book because of it's link to Butte, MT and of course it's plot and style is linked to some of the best films in history and it did not disappoint. If you like noir it's a must read, if you want to sample what noir is all about this is a great place to start. I enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more from Hammett.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2012

    Missing pages

    I was trying to read it but pages were missing

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  • Posted April 5, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Great American Writer - Noir or Otherwise

    Dashiell Hammett's writing is gritty [the most commonly used adjective in all the reviews I read, but hard to get away from, because it's true], detailed and full of sarcasm. You have to read with your wits about you, or you will miss sub-contextual humor. His use of language is right up there with Mark Twain; don't get lost in the vernacular! We're only a few decades separated and yet, many passages read as if in another language. I recommend watching some old films, such as "The Maltese Falcon" and other noir classics of the 1930s and 1940s (not to mention "L.A. Confidential") to get your ear warmed to the rhythm of the lingo, because if you don't have a comfortable knowledge of words like hooch & shyster, you might feel a bit lost.

    Also, if you have an aversion to reading about smoking, drinking, drug use or prostitution, you would definitely want to stay away from this one. I was joking to myself at the beginning that one could play a drinking game and take a drink each time a character takes a drink, makes a drink, offers a drink, etc... but then, about half-way through, I reconsidered since anyone trying that game would never finish the book because they would pass out after the fifth chapter. Some readers have complained that this book is "amoral" but without giving any spoilers, I'd have to disagree and you'll have to trust me.



    The Continental Op setting up his identity at the beginning of the story confused me at first, I must be honest. I hadn't realized this was an Op novel, I just took it off the NY Times Top 100 Novels list and jumped in. Heed my warning about warming yourself into the pace of Hammett's writing. He doesn't write in short bursts of narrative or long descriptive passages, but somewhere in between. The dialogue is quick and witty, and if you blink you might miss it. Nothing is wasted but it isn't sparse. You come away from the book KNOWING the characters like you would recognize them in the street, if they weren't already dead.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2012

    Red Harvest, Shakespeare-style

    Dashiell Hammett's writing is gritty, detailed and full of sarcasm. You have to read with your wits about you, or you will miss sub-contextual humor. His use of language is right up there with Mark Twain: don't get lost in the vernacular. We're only a few decades separated and yet, it's like reading a different language. I've seen enough old movies, such as "The Maltese Falcon" and other noir classics of the 1930s and 1940s (not to mention "L.A. Confidential") that I was able to keep up, but if you don't have a comfortable knowledge of words like hooch & shyster, you might feel a bit lost.

    Also, if you have an aversion to reading about smoking, drinking, drug use or prostitution, you would definitely want to stay away from this one. I was joking to myself at the beginning that one could play a drinking game and take a drink each time a character takes a drink, makes a drink, offers a drink, etc... but then, about half-way through, I reconsidered since anyone trying that game would never finish the book because they would pass out after the fifth chapter.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 4, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Enter the Man with No Name

    "Red Harvest," Dashiell Hammett's first published novel (in 1929), reveals a world of venality, mayhem and revenge that set the tone for detective novels half a century into the future. A Continental Detective Agency Op is summoned from California to "Poisonville," Mont. by aged newspaper owner and banker Elihu Willsson. Elihu's criminal enterprise of imported thugs threatens to turn on him. The aged banker gives the Op enough of information to let our nameless narrator work his way through a host of evil-doers: Bill Quint, an affable old IWW member; corrupt police chief Noonan; greedy Dinah Brand, who has scandalous information on everyone; jealous bank clerk Robert Albury; hoodlum Max "Whisper" Thaler; and other evil-doers who run the town and its rackets. The first question is "Who killed Elihu's son?" The Op sets about pitting the factions against each other, saying, "Plans are all right sometimes. And sometimes just stirring things up is all right." This "stir-it-up novel" is filled with offhanded shootings, explosions, and murder by icepick. The carnage is colorfully expressed in passages where the Op says, "We bumped over dead Hank O'Meara's legs and headed for home" and "Be still while I get up or I'll make an opening in your head for brains to leak in." Don't expect plausibility, but do look for the snappy dialogue, strong characters (especially in the Op), and writing style that moves fast. Time magazine included "Red Harvest" in its list of the 100 best English-language novels from 1922 to 2005. Literary critic Andre Gide also called the novel "the last word in atrocity, cynicism and horror." Hammett's "Red Harvest" has given us a sub-genre of the crime/adventure/detective novel that might be termed "the man with no name." "Red Harvest" can lay claim to being the successor to the classic Western - not the Sherlock Holmes "whodunit." The novel's amazing power and plotting led movie director Akira Kurosawa to create "Yojimbo," focusing on a freelance samurai who confronts town's warring factions. Look for thematic vestiges of Hammett's novel also in Sergio Leone's "spaghetti Westerns" with Clint Eastwood and in John Sturges's "The Magnificent Seven." "Red Harvesst" is the novel that started an epic genre.

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  • Posted August 6, 2011

    So good, we named our son Dash

    An amazing novel encompassing several related stories set in "Poisonville." Hammet is a master of hard-boiled detective stories and this is his finest work.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Gritty and Enjoyable

    The general style of the novel was intriguing from the onset. We're dropped into a gritty first person narration from an unnamed character as he wanders the streets of 'Poisonville' to meet some unknown client and then, later, to solve the murder of that client.

    I really enjoyed the way the details of the story were presented. The writing was very detailed and the narrator conveyed his thoughts and perceptions very well. With the tight first person narration, the mystery for the characters was just as much a mystery to us. Even simple details such as names and places seemed to come on a "need to know basis." Thus, there existed the mystery of the crime to be solved, as well as the mystery of what details were being withheld from the reader and why.

    As the story progressed, I grew attached to the protagonist as a cynical hard-nosed detective of the sort who "always gets his man." When he solved the murder, I was impressed by the logic involved and by his way of seeing through the prejudices and smokescreens around the case.

    The way the case was solved was quite unlike a Holmesian solution in that there weren't any telltale clues at the crime scene or analysis of fingerprints or paper fibers. Instead, the Continental Op made a logical supposition and then through manipulative and threatening speech worked enough of a confession out of the killer to close the case. It reminded me of the intimidation tactics seen in so many of the crime movies and TV shows today.

    I expected the confession to be incorrect since so much of the novel was left unread. Instead of letting the murder unravel, the plot took a different turn that I rather enjoyed. The corrupt "head" of Poisonville asks the Op to clean up the town and gives him carte blanche to do so.

    The resulting manipulative method of setting crook against crook was a lot of fun. What was interesting to me, as the city grew more and more corrupt, was that our protagonist had become an antihero. Instead of the altruistic detectives of other early crime novels, the Continental Op was secretive, manipulative, vengeful and dishonest. He had an end goal in mind and he planned to achieve it at any cost. While he wasn't actually running a bootlegging or gambling operation himself, he largely became as corrupt as those he hunted. He compromised those around him who may be innocent or, at least, less corruptible.

    Finally, he fell beyond the point of no return and concluded his downward spiral. At that point, I had no idea whether or not the story would allow the Op to be redeemed or if he would simply succeed in cleaning up Poisonville and then leave it a tainted and broken operative, ready to take his cynicism to the next case. While the Op did end the novel a bit more hardened and broken than when he started, the resolution did lighten some of his burden and return his respectability.

    I definitely enjoyed my experience with this book. Looking to the few books I've read from the Victorian era, I can see numerous stark differences. The dialog was much harsher than that of a Sherlock Holmes story and the violence was more over the top and graphic than the Victorian Gothic novels I've read. The mystery was tight and well organized, but the clues were extracted more through force and intimidation than through insight and deduction.

    Good fun and I look forward to more.

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  • Posted August 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Gritty Fun Reading

    Hammett is probably best known for The Maltese Falcon (and what an excellent read that is too) but I think Red Harvest is even better. As a newcomer to the mystery genre I decided to start with reading the "founding fathers" of American crime, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. I have read several of each and have yet to be disappointed. Red Harvest is still at the top of my list of these two writers.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2002

    Mayhem and Amorality in a Western Mining town

    This is a hard tale of a hard guy, a nameless private detective, who arrives in the western mining town of Personville (called "Poisonville" by many of its criminal denizens who hail from points east) to meet a client . . . only to learn that the client has been murdered on the very night of their scheduled meeting. The client was the son of the town's wealthiest citizen, an aging tycoon who, to beat back the unionization of the miners he employs, has invited all manner of gangsters and hard cases into town to break the unions. But, in breaking them for him, the gangsters have moved in for good and taken over running things, setting up their own rackets, controlling the police and sucking the old man into their schemes since they have so much "on him." The detective (known only as the Continental operative throughout) approaches the tycoon about the murder of his son and soon conceives the notion of cleaning the place up, whether the old man wants him to or not. Playing the various sides off against one another, the detective embarks on a cold-hearted, calculated odyssey to win the confidence of one gangster after another, in order to turn each against the other (shades of Yojimbo!). In the process, the detective, himself, gets drawn into the bloody maelstrom he has created through his various betrayals until, sinking into the same moral morass as all the others, he finds himself waist deep in murder with only the shakiest of alibis and a profound sense of his own moral surrender. The body count mounts as one gangster after another is betrayed by our apparently amoral "Continental op", until the very pegs on which the town has been hung are shaken loose. The real mystery here is less who killed the detective's original client than who killed the detective's own victim . . . and how will he manage to extricate himself from the violent and bloody depths he has plunged the town of Poisonville, and himself, into. Lots of blackmail and mayhem and bloodshed here and a real sense of lost moral bearings. This detective, for all his good intentions seems no better, in many ways, than the criminal element he has set out to undermine. In the end he does pull himself out of the fire and manages to see the job through, but we are left with a clear sense of amorality that makes this nameless detective little better than the crooks he has overthrown. In fact some of them, like Whisper Thaler, seem a hell of a lot more honorable . . . and likeable.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2002

    Great Detective Fiction

    Dashiell Hammett¿s ¿Red Harvest¿ is the story of one man¿s crusade against an entire town. The story begins with a nameless detective from San Francisco arriving in a small Montana mining town that the locals call ¿Poisonville¿. On arrival, he finds that his client has been murdered. He is then contracted by Elihu Willson, father of the murdered man and owner of the local newspaper, to find his son¿s killer. After finding the killer, he is given ten thousand dollars to clean the corrupt town of its warring gangs and corrupt police force. Like a good detective he forms false alliances with all sides, playing one faction against another. Consequently, the town of Poisonville then becomes even more tumultuous and the detective often finds himself in situations where he has to operate outside of his jurisdiction. "Red Harvest" is a success because of Hammett¿s dialogue, which reveals his dry, ironic sense of humor. Hammett`s stylized use of excessive violence is also beneficial to the story. His style is to use the least amount of words, for the most impact. The often cartoon-like violence amplifies the overall theme. Hammett does this to show that widespread corruption ultimately leads to the debasing of an honest individual. In Hammett¿s mind no one is innocent. Everyone in the whole town has blood on his hands and a reason to kill. When sixteen murders in a town of forty thousand occur in less than a week, the detective fears that, for some strange reason, he¿s starting to like the violence. "If I don't get away soon I'll be going blood simple like the natives," says the detective. "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" Hammett¿s sharp, casual dialogue shows the absurd irony that the only way the town will be cleansed is if everyone in it dies.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2001

    A TOWN READY TO EXPLODE, AND THE OP LIGHTS THE FUSE!!!

    Red Harvest is one of Dashiell Hammett's best, and the Op's greatest adventure in novel form. The Op is hired to clean up a town and he causes it to erupt in gang warfare. This is Hammett's first novel and like all of his work it's well-crafted and well-writen.

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    Posted March 17, 2011

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    Posted October 18, 2010

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    Posted March 3, 2011

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    Posted March 28, 2011

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    Posted December 31, 2010

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    Posted October 25, 2008

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    Posted March 21, 2011

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    Posted February 24, 2009

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