Re: RARA-AVIS: Red Harvest

From: Timothy S. Oliver (
Date: 04 Jan 2000

Bill Hagen wrote:

> As one who reveres The Maltese Falcon, I seem to find earlier Hammetts,
> like Red Harvest, involve a lot of suspension of disbelief. Sort of like
> going back to action comics.

Having spent the majority of my career in copper mines and around mining towns, I, perhaps have a different perspective here. I believe I read somewhere that Hammet spent some of his time with Pinkertons in Butte, Montana. "Poisonville" was, no doubt, modeled after Butte.

I agree that the massive bloddletting portrayed in Red Harvest goes well beyond any actual events, but readers shouldn't suspend disbelief too far.

"Big Trouble" by J. Anthony Lucas is a superb true account of some very violent episodes stemming from union/management strife in mining towns early in the last century (feels funny to refer to the 1900s as the last century). The Pinkertons were heavily involved in these events. An ex-governor of Idaho died from a bomb placed at his front gate. Clarence Darrow defended the accused.

As recently as 1982 we saw raw violence and gunplay in Morenci, Arizona, related to modern union/management troubles in a copper mining community.

Also, the theme of the outsider taking on the corrupt small town is one of my favorites. Red Harvest is the earliest, and perhaps the best I have read with this theme.

Tim Oliver

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