Re: RARA-AVIS: Red Harvest

Date: 04 Jan 2000

I'm not a student of hardboiled. Sure, I read most of the "classics" as a kid. Most readers did. I came to the list because I noticed that quite a few of my favorite authors had links to this group and who doesn't want to find out what motivates their favorite writers. That is my disclaimer for the ignorance I'm about to show. I'm putting my thoughts out here in the beginning of this discussion so that you can all teach me. I like to learn after all. RED HARVEST is a very good book. One of the reasons I enjoyed it so are the politics of Poisonville. Union strife , position strategy, corrupt gaming. Themes that although they might be written differently by today's writers are certainly worthy of and in fact are being written. I appreciate too going back to Hammett's earlier writing. I'm fascinated that by far, the most "real" scenes of the book are the violent ones. While his violence is always written matter of factly in RED HARVEST it seems almost raw.Was he doing this to try and wake his readers up to the fact that life wasn't the hunky dorey they all assumed? Was it because as a veteran he knew of the senseless violence that did/does indeed exist? Or was his genre writing simply not quite as polished? The scene where everyone is shot after following the "rules" and coming out with their hands up made me think he was trying to let us know that there are no rules anymore where money and power are concerned. I even appreciated his female characters without getting too mad. Cynical!! You have the girl who'll do anything to keep that wad of cash in her pocket and you have the girl who stripped of her beauty and dying is willing to finally reveal the truth surrounding an older crime. Why? Well she's been stripped of her beauty. Sixty years later looks are still one of a female's most marketable attributes. I saw the theme of outsider taking on a corrupt town myself in the beginning of this book. However, I think that by the end our Op was certainly as corrupt as any of the citizens of Poisonville. For wasn't he doing anything he had to to make sure the story came out the way he believed it should? Is it even possible to work for the "greater good" without corrupting yourself in this world? Who's to say what the "greater good" is? And just what the he** is the "greater good" anyway? So , Poisonville is a town where everyone has selfish motivations including our Continental Op., jockeying for position is a time honored sport, and nobody ever wins. Sounds like an allegory to everyday life to this rather illeterate reader. r.f.

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