Re - RARA-AVIS: Last *Red Harvest* Day

Date: 31 Jan 2000

Doug asks about other stories in which the Op seems to go 'blood simple." In the first installment of *Blood Money*, "The Big Knockover," the Op gets into a fist fight with what seems to be every gangster in the country who've all come to SF to participate in the large-scale bank robbery that fuels the novel. He starts to think that this must be what heaven is like, an eternity of punching out people who deserve to be punched.

In *The Dain Curse*, he encounters what he thinks is a ghost. When he reaches into its stomach and it comes away moist, he thinks he's gutted the disembodied spirit. He starts to laugh and says, "I'll gut you plenty!" It should be noted that he's been drugged at this point, and isn't entirely responsible for what he says or thinks.

Off-hand, those are the only two instances in which he seems to really take a Mike Hammer-like enjoyment in violence. Generally, the Op is much more matter-of-fact.

One of the things that strikes me about *Harvest* has already been alluded to today. Hammett, who more or less invented the hardboiled PI with no reference to an HB literary tradition, also invented so many of the familiar plots. In addition to the "avenged partner" plot, the "quest object" plot, or the "falls in love with the villainess" plot, all of which are utilized in *The Maltese Falcon*, he invented the "slightly soiled damsel in distress" plot, which Chandler would utilize over and over, and the "twisted family" plot, which Ross Macdonald would make his stock-in-trade, in *The Dain Curse*, and, of course he perfected the "town taming" plot in *Red Harvest*. Probably every PI series that has lasted more than ten years, and quite a few that lasted less time than that, has had a town-taming entry. A few examples include Brett Halliday's *A Taste for Violence*, Robert Parker's *Pale Kings and Princes*, Mickey Spillane's
*The Twisted Thing*, and Richard Prather's *The Sweet Ride*.

Hammett himself used the plotline more than once. His "Corkscrew" has the Op sent to a wild a wooly town in Arizona where he becomes the deputy sheriff assigned to being law and order to the titular community. It's a great story in its own right, and an interesting warm-up for *Red Harvest*, one of the best PI novels ever written, and the Op's finest hour.


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