Re: RARA-AVIS: Red Harvest

From: Brian Thornton (
Date: 11 Nov 2002

After taking a few days to mull this discussion over, I'd like to weigh in here as a fan of both Hammett and Hemingway:

At 03:38 PM 11/6/02 -0800, you wrote:
>Re your comments below:
> > I think that "Red Harvest," except for the
> > opening, is pretty ugly stuff in both a plot and
> > style. (OK it was made from a bunch of novellas.
> > Hammett should have hooked them together better.)
>Actually, I think Hammett concealed the seams very
>well, particularly compared with the other two OP
>novels, BLOOD MONEY and THE DAIN CURSE. Perhaps not
>quite as well-concealed as THE GLASS KEY, but I found
>few seams showing. And when I did find them it was
>because I was looking for them.

I have to agree with Jim, here, except for the fact that I haven't read
"Blood Money".

> > The style is more Hemingway parody than good
> > Hammett. It's choppy and not conversational.
>Again, I disagree. Moreover, Hammett's style for the
>Op series, which began in 1922, developed separately
>from Hemingway's. If anything, I think a case could
>be made that it was Hemingway who was influenced by
>Hammett rather than the reverse. I was riveted by the
>style the first time I read it and have been again
>with every re-reading.

Hemingway was in Paris in the early 20's, borrowing books (and sometimes money) from Sylvia Beach's Shakespeare and Company. At this point, according to sources like "A Moveable Feast" Hemingway was reading mostly Russian writers like Turgenev, and critics like the indomitable Harold Bloom cite a clear influence on him by such early "realist" writers. I doubt Hemingway read much Hammett during this formative period in his work.

> > "The Malese Falcon" is the
> > best private-eye novel ever.)
>No argument there, but RED HARVEST is easily his
>second-best work, and, if not THE greatest like
>FALCON, ONE of the greatest private eye novels ever.

Agreed again, although personally I think that "The Big Sleep" is the greatest private-eye novel ever.

>Moreover, a case could be made that it was at least as
>influential, perhaps more influential than FALCON.
>Certainly, the first person narration of HARVEST is
>far more common than the rigorously objective
>third-person mode of FALCON. And the "town-tamer"
>story is one of the most common plots, certainly as
>common as the "fabled quest object" plot or the
>"hero's lover is the killer" plot that are both
>generally attributed to FALCON, in private eye

Good points all.


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