Re: RARA-AVIS: My last point on that topic, plus Hammett and Westlake

From: Steve Novak (
Date: 22 Feb 2009

  • Next message: Victoria Two: "Re: RARA-AVIS: TIN ROOF BLOWDOWN and ELECTRIC MIST" was in Butte, Montana...where I was (14 years ago) with a whole crew of about 50 people doing a commercial for a truck (one of the big 3ıs that shall remain nameless) at an open earth mine (Continental Pit if I remember correctly) and we ended up eating on a Sunday a late late lunch
    (about 3PM) at what was an old Union Hall downtown...the only restau open for about 50 people at that time of day and I had a long conversation there with one of the locals whose father (or grandfather...??) had apparently known Hammett as a member of the Pinks...The place was ancient, osing of grey/brown paint and the smell of ranced cooking oil and mountains of cigarette buts and located on a steep hill...the place was incredibly sad and everybody there besides us had ashen grey skin and a bent frame under well worn out clothes...I found it sad, not depressing...just like some of the people seen in cafes in dead towns in the Pyrenees during my youth...between exhaustion and tuberculosis... I mention all this because Red Harvestıs Poisonville is fully in those images...


    On 2/22/09 2:46 PM, "Brian Thornton" <> wrote:

    > I was under the impression that "Poisonville" was in Montana. I know that
    > it's modeled on the labor problems in Butte when the IWW tried to organize
    > the copper miners there during the early part of the 20th century. Hammett
    > was among the Pinks sent in as strike breakers. The experience stayed with
    > him.
    > All the Best-
    > Brian
    > On Sun, Feb 22, 2009 at 11:15 AM, Mark D. Nevins <
    > <> >wrote:
    >> >
    >> > Ron C., I'm sorry if I didn't in fact interpret your last post as a gesture
    >> > of civility but, well, I really didn't. I don't need to speak with you
    >> > off-List about it, thanks anyway.
    >> >
    >> > Kerry, I appreciated your ONIONesque satirical effort.
    >> >
    >> > All, I'm sorry if my last message was inappropriate. I am generally a
    >> > lurker on this List, and I tremendously appreciate all of the wisdom and
    >> > advice on offer here. I take copious notes on the reviews and
    >> > recommendations; I admit I cringe at some of the bickering, flaming, and
    >> > redundant semantic arguing; and I am apparently unable to restrain myself
    >> > when I come across what I perceive to be sweeping generalizations and
    >> > examples of prejudice, one example of which is the occasional anti-academic
    >> > cliche which seems to have no place in a group like this one.
    >> >
    >> > In other news, I recently finished RED HARVEST, Hammett's first novel and
    >> > the first in my project to (re-)read all of his novels in order. I
    >> > understand that this book is a cobbling-together of several BLACK MASK
    >> short
    >> > stories--and I expect eventually to go back and read those (are they easily
    >> > found in a collection?). As such, there are some bumps in the narrative
    >> > road, and a lot of characters come and go (emphasis on "go," where I mean
    >> > "for good"), but ultimately this novel seems to me to be some kind of
    >> > masterpiece of violence and cynical social commentary in addition to a
    >> > cracking good read. I appreciate that RED HARVEST is also a cornerstone of
    >> > the "cleaning up the corrupt town" genre that ranges from the spaghetti
    >> > Western to the films of Kurosawa. (I wonder what work gets to claim to be
    >> > the first in the genre. BEOWULF?) This was my first time reading RED
    >> > HARVEST, and I loved it, especially the lean and tough dialogue and the
    >> > incredible sense of
    >> > time and place Hammett creates in "Poisonville" California. I also now know
    >> > where the Coen Brothers got the title of their film BLOOD SIMPLE, and what
    >> > it means! I'm looking forward to THE DAIN CURSE which is next in line.
    >> >
    >> > As a bit of a palate-cleanser, I read right afterward Donald Westlake's THE
    >> > HOOK. I am planning to read one Westlake book a month this year, as an
    >> > homage to the Master. (January was THE AX.) THE HOOK is a delightfully
    >> nasty
    >> > little piece of candy: a satire on the publishing industry wrapped around a
    >> > Hitchcockian infernal bargain. The book moves quickly, with great details
    >> to
    >> > sketch out the NYC and CT locales, and it has one of the most brutal murder
    >> > scenes I have ever read, as well as a clever and nasty ending that is
    >> > perfectly timed to punch you in the gut just as you are halfway through the
    >> > last sentence of the book. I really liked this one. Westlake makes it all
    >> > look so effortless.
    >> >
    >> > Best,
    >> > Mark Nevins
    >> >
    >> >
    >> >
    > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

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