From: JIM DOHERTY (jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 26 Feb 2009

  • Next message: Patrick King: "Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: RED HARVEST"


    Re your comments below:

    "I know that I may be a minority of only one ... But I never did get RED HARVEST. I've read it twice, most recently about a year ago and on the suggestion of people on this list. Maybe if it had been published in book form as the four novellas it was supposed to have been, I might have enjoyed four novellas. But when I was shocked at various places with thoughts of what happened, or what happened to ... whoever ... I still forced my way to the ending."

    I'm not going to try to convince you to like RED HARVEST. You don't like it and that's what makes a horse race.

    But I would like to clear up what may be a miconception about the construction of RED HARVEST. The "short story" components that make up the book were not completely unrelated, as were, for example, "The Curtain" and "Killer in the Rain" which were combined and expanded by Chandler into THE BIG SLEEP. They were written and planned as serial installments that appeared in consecutive issues of BLACK MASK. But, because BLACK MASK was a monthly, rather than a weekly, publication, Editor "Cap" Shaw required that each installment be able to stand on its own as a semi-autonomous short story. In other words, if you didn't like the slightly revised version Hammett submitted for book publication, you probably wouldn't have liked the magazine installments either.

    In fact four out of Hammett's six novels, BLOOD MONEY, THE DAIN CURSE, and THE GLASS KEY, in addition to HARVEST, were constructed according to these restrictions. Only THE MALTESE FALCON was written as a single cohesive piece, and Shaw, perhaps knowing he had something special, did not require Hammett to make each installment semi-autonomous. THE THIN MAN was not serialized in BLACK MASK, and so did not face this particular editorial stricture (though the entire novel was condensed into a short story for a single-issue appearance in the slick REDBOOK).

    BLOOD MONEY, composed of two installments rather than four, doesn't show its seams all that much. In THE DAIN CURSE the seams are very obvious, but somehow, for me, it doesn't diminish my enjoyment. In THE GLASS KEY I think the seams are expertly concealed and, I would suggest, if you didn't know the "linked-short-story" origins of the novel, you wouldn't be able to even find the seams.

    In RED HARVEST, the seams are not, I grant you, as well-concealed as the are in KEY, but certainly better concealed than in either BLOOD MONEY or CURSE.

    I'd also point out, as I have on other occasions, how influential RED HARVEST has been on later private eye writers. Indeed, the "town-tamer" PI novel is almost as ubiquitous as the "quest object" or "lover turns out to be killer" plots that derive from FALCON.

    Without belaboring that point, you can go to an earlier post here:


    for a list of some novels that carry more than bit of RED HARVEST's DNA.



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