RARA-AVIS: Re: Red Harvest

From: JIM DOHERTY (jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 13 Sep 2009

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    "Yeah, favorite seems strong to me, too. RED HARVEST is an excellent first effort."

    First effort? Leaving aside the fact that, as Dave has already pointed out, Hammett had already written more than twenty short stories about the Op, and a number of non-series stories as well, RED HARVEST isn't even his first novel. BLOOD MONEY, though it wouldn't be published in book form for more than a decade, had already been serialized in BLACK MASK before RED HARVEST had either been serialized or printed up between boards.

    "In it we see many elements that Hammett develops in his masterpieces: Political cowards, children who reject that parents' values, powerful men who are prisoners of their position, gangsters who have redeeming qualities, immoral women with wisdom and cunning, police officials who make up the rules as they go. But none of these in RED HARVEST are worked up to the extent they will be in THE GLASS KEY, THE THIN MAN, & THE MALTESE FALCON. To me RED HARVEST is almost a sketch of things to come."

    Whatever else RED HARVEST is, it's certainly no "mere sketch."

    And, aside from FALCON, it's the most influential, or at least the most imitated, of all of Hammett's novels. Others who've read this before can feel free to skip this. Brett Halliday's A TASTE FOR VIOLENCE, Robert Parker's PALE KINGS & PRINCES, Cleve Adams's SABOTAGE, Mickey Spillane's THE TWISTED THING, Richard S. Prather's THE SWEET RIDE, and Jack Lynch's THE MISSING AND THE DEAD are just a few of the private eye novels that unabashedly "borrow" Hammett's "town-tamer" plot. Substitute "cop" or "lone avenger" for "private eye" and the list becomes even longer, including books like William Diehl's HOOLIGANS, Stephen Hunter's HOT SPRINGS, and Harace McCoy's "The Mopper-Up."

    Not bad for a mere sketch.



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