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Complete Novels by Dashiell Hammett
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Jun 05, 2011

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bookshelves: fiction-crime-detection

Hammett, Dashiel. RED HARVEST. (1929). ***.
This was Hammett’s first novel, and featured his protagonist, the un-named Continental Op. There have been copycats down the years – e.g., Bill Pronzini and his “nameless detective” – but Hammett got away with this all through his writing career with short stories for the pulps, particularly “Black Mask.” In this novel, our detective from San Francisco goes to a western town and ends up taking on the job of cleaning it up. Everyone in the town in any position of power is corrupt, and he doesn’t know where to start. Fortunately, there are two factions of bad guys there. His obvious plan is to pit them against each other. The story starts out OK, but is soon reduced to a series of murders and mayhem that leave the reader confused. You have to page back in the story to see what character has just been gunned down. The frenetic activity grows more and more confusion until you are sure that there will be no man left standing by the end of the novel. The Continental Op appeared in one more of Hammett’s novels, “The Dain Curse.” After that, Hammett began to find his real writing voice and abandoned the Continental Op in favor of new characters like Sam Spade and the Thin Man. This novel is of interest only to follow Hammett’s development as a writer.

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