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Gurglings of a Putrid Stream

Thoughts on books and other assorted topics.

See also:  http://goppf.wikidot.com/swstart

My name:  Brian Martin

Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett

Red Harvest - Dashiell Hammett, Jeff Stone

The book is well named. You know you're in for a blood bath when one of the chapters is titled, "The Seventeenth Murder." With the climax still to go.

But it isn't gratuitous. It's the point. Violence, Hammett is saying, is the only way to clean up a corrupt, crime-ridden town--and even at that, it's only temporary. Bleak? sure, but it isn't hopeless. Not quite, because even though our hero, the Continental Op, finds himself seduced by the dark side, he is able to overcome it.

This is a very short book, but it isn't a fast read. Between the wonderful 20s tough-guy and criminal slang and the convoluted plot, it doesn't pay to breeze through it, you'd miss too much. I took my time and still experienced moments of confusion. The cast of characters is enormous, for one thing, and it's a challenge to keep everyone straight. Which is another problem, because nobody is straight: everyone has an angle and none of them run parallel for more than a few pages at a time. This all works to the book's advantage, though: plunked down like the Op in this mess, it's easy to see how you could lose your direction and just start blasting away at anyone who looked at you funny.

A surprising read for people only familiar with tall, handsome, loner heroes. The Op is 40, only about 5'5" or so, with a paunch. Doesn't mean he isn't tough, just that he's more like a regular guy, one who doesn't have every female he meets instantly in the palm of his hand. In fact, the one female who likes him has her own palm out--for cash.