The steadfast and sturdy Continental Op has been summoned to the town of Personville—known as Poisonville—a dusty mining community splintered by competing factions of gangsters and petty criminals. The Op has been hired by Donald Willsson, publisher of the local newspaper, who gave little indication about the reason for the visit. No sooner does the Op arrive, than the body count begins to climb . . . starting with his client. With this last honest citizen of Poisonville murdered, the Op decides to stay on and force a reckoning—even if that means taking on an entire town.
Red Harvest is more than a superb crime novel: it is a classic exploration of corruption and violence in the American grain.
Dashiell Samuel Hammett was born in St. Mary’s County, Maryland. He grew up in Philadelphia and Baltimore. Hammett left school at the age of fourteen and held several kinds of jobs thereafter—messenger boy, newsboy, clerk, operator, and stevedore, finally becoming an operative for Pinkerton’s Detective Agency. Sleuthing suited young Hammett, but World War I intervened, interrupting his work and injuring his health. When Sergeant Hammett was discharged from the last of several hospitals, he resumed detective work. He soon turned to writing, and in the late 1920s Hammett became the unquestioned master of detective-story fiction in America. In The Maltese Falcon (1930) he first introduced his famous private eye, Sam Spade. The Thin Man (1932) offered another immortal sleuth, Nick Charles. Red Harvest (1929), The Dain Curse (1929), and The Glass Key (1931) are among his most successful novels. During World War II, Hammett again served as sergeant in the Army, this time for more than two years, most of which he spent in the Aleutians. Hammett’s later life was marked in part by ill health, alcoholism, a period of imprisonment related to his alleged membership in the Communist Party, and by his long-time companion, the author Lillian Hellman, with whom he had a very volatile relationship. His attempt at autobiographical fiction survives in the story “Tulip,” which is contained in the posthumous collection The Big Knockover (1966, edited by Lillian Hellman). Another volume of his stories, The Continental Op (1974, edited by Stephen Marcus), introduced the final Hammett character: the “Op,” a nameless detective (or “operative”) who displays little of his personality, making him a classic tough guy in the hard-boiled mold—a bit like Hammett himself.
"An acknowledged literary landmark." --NY Times Book Review.
"Dashiell Hammett is an original. He is a master of the detective novel, yes, but also one hell of a writer." -- Boston Globe
"Hammett's prose [is] clean and entirely unique. His characters [are] as sharply and economically defined as any in American fiction."
--The New York Times