This damned burgís getting me. If I donít get away soon Iíll be going blood-simple like the natives.Red Harvest
—The Continental Op
is a seminal novel by Dashiell Hammett
, first published in 1929. It is narrated by The Continental Op
, a recurring character in Hammett's world. The novel has had a great deal of influence on later fiction ranging from samurai films to noir. Being called to the mining town of "Poisonville" (actually Personville), the Op discovers that the city is being run down by criminal gangs. The detective is hired to clean up the place, and mayhem ensues.Red Harvest
is thought to have been an influence on Akira Kurosawa
's film Yojimbo
, and combined with The Glass Key
is a heavy influence on the Coen Brothers' noir film Millers Crossing
. Red Harvest
also coined the term Blood Simple
(after which the Coen Brothers' film debut is named); the phrase refers to the addled, fearful mindset people are in after a prolonged immersion in violent situations.Red Harvest
is not related to Star Wars: Red Harvest
or Blue Harvest: Horror Beyond Imagination
This novel provides examples of:
- Anti-Hero: The Continental Op
- Badass Driver: Dinah Brand.
- Black and Gray Morality: Our protagonist is an anti-hero working for a ruthless industrialist who came to power using unscrupulous means. The antagonists are corrupt cops and gangsters that worked for said industrialist.
- Clean Up The Town: By applying his trademark method of stirring things up.
- Code Of Honour: Despite his rather questionable means, the Op does have his own code that he follows. It is for this reason he refuses personal payment for the job (The detective has Elihu pay the Continental Agency instead).
- The Confidant: Dinah to the Op.
- Company Town: Personville, essentially the fiefdom of industrialist Elihu Willsson, "Czar of Poisonville".
- Dragon Ascendant: Reno Starkey, once he kills Lew Yard when the gangster attempts to eliminate him.
- Divide and Conquer: The Op's strategy.
- Dirty Cop: Chief Noonan and his police force. In fact, they're one of the factions the Op needs to take care of.
- Enemy Civil War: Once he gets enough incidents going, the Op has Elihu's enemies at each others throats.
- Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: The Continental Op never gives his name.
- First-Person Smartass: The Op.
- Gambit Pileup: While the Op is the catalyst, all the other factions are trying to manipulate each other as well.
- He Who Fights Monsters: As the violence escalates the Op worries that the more he stays in the town, the more he'll be too affected by the violence:
- I Did What I Had to Do: The Op's reasoning to Dinah in regards to his methods. Since Elihu refuses to aid him, the detective has to resort to unsavory means to accomplish his goal.
- I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Poisonville.
- Frameup: Several, including who killed Donald Willsson, Tim Noonan, and Dinah Brand. The Op does this to Noonan during the "peace conference" by saying the Police Chief knew all along that Whisper was being framed for Tim's murder. Noonan knew nothing about it at all.
- Merchant Prince: Elihu Willsson, the "Czar of Poisonville.". A powerful and rich industrialist, he had influence over half of California and de facto rule of a city... until he lost control of the corrupt officials and gangs that helped him put down a worker's strike.
- Mob War: Two of the factions are traditional mob gangs, and another a bootlegging operation. Once Noohan gets picked off, the gangs are the only sides left in action.
- Only in It for the Money: Dinah provides the Op with the intel he needs (even on her boyfriend Thaler), but only because she desires money.
- Outlaw Town
- Peace Conference: After a series of incidents, the various factions plus the Op meet in an attempt to end the bloodshed. The Op uses this as an opportunity to further escalate the violence.
- Pinkerton Detective: The Continental Detective Agency is a thinly-veiled expy of the Pinkertons.
- Town with a Dark Secret: The reason why criminals and dirty cops rule Poisonville— they worked for Elihu to stop a union strike. Since they know his dirty secrets, Elihu doesn't bring in the authorities to clean up the town.
- Playing Both Sides: Red Harvest actually has more than two factions in play, but...
- Pretty in Mink: The only time the Op describes Dinah as pretty is when she's wearing a fur coat.
- Screw Politeness Im A Senior: Elihu Wilsson. Also a case of No Indoor Voice.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Charles Proctor Dawn, although given that he's a cheap, crook lawyer, this may be more of a case of Delusions of Eloquence.
- Set a Mook to Kill a Mook: One of the Trope Codifiers. The whole point of the conflict is to get the gang leaders (who know Elihu's secrets) to kill each other. Once they're out of the way, the industrialist is set to call in the authorities.
- Throwing The Fight: As part of a plan, the Op contacts a boxer paid to take a dive. Using some blackmail, the Op convinces the boxer to win instead.
- The Unfettered: The Continental Op will get the crooks he's after, no matter what it takes or how many laws he has to break.
- Villainous Glutton: The only thing Dinah Brand likes more than hefty meals and drinks is money, and she'll sell her help and information to the highest bidder. Notably, she's also a Big Beautiful Vamp.
- War Is Hell: The conflict between the various factions gets very violent, sometimes explosively. It actually gets to be too much for Noonan, who was willing to give in to any demand in the end.
- Wretched Hive: Upon arriving in Personville, the Op takes some time to get a sense of the town. Within minutes, he notes from the general decay and lackluster police how crapsack the city is.