Wednesday, February 1, 2012

#50 - "Red Harvest" by Dashiell Hammett

I'm finally there, the halfway point to finishing all 100 novels.  While I had planned to reach this point with something a little more...notable I suppose, Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest will do just fine.

The novel takes place in the fictional town of Personville, pronounced 'poisonville' by the locals, as the unnamed protaganist arrives in town to visit a new client.  Unfortunately that client was murdered before they ever had a chance to meet and soon our hero finds himself entangled in a corrupt, violent, and seemingly lawless town, where everybody needs to watch their back.

For the most part, I found it to be a fun book, filled with kitchy dialogue, detective speak, and Bogart-esque slang.  There are plenty of murders and double crossings, and a cast of good guys and bad guys.  You could say it's a real 'guy's novel,' in that there's lots of action and sometimes not everything needs to make sense.

The problem I did have with it was that it was a little difficult to follow at times.  And by that, I don't mean that the plot was too complicated nor the language, but just the sheer number of characters was almost overwhelming.  At times, there were so many different people playing important roles in the story, it was difficult to follow who was who.  Throw in a few dozen double crosses, and it became impossible to know who was on which side.  Several times I had to flip back a few pages to confirm who somebody was and where their allegiance was.  Adding tot he confusion was that every charachter seemed to have several nicknames.  What a minute, is Whisper with Slick Al and Fat Tony?  Or did he cross them, and now he's with Bick Nick and Young Albury?

There was also a little bit of what I would call TV detective syndrome in the book, when our protaganist would suddenly piece a crime together, seemingly out of mid-air.  It reminded me of how Columbo was always able to figure out who the murderer was because the clock said 12:15 when the cat meowed.  It didn't really make any sense, but we marveled at his ingenuity.

But like Columbo, this was an entertaining book, and I won't be bothered by these 'flaws.'  Much the same way I don't mind that fact that John Wayne could shoot his way out of a saloon, even though he's surrounded by 150 men from the Bar-T.

Red Harvest was an enjoyable read, and I would consider reading more from Dashiell Hammett, but I think this book found its way onto the list as much because it was the first of such a popular genre as because it is such a good novel.

I'll be starting the second half of my journey tonight, or possible tomorrow morning, with All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren.  I had originally taken this book out of the library with the intention of it being my 7th read.  But that was almost two years ago.  It was almost my 36th read as well, but instead I went with The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.  Well, it will be number 51.

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