Red Harvest and S. S. Van Dine's Rules Is Red Harvest ruled by Van Dine's principles?

Essay by biancadtUniversity, Master's February 2004

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RED HARVEST and S. S. Van Dine's rules

According to S. S. Van Dine, detective fiction writing seems to be ruled by twenty principles that would guarantee excellent results for both writers and readers of the genre.

After reading Dashiel Hammett's Red Harvest, I could not desist from exploring Van Dine's rules more profoundly and analysing their validity when applied to Red Harvest.

I have taken the liberty of selecting some of the rules and grouping them into three categories specifically relevant to some recurrent elements in most hard-boiled detective stories- the crime and its detection, the criminal, and the reader and literary elements of the genre.

The crime and its detection

In S. S. Van Dine's opinion, a detective novel must have a corpse that has been murdered and the crime and the way it has been committed must be solved by totally natural (not spiritual) means.

(Rules7, 8, 14 and 18)

These elements are not only omnipresent throughout Red Harvest, but they also come in copious quantities. And this is not all, the circumstances under which people die are always violent and merciless. Evidence is also a key factor. It is through the evidence gathered by the Continental Op that we are able to discover who has something to blame and why.

These clues provide logical reasons for the crimes and consistent explanations of the way the crimes are committed. We, readers, are given the chance to link events, interpret information and make our own discoveries together with the protagonist. Nothing is hidden from us. But do we share the detective's mental capacity and drive to be able to do all that? I know I don't. Hammett did not certainly place reliance upon, neither did he make use of supernatural means to...