Dashiell Hammett's, Red Harvest, exemplifies the transformation of the classical detective fiction genre to the hard-boiled detective genre. Whereas the former uses clues and a sense of mystery in an ordered society to solve the crime, the hardboiled detective novel treats crime as symptomatic of a troubled American society. The role of the detective, then, is not to deceive the reader, but to serve as the corrupted societies' hero. In Red Harvest, the plot is not driven by who killed Donald Wilsson but what exactly is "poisoning" Pearsonville. Hammett's utilization of in-depth characterization, realism, and first-person narration underscores and highlights the main elements of the hard-boiled noir genre he popularized. .
The first-person narrative of a nameless narrator emphasizes this approach to introduce a detective hero trying to restore a sense of morality and justice. The violent capitalist conspiracy is told from the Op's perspective, who appears to give an unreliable account of the events. The Op had been used by Hammett in most of his previous stories and had already become a prototype of the hard-boiled detective: tough, pragmatic and with his personal ethics. Hammett developing the Op to serve as the narrator enables his tough personality to coincide with the concise, colloquial language full of understatement as well as a detached, objective outlook on facts, which was very appropriate for the events described. .
Although, the genre of crime fiction existed in continental and American literature since at least the nineteenth century, hard-boiled fiction reached its greatest popularity during the 1920s through the 1960s. Critics point out that authors like Dashiell Hammett, who shaped the genre during this era, reinvented the crime fiction style popularized by such predecessors as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Edgar Allen Poe in several key ways. Hammett's contemporary, Raymond Chandler, comments on Hammett's contribution to the genre by saying: Hammett was one of a group () who wrote or tried to write realistic mystery fiction () took murder out of the Venetian vase and dropped it into the alley .