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cover Hammett Would (or Should) Be Proud
The Sharp End
David Drake
Dave Drake takes the "Hammer's Slammers" Series in a new direction, giving us an acknowledged reworking of the storyline of Dashiell Hammett's "Red Harvest" (also the source for "Yojimbo", "A Fistful of Dollars" and the Bruce Willis/Walter Hill "Last Man Standing").

The structure of the book is interesting, in that he begins at the Personnel Center of the Nieuw Friesland Army (Hammer and the Slammers having seized power on their home world, the Army and the Slammers have been integrated; under President Hammer, Nieuw Freisland's main export is still mercenaries).

Several soldiers whose careers have taken a bad turn, for reasons ranging from serious injury to psychological trauma to screwing up by the numbers to simply being too scary for the troops they served with, have been assigned to a survey team, being sent in to determine whether one of the two sides in a planetary power struggle might be interested in hiring the Slammers (pardon me, "troops from Nieuw Friesland").

What follows, once they reach the planet of interest, is pretty much the "Red Harvest" story, but told in Drake's unique fashion from his unique viewpoint.

The most interesting variant on the original story is the sequence involving the local man whose wife is being held by one of the drug lords. Sort of. The pivotal Nieuw Frieslander in this particular sequence is the scary soldier i mentioned; i'm still not sure whether Drake has given us a literal reincarnation of the creepiest character he has ever created {and that is saying something...}.

After reading this, you might want to hunt up Drake's collection "The Tank Lords", and read the novel contained therein, "Rolling Hot", for a look at the Slammers doing what they do best.  And, for another take on the "rehabilitating-burnt-out-cases"/redemption theme, Drake's non-Slammers novel, "Redliners" (which he considers his best work) cannot be too highly recommended.