Red Harvest -- Dashiell Hammett
I first heard Personville called Poisonville by a red-haired mucker named Hickey Dewey in the Big Ship in Butte. He also called his shirt a shoit. I didn't think anything of what he had done to the city's name. Later I heard men who could manage their r's give it the same pronunciation. I still didn't see anything in it but the meaningless sort of humor that used to make richardsnary the thieves' word for dictionary. A few years later I went to Personville and learned better.
After being ordered to drop the case by the corrupt old man who hired him:
"Your fat chief of police tried to assassinate me last night. I don't like that. I'm just mean enough to want to ruin him for it. Now I'm going to have my fun. I've got ten thousand dollars of your money to play with. I'm going to use it opening Poisonville up from Adam's apple to ankles. I'll see that you get my reports as regularly as possible. I hope you enjoy them."
And I went out of the house with his curses sizzling around my head.
While hiding from gunmen in the woods with Dinah Brand:
I gave her another drink from the flask. That bought me ten minutes of peace.
Then she said:
"I'm catching cold. By the time anybody comes, if they ever do, I'll be sneezing and coughing loud enough to be heard in the city."
"Just once," I told her. "Then you'll be all strangled."
"There's a mouse or something crawling under the blanket."
"Probably only a snake."
"Are you married?"
"Don't start that."
"Then you are?"
"I'll bet your wife's glad of it."
Next time I read it, I'll have to count the bodies -- there were over twenty, but I know I missed some, and that definitely doesn't include the nameless red shirts.