Tuesday, July 18, 2006


LIKE A DOORNAIL. It all started with a twisted masterpiece called I, the Jury. In the opening scene, a man on a bridge thinking about suicide glimpses the face of Mike Hammer and immediately jumps to his death. In the final scene, a beautiful cold-blooded murderess tries to escape Hammer by stripping and advancing to seduce him. He shoots her at point blank range. As she sinks to the floor dying, she asks, "How could you?" He tells her, "It was easy." Between these two deaths are many others, as well as brutal fistfights, gallons of whiskey, a carton or two of smokes, a gaggle of lusty, big-breasted women, and plenty of .45 caliber bullets, all tied together by the man in the black suit whose name is more famous than all the hardboiled detectives who ever made a reader turn the page.

Liking Mickey Spillane is not politically correct. Despising him is. According to the website:

Hammer certainly took no prisoners. Within the first five books forty-eight people die violently - thirty-four of whom had Hammer to thank for their untimely demise. The books are littered with an almost casually extreme violence: a cigarette lighter flicked into an eye, clothes stripped off a woman who is a communist and who is then whipped. Whatever you thought about Hammer, he was not one to walk away from the fight....

The reaction from Spillane's peers was equally extreme. Few writers have been as disliked as much as Spillane. Anthony Boucher maintained that "I, The Jury" should be "required reading in a Gestapo training school". The books, however, sold in their millions (by the early 80's Spillane had sold nearly 150 million). But the genre continued to shun him. Although Hammer received a 'life long achievement' award from the Private Eye Writers of America, no similar honour was forthcoming from the Mystery Writers of America. Hated by the 'liberal' writing establishment - for some reason - Hammer very probably represented a rampant right wing and reactionary politics.

If you get paperback royalties, thank this guy.

Now Hammer's author and alter ego is a corpse. Get the straight skinny here. Mickey Spillane was 88. Have a shot of whiskey and a Lucky Strike in his memory. He probably wouldn't want a lot of nice words said about him. Hig biggest champion, Max Allan Collins, summed it up best: "Anyone who doesn't recognize Spillane's importance is an idiot."

Sounds like an appropriate epitaph to me.

I thought it was going to be hard to strike the right note. It was easy.

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