July 18, 2006


Mickey Spillane crafted the steely Mike Hammer (BRUCE SMITH, 7/18/06, The Associated Press)

Mickey Spillane, the macho mystery writer who wowed millions of readers with the shoot-'em-up sex and violence of gumshoe Mike Hammer, died Monday. He was 88. [...]

Born Frank Morrison Spillane on March 9, 1918, in Brooklyn, Mr. Spillane attended Fort Hayes State College in Kansas before beginning his career writing for magazines. [...]

Mr. Spillane was a quintessential Cold War writer, an unconditional believer in good and evil. He was also a rare political conservative in the book world. Communists were villains in his work, and liberals took some hits as well.

"Spillane is like eating takeout fried chicken: so much fun to consume, but you can feel those lowlife grease-induced zits rising before you've finished the first drumstick," Sally Eckhoff wrote in the liberal weekly The Village Voice.

While intellectuals looked to Arthur Miller and other fellow travelers to explicate their world view, the American people followed Mike Hammer.

Detective novelist Spillane dies (BBC, 7/18/06)

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 18, 2006 8:47 AM

Funny, I thought the quintessential "Cold War writer" was M. Le Carre, with all his preening "nuance" (i.e. moral equivalence). Glad to hear that it was someone with a moral compass.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at July 18, 2006 9:30 AM

I also love the fact that Mr. Spillane found his huge audience by accident. You may have heard this story before, but in case you haven't...

In the 1940's Mickey Spillane was a comic book writer for various companies, notably Marvel (at the time called "Atlas".) According to Jim Steranko's STERANKO HISTORY OF COMICS, Spillane decided to start his own comic company and wrote up proposals for series, among them a private eye called Mike Danger. The series was rejected by a comic distributor because "there are already too many comic books" (Come on! There's NO such thing as too many comic books!) Spillane then took the outline for Mike Danger and wrote it in prose form, fleshing it out in the process; the result was I, THE JURY. Submitted to Dutton, the evaluations reader there thought the book badly written, but also thought it would sell, and so it was approved; the character's name was then changed to Mike Hammer because Mike Danger "sounded too much like a comic book". Out of such humble beginnings...

You want to belive that any good idea has its audience; you just have to find the right format and the right medium. Speaking of which, in the mid-'Nineties a company called Tekno Comix published the original conception of Hammer as a comic series, under the name of MIKE DANGER. Spillane contributed plot ideas, the series was written by mystery pro Max Collins and featured decent if unremarkable art; it folded after 11 issues.

Posted by: John Barrett Jr. at July 18, 2006 11:17 AM

Postscript to the above: While I saw the MIKE DANGER comic when it coming out, I did not buy it; hence I assumed it followed Spillane's original concept. Wrong: overhauled by Max Collins with apparently some supervision by Spillane, the comic book was set "one hundred years in the future" where eating meat is a felony, there is no such thing as justifiable homicide, and improper remarks to women are subject to fines. Through some temporal whatsis I don't understand, Mike Danger is catapaulted from the 'Fifties to this dystopia, where he sets up shop and fights crime in his inimitable manner. Judging how things are now, I'm not sure he needs to go one hundred years in the future.

Posted by: John Barrett Jr. at July 18, 2006 11:44 AM

Funny the Village Voice talking about low-life. Have you seen what they are pushing thesse days? They give low-life a bad name!!

Posted by: dick at July 18, 2006 12:34 PM

In The Everlasting Man, Chesterton wrote: The old epic poets at least knew how to tell a story, possibly a tall story but never a twisted story, never a story twisted out of its own shape to fit theories and philosphies invented centuries afterward.

That's Spillane right there.

Posted by: Pepys at July 18, 2006 2:27 PM

I read I,The Jury, once, years ago. I found it to have been an astonishing poorly written peice of trash. Characters, plot, style: I,The Jury had none of these. Its proper genre was parody.

Finished at last, I tossed the book across the room and into a waiting trash can. "H-h-how could you?" I asked myself, and the answer came as the book hit the bottom of the can, "It was easy."

Posted by: Lou Gots at July 18, 2006 6:11 PM