Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Mickey Spillane Puts The Hammer Down

Mickey Spillane is dead at age 88.

I only have two Spillane books, both first editions: My Gun Is Quick, a Signet original from 1950, and Tomorrow I Die, a compilation of Spillane's short fiction, published by Mysterious Press in 1984.

Tomorrow I Die has the advantage of a really nifty dust jacket illustration by Jim Steranko, which anticipates the look of Frank Miller's Sin City series of graphic novels. I'm also including the biographical piece from the back cover of My Gun Is Quick, which claimed that Spillane had "25 cats." I visualize him trying to pound out a chapter with several cats climbing over and sitting on his typewriter while he worked. That information belies the two-fisted, hardboiled image of his books. Spillane's most popular character, Mike Hammer, was a violent, tough private eye on the side of the law. Kinda. He was an anti-hero with heroic tendencies. The books had 1950s sex scenes (i.e., the bedroom door closed just before the hot stuff), killings, beatings, all the fun sleaze of early paperback books.

Spillane inspired a fine writer, Max Allan Collins, who more than anyone kept Spillane's name out there. As far as I'm concerned, the student outdid the master long ago, and it was due to Collins that I read Spillane at all.

I remember seeing a TV interview with Spillane years ago where he said, "I write what I like to read." Apparently a lot of people liked to read what he wrote.

'Bye-bye, Mickey.

Ciao for now, El Postino

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