Mickey Spillane, RIP.
I heard it here first.
The obits recycle the boilerplate from 50 years ago-oh the sex, oh my, the violence. Here Foxnews:
As a stylist Spillane was no innovator; the prose was hard-boiled boilerplate. In a typical scene, from "The Big Kill," Hammer slugs out a little punk with "pig eyes."Here is the Washington Post:
"I snapped the side of the rod across his jaw and laid the flesh open to the bone," Spillane wrote. "I pounded his teeth back into his mouth with the end of the barrel ... and I took my own damn time about kicking him in the face. He smashed into the door and lay there bubbling. So I kicked him again and he stopped bubbling."
In one typical passage from "The Big Kill," Hammer narrates: "I snapped the side of the rod across his jaw and laid the flesh open to the bone. I pounded his teeth back into his mouth with the end of the barrel . . . and I took my own damn time about kicking him in the face. He smashed into the door and lay there bubbling. So I kicked him again and he stopped bubbling."I wonder if any of the writers have actually read the Mike Hammer novels. I doubt the guy at Times did.
In "I, the Jury," Hammer became so angry at a female psychiatrist that he shot her in her "stark naked" stomach. ("Stark naked" was a phrase that Mr. Spillane rather liked.) As she died, she asked, "Mike, how could you?" To which Hammer replied, "It was easy."Gee, why was Hammer angry? (She killed his best friend.) Why did he shoot her in the stomache? (That is where she shot his friend so she could watch him die slowly.) Why did Mike shoot her at all? (She was trying to shoot him.) It's a completely different picture than the Times writer presented.
I also wonder how the critics reconcile their habitual scorn for Spillane's excesses with their ecstatic celebration of other rule-breakers. Why is "I, the Jury" a bad, bad book (oh the sex, oh my, the violence) but Bonnie and Clyde is a great movie?
Hammer is quintessentially American. Spillane understood the Jacksonian ethos, gave it an urban persona, and watched the fireworks go off.
In a tough spot, Hammer is the guy you want as a friend. If you had to go done a dark, dangerous alley, Mike Hammer is the man you want to go with you. Sam Spade is just too slippery to trust and Phillip Marlowe would get himself knocked unconscious before the balloon went up. Hammer would insist on going first and the bad guys would regret their ill-planned ambush.
Last word to Max Allan Collins:
Spillane was a primitive, a natural talent who brought to the tough mystery the concerns and traumas of the World War II generation of men, the returning soldiers and sailors and marines who found the American dream they'd been fighting for was frequently a nightmare. The loss of innocence these vets brought with them led Spillane to his more explicit violence and daring (for its time) sexual content. The vivid scenes Spillane paints -- including scenes of violence that remain unsurpassed -- indicate a natural artist of considerable talent and power. The craftsmanship of his surprise endings, the abrupt, startling conclusions he's famous for, are unmatched in the field.Related: