Mike Hammer: Lady, Go Die! Hardcover – May 8 2012
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”Once again, Collins displays his mastery of Spillane’s distinctive two-fisted prose.” - Publishers Weekly
"Collins knows the pistol-packing PI inside and out, and Hammer’s vigilante rage (and gruff way with the ladies) reads authentically." - Booklist
About the Author
Mickey Spillane is the legendary crime writer credited with igniting the explosion of paperback publishing after World War II as a result of the unprecedented success of his Mike Hammer novels. Spillane's novels sold tens of millions of copies - I, The Jury went through more than 60 paperback printings in 1947 alone. In 1995, he was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America. Before his death at the age of 88 in 2006, Spillane chose long-time friend Max Allan Collins to complete his unfinished work and act as his literary executor.
Max Allan Collins is the bestselling, award-winning author of Road to Perdition, the graphic novel that inspired the Oscar-winning movie starring Paul Newman and Tom Hanks, and of the acclaimed Nathan Heller series of historical hardboiled mysteries. Also a filmmaker himself, Collins' films include the documentary Mike Hammer's Mickey Spillane.
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In "Lady, Go Die!", Mike and Velda, his secretary, assistant, and lover, head to the small town of Sidon, a Long Island beach town. Mike interrupts the savage beating of a hapless beach bum by two local detectives, one of whom, Dekkert, is a dirty cop having been kicked off the NY force. Before he knows it, Hammer's code of justice has him knee deep in a mystery involving the death of Sharron Wesley, a former wealthy socialite of dubious background, a high stakes illegal gambling establishment, small town corruption, angry cops, and elements of New York's mob who may or may not sympathize with Mike. Along the way, Mike shuttles bqack and forth to the City to meet with his buddy, Pat Chambers, as well as with many of his less than steller NY contacts.
As Mike peels back the layers of this mystery, he senses they are all related yet somehow they don't seem to fit the usual pattern--is there more than one "perp", are certain elements of the criminal activities unrelated red herrings? Readers familiar with the older writings of Mickey Spillane will smile at his tough guy dialogue and his take-no-guff attitude as his trigger temper begins to take its toll on the bad guys of Sidon. Only when Velda goes missing does Mike ratchet up his desperation enough to find the answers he demands, even if it means taking the town apart piece by piece.
This is the second collaboration I have read of Collins and Spillane, and I admire Max Allan Collins' devotion to maintaining the "voice", stylings, and texture of Mickey Spilane's iconic character--a character that surely begat most of today's justice seekers from Jack Reacher to Dave Roubidoux. Yes, the prose is simpler than we expect today and yes, it is filled with dated, even sexist remarks, yet that is the point of Collins' painstaking devotion to recreating the times and milieu of Mike Hammer. Having grown up reading Mickey Spillane and watching the Mike Hammer Movies and TV shows, I found this an enjoyable, fast, satisfying walk down memory lane.
Interesting times aside, Max Allen Collins performed a real magic trick with this novel and there was no CGI involved. Collins was able to make me forget about cell phones, political correctness and the internet for the duration of this book. This book is a smooth read and the 241 pages of story flew by all too quickly. Reading this book versus most modern detective novels was similar to comparing H.P. Lovecraft to Stephan King. Like Lovecraft Collins didn't go into every gory detail and he left some things left unsaid; whereas Stephan King and most modern detective novels feel like the reader needs know each and every exact detail of a murder scene. At the height of Spillane's writing I doubt he could have gotten away with what are descriptive norms these days. Max Allen Collins respects the literary constraints of the time and turns them into a writing device that lets the reader paint their own picture. If you like Spillane, you will be hard pressed to tell the difference. If you like a good solid mystery, this book is for you. If you are a fan of Noir, you can't miss Lady, Go Die!
This is not Mickey's best title; I, The Jury holds that honor (tied with The Big Sleep on my best ever list). This superb book is, however, the sequel to I, The Jury and it is a more than worthy addition to the Spillane canon. Mike and Velda are on Long Island, hoping for a little R 'n R. Then Mike discovers a beachcomber being beaten in an alley by some bad cops. He lives below a mansion inhabited by a femme fatale, who turns up dead, nude, laying across a horse in the town (Sidon) park. Instead of Lady Godiva it's Lady, Go Die! (as Velda terms it).
The dead woman owned a gambling casino frequented by Manhattan heavies. And she is not the first to have met an untimely, nude, posed end. Mike and Velda investigate the crimes and eventually come face to face with the perp in a dramatic conclusion. The plotting, timing and dollops of suspense are handled as expertly as one might wish, and though the novel shimmers with Hammerisms it is built on what at first appears to be an old story, actually, an old western story, one of the standard western plots--the one in which the crime fighter goes to a small, lawless town in which he must face down the local authorities as well as the dark heart of man and the crimes that result from it.
Everything is handled flawlessly, but the one-liners are very, very special. Here is a very small selection:
. . . I took out the .45 the way I would a match to light a cigarette, and let him look down the barrel.
There was nothing down that dark hole that you could call comforting.
He hopped off the stool like a big toad off a medium toadstool.
When a teardrop hit a bandage, it would skid to a stop, then pearl and plunk to the floor.
The funny thing was how all three just stood there for a moment, tottering, as if they were wondering why they were still standing, only they weren't wondering anything at all because they were dead, with holes in their foreheads that had exited in a fine spray that left behind little clouds of scarlet to get caught by the ocean breeze and drift away.
Delicious, and only one of the reasons why Mickey sold over 225 million books. Don't miss this one.
But Mickey Spillane, and through him Mike Hammer, is one of the authors that fired my imagination for PI and tough-hitting crime novels when I was a very young reader. That's all I am, I guess, so I never understood the undeserved criticisms heaped on Spillane's work. In a clip off Youtube from an appearance on Dick Cavett, he doesn't say the words, but says "it's all what the public buys."
LADY, GO DIE! is the official sequel to his seminal I, THE JURY, put aside for some reason way back then, and one hell of a story it is. Collins seamlessly works his own style and writing into these works to make fine novels that more than stand alongside earlier Hammer works.
If you liked Mike Hammer at any time in your life, you will like this. And the other free. If you didn't, I urge you to try this one. You might reassess your thoughts.
"Lady Go Die!" is the fifth of the seven Mike Hammer novels that Max Allan Collins completed following Mickey Spillane's demise. Spillane wrote dozens of Mike Hammer novels, starting with "I, The Jury" in 1947. "Lady Go, Die" is chronologically the second Hammer novel, although Spillane never completed it in his lifetime. Collins describes the partial manuscript as one of the most exciting finds in the treasure trove of writings that Spillane did not complete. By completing these manuscripts, Collins has introduced an entirely new generation of readers, including myself, to the Mike Hammer series.
These collaborative efforts are seamless. As the reader, you cannot tell where Spillane stops and Collins begins and vice versa.
Although controversial in his time for the frank portrayal of sex and violence in his books, Spillane was loved by the public and was one of the most successful authors of the twentieth century.
Hammer is a private eye. He is known for being brutally violent and metes out his own brand of justice. It is not unusual for a trail of bodies to be left in his wake as he defends himself against attacks. The Hammer stories are filled with action from cover to cover and "Lady Go Die" is no exception to this rule.
The overall plot is fairly typical of the kind of hardboiled PI stuff that was put out in the fifties. It involves murder, gambling, corruption, a rich blonde who may have killed a few husbands, and some toughnosed pugs. But, what makes this different from the typical fifties PI novel is that it is Mike Hammer and nobody was tougher than Hammer was. Nobody did a better job of mixing it up than Hammer.
The story begins with Hammer taking a weekend getaway with his secretary, the irrestible Velda, to a small hamlet on Long Island. Without even meaning to, Hammer immediately gets involved in a brawl when he sees a little guy getting the crap beat out of him by three goons. "They were kicking the hell out of the little guy," it begins. "The big guys seemed to be trying for field goals, their squirming prey pulled in on himself like a barefoot fetus in a ragged t-shirt and frayed dungarees," it is explained. Hammer can't just walk by the alley and let the bullies get away with this. He takes a last drag on a cigarette, "slipped out of [his] sportcoat and handed it to [his] raven-haired companion," and sends a right into one goon that "would have broken that nose if there had been enough cartilage left to matter." Hammer smashed him in the back of his neck and send him to the alley floor in a "sprawling belly flop." After rubbing his face in the gravel, Hammer makes mincemeat out of the other two goons. And, this is just the start of Hammer's weekend in the country. Nobody ever wrote action sequences better than Mickey Spillane. And, if you like hardnosed action, this book is your ticket. When the kid being beaten asks Hammer who he is, Hammer deadpans that he is the Lone Ranger and wait til you get a load of Tonto.
This early in the Hammer series Velda is still just his secretary and he hadn't made a pass at her yet, but the sparks are flying whenever she is around. She is described as a "big, beautiful dark-haired doll" with a "lovely fanny." "She looked equipped enough to handle anything" from where Hammer was sitting. Velda, though, is also a licensed PI and carried a .32 in her purse next to her lipstick. But Hammer is fascinated by her: "She was as pretty as anything I had ever seen. Tall, jet black hair, always in that sweeping pageboy that I so admired. Big and beautiful with more curves than a mountain road...." Spillane was definitely a romantic. Hammer and Velda's romance is probably the longest running one in hardboiled fiction.
From beginning to end, this is just a fantastic read. This book most definitely rates five stars or more.