One Lonely Night is a Political Correctness horror show. Start with protagonist Mike Hammer, author Mickey Spillane's series detective, who is a hard-drinking, chain-smoking (Lucky Strikes in all their unfiltered glory), gun-totting, womanizing force of male chauvinist nature (my favorite episode: Hammer's leather-belt-on-bare-ass chastisement of a young lady for perceived lapses in political judgement).
In my review of Spillane's first Hammer book, I the Jury, I marveled at the sheer over-the-topness of the narrative. Well, that was tame by comparison. The Hammer of I the Jury, as well as its first two sequels My Gun Is Quick and Vengeance Is Mine (see a pattern here?), was a somewhat restrained figure who at least focused his attentions on vicious low-lives. In One Lonely Night, attention shifts to politics where Hammer's vigilante approach to problem solving opens up a whole new set of philosophical problems about how a free society remains free while also dealing with enemies who use those freedoms to subvert them. Hammer's solution is to kill 'em all, legalities be damned, and the sooner the better. Well...
Penned at the height of the "Red Scare" of the early 1950s (it was published in early 1951 just as the Rosenberg trial was getting underway and Sen. Joe McCarthy's star was just beginning to ascend), One Lonely Night features a cavalcade of crudely stereotyped Communists for Hammer to deal with. At one point, the preternaturally evil Commies string Hammer's buxom secretary and pure-as-the-driven-snow love interest Velda up by her wrists—buck naked, of course—and proceed to torture her (for some reason, naked women and violence seem ever to converge in Hammer's life). Now I ask you, how would any sane man react to something like that?
No need to ask that here because Hammer is not a sane man by any accepted definition. In fact, judging from his first person narration, he is a psychopath pure and simple. As a reader I found myself fascinated by the mixture of self-pity and self-righteousness that is the Hammer id. This is amplified by Spillane's prose, which has really blossomed since the fairly crude stylings of the first three books. The picture of persecuted loneliness, accentuated by a setting of New York in bleak wintertime, is amazingly riveting. There are passages of real poetic beauty here.
Meanwhile, the plot as such is somewhat convoluted and winds up in an unholy mess of implausibility. No matter. As with most books in the hard boiled detective genre (Raymond Chandler, for example), plot is very secondary to character, style, atmosphere and dialogue. Yes, I would like something a little more believable but it's not a deal breaker
If you like hard boiled fiction at its rawest and are not overly bothered by a cavalier attitude to the rule of law or constitutional niceties, Spillane's Hammer books are a great read.