One Lonely Night Mass Market Paperback – Jan 1 1981
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About the Author
Born Frank Morrison Spillane in Brooklyn, New York City, Mickey Spillane started writing while at high school. During the Second World War, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps and became a fighter pilot and instructor. After the war, he moved to South Carolina. He was married three times, the third time to Jane Rogers Johnson, and had four children and two stepchildren. He wrote his first novel, I, the Jury (1947), in order to raise the money to buy a house for himself and his first wife, Mary Ann Pearce. The novel sold six and a half million copies in the United States, and introduced Spillane's most famous character, the hardboiled PI Mike Hammer. The many novels that followed became instant bestsellers, until in 1980 the US all-time fiction bestseller list of fifteen titles boasted seven by Mickey Spillane. More than 225 million copies of his books have sold internationally. He was uniformly disliked by critics, owing to the high content of sex and violence in his books. However, he was later praised by American mystery writers Max Alan Collins and William L. DeAndrea, as well as artist Markus Lupertz. The novelist Ayn Rand, a friend of Spillane's, appreciated the black-and-white morality of his books. Spillane was an active Jehovah's Witness. He died in 2006.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
BTW, the "MVD" that Spillane constantly refers to is the Soviet Secret Police, this organization has been called the "CHECKA", "NKVD", and "SMERSH". Or to put it more international terms, its the USSR equivilent of the GESTAPO.
It's all suspense and tough as nails action on the part of Mike after that. What's interesting is how much of the political talk, rants against the people in political office, is the same talk we hear today. Indeed, given the debate about politics today this book could be as relevent today as in 1951 in that regard.
Mike is also throughout the book considering the judge's words. Is he a murderer as evil as any other? I'm not giving any of the story away by saying that by the end of the book he determines he is...and that's OK for he has one difference, he kills only bad guys. Yes, he likes it, but there you go.
Tough as nails.
The book opens with Spillane's patented spare prose that has Hammer walking on a lonely bridge after a judge tore into him for doing what organized law enforcement could not: putting an end to murderous scum. Hammer is quite introspective here, noting that the judge called him a murderer even though what should Hammer have done "when the bastard had a rod in his hand and it was pointing right at my gut."
Hammer sees a hysterical woman fall to pieces in front of him and a murderous thug on her heels. But, Hammer is a valiant white knight and "nobody has the right to scare the daylights out of any woman. Not like this." When the thug fingers a piece, Hammer lets him have it and the girl jumps off the bridge. One walk on a bridge = two bodies.
Hammer gets curious about the green cards the thug was carrying and is soon embroiled in infiltrating the Communist party and it's connections to Soviet secret service. This book was Hammer's first foray into something bigger than just a dirty murder to protect a gambling or call girl syndicate. Spillane does an excellent job of showcasing the secret meetings, secret identity cards, and the well-meaning Americans duped into believing that the Communist Party was the path to Eden, the Communist Party that at that time paid homage to Joseph Stalin, one of the most bloodthirsty tyrants in history.
This is without question first and foremost a detective novel and a truly top-notch detective novel at that. Spillane wrote better than most other authors could dream of.
It is also part and parcel of a tender love story between Hammer and Velda, although even now Hammer cannot resist temptation. "The eyes swept from her black pumps to legs and body and shoulders that were almost too good to be real." And, when someone messes with Velda: "A .45 can make an awful nasty sound in a quiet room when you pull the hammer back. It's just a tiny little click, but it can stop a dozen guys when they hear it. Weasel Face couldn't take his eyes off it. I let him have a good look and smashed it across his nose." No one else has ever written about this kind of explosion of violence, not written about it this well.
Of course, it wouldn't be a Hammer story without a dame, including one that kicks off the only thing she's wearing, her shoes, and sinks to the softness of the bearskin rug, "a beautiful naked creature of soft round flesh and lustrous hair that changed color with each leap of the vivid red flame behind her."
With this fourth Hammer book, Spillane somehow managed to continue the high quality work that epitomizes this series. Highly recommended.
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.