“The Killing Man” is the twelfth Mike Hammer novel, published only nineteen short years after the eleventh one (“Survival Zero”). Although there are hints that this story takes place in the 1980’s, it feels for the most part like a classic Mike Hammer story and, like every Mike Hammer novel that came before, it is chock full of top-notch writing, vivid descriptions, action sequences unparalleled in detective fiction, and is just plain good fun to read.
It opens with another dark, dreary day in Manhattan – somehow in Hammer books you always feel like there are dark clouds, foggy evenings, trenchcoats, and .45s. The most shocking scene of all occurs when Hammer walks into his office and sees Velda – “her body crumpled up against the wall, half her face a mass of clotted blood that seeped from under her hair.” Hammer, as always, is prepared for action, and when he thinks he sees someone in the inner office, he has to explode and ram “through the door in a blind fury ready to blow somebody into a death full of bloody, flying parts,” but stops “because it had already been done.” As shocking as it is to see Velda, secretary, fiancé, romantic entanglement, on the floor and being rushed to critical care, nothing typifies the hero that Spillane invented more than his exploding through a door ready to rip the evildoer limb from limb and make him suffer. This is not your typical private eye. This is not your down-on-his luck detective who is busy talking his way out of trouble. No, this is Hammer, the avenging angel who is out to smite with fire and brimstone anyone that does him wrong.
Spillane doesn’t spare the reader any of the gory details. Be forewarned. The narrative forcefully describes the “dozen knife slashes” that “had cut open the skin of his face and chest and [the fact that] his clothes were a sodden mass of congealed blood.” The six-inch steel spike positioned “squarely in the middle of the guy’s forehead” is almost an afterthought.
This return to the Hammer saga is just as terrific as any of the earlier Hammer novels from the gut-wrenching scenes with Velda hanging on in the hospital to Hammer’s sparring and foreplay with the blonde assistant district attorney with the “cover-girl face and a body that didn’t just happen.” “You would want to kiss the lusciousness of those full lips until the thought occurred that it might be like putting your tongue on a cold sled runner and never being able to get it off,” Hammer explains. Wow. Another writer would’ve just called her an ice princess and left it at that.
All in all, another fantastic piece of writing sure to entertain anyone looking for good, old-fashioned hardboiled fun.