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on February 22, 2003
Mickey Spillane wrote detective novels half a century ago. It's well-known that he was not very well-liked by the literary community. There's a veiled derisive reference to one of his stories in one of the later Philip Marlowe novels. Even after all of this time, Spillane still gets little respect.
This is unfortunate, but this collection goes some way towards fixing that I think. The three books presented here are the first three Spillane wrote, published just after World War II, and Max Alan Collins' thoughtful introduction puts them in context so the reader knows what they're looking at. Basically, if you've seen plot twists or devices in other stories that appear here also, it's a good bet that Spillane invented them, and someone else used them (usually while not crediting Spillane himself).
The three books included in this series are I, the Jury (1947), My Gun is Quick (1950) and Vengeance is Mine (also 1950). All three are variations on the same plot, which apparently is a Spillane hallmark. The main character, Mike Hammer, is somehow involved in a murder, knows the victim, and swears revenge on the killer. He then spends most of the book sorting through clues, talking to witnesses, and getting beaten up. There's then a final scene where Hammer has figured out who the killer is, and confronts said killer. The killers never get arrested: Hammer shoots them, so that there's no trial.
The dialog and situations are very dated, and somewhat hackneyed. My wife read one of these books sometime ago, and her observation is very appropriate. Spillane invented the genre, but he's been imitated so much that the original looks a bit cliched.
That being said there are some really amusing cultural indicators here. For instance, while the books were considered scandalous at the time, there are no four-letter words in the text (none are spelled out anyway). There's much breathless necking and so forth, but the sex is actually pretty tame. In the first book, Hammer actually won't have sex with the girl he's romantically involved with because they aren't married yet. The slang is so dated that at times it's unintentionally funny: Hammer and his best friend Captain Pat Chambers call one another kid repeatedly, for instance. Hammer walks around telling everyone that he's going to kill the murderer in a fashion that no one would condone today, and no writer would try to slip past an editor.
I really enjoyed these books, and I would recommend them to anyone interested in detective novels, and noir fiction. They are definitely anachronisms, but they're fun, nonetheless.
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on November 30, 2001
Would you believe that, although I am past the age of 60, I had never gotten around to reading Mickey Spillane until this attractive collection caught my eye? The Mickster honed his craft writing scripts for Fawcett Comics, and Mike Hammer's first incarnation was as a comic character, Mike Danger, but the first Hammer novel is still quite crude. In I, THE JURY Hammer spends way too much print telling everyone how he is going to gun down the perp who offed his old Army buddy, and do it point blank and in cold blood, and that he can get away with it because he has a license to carry a pistol (?!?). There are also subtly wrong word choices that often reminded me of Edward D. Wood, Jr.'s somewhat similar hard-boiled crime novels. And the identity of the killer is obvious long before the famous ending in which Hammer does shoot the unarmed perp point blank in the gut, because there is only one person situated so as to carry out all the crimes Hammer brings home to the villain.
MY GUN IS QUICK is a far better novel in all respects, better written, better plotted, but still has the defect that the identity of the criminal mastermind Hammer seeks is obvious almost from the first, since again only one character in the book could possibly be the guilty party. It also has Hammer, despite the title, badly outdrawn by the bad guy and blasted down.
Spillane hits his stride in VENGEANCE IS MINE. There's a complex plot, started with a murder committed under the very nose of the passed-out-drunk Hammer, and ending with Hammer gunning down the killer in a sequence that is literally twisted on its side compared to the similar sequence in I, THE JURY. The action is integrated by occurring almost entirely during a heavy New York City snowstorm, and the identity of the killer is effectively disguised by having the obvious and apparently only suspect not turning out to be the guilty party. In fact, in a touch we are told Spillane was very proud of, the actual identity of the brutal killer, who should be easy to spot because he is so physically powerful that he can break necks almost instantly with nothing but his bare hands, is concealed from the reader not only until the last line, but literally until the last WORD of the last line! And, no, this word is not a character name!
Probably what made the Spillane novels best sellers in their day is that Hammer is continually meeting impossibly beautiful, impossibly desirable women who want to jump into bed with him (and usually do!) almost the instant they set eyes on him. What is not noticed as often is that Hammer operates with authentic 1950s morality--- if he plans to marry a girl, he doesn't lay a finger on her. In the first novel, Hammer and his "serious" girl friend pretty much have to go sit on mounds of ice to avoid losing control and "doing it" before marriage, an unthinkable happening even to the hard-bitten Hammer!
Coming to this late, as I did, I notice how many touches that have become routine in hardboiled detective fiction must have originated with Hammer. The similarities between Hammer and Andrew Vachss's justifiably paranoid private eye Burke are particularly striking, down to the battered car that conceals a gigantic, superpowerful engine and the gunning-down of unarmed bad guys when the opportunity permits.
As the introduction by Max Allen Collins notes, Spillane has garnered little literary respect or attention over the years. Like most true creators, his real legacy lies in the fact that he redefined a whole genre, and that all private eye novels to follow had to come to terms with his creation.
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on July 24, 2003
Mickey Spillane was a unique writer who imbued his hardboiled mystery novels with an over-the-top grittiness that often toed the line between light-hearted pulp fiction and dime-novel trash. His stalwart hero, Mike Hammer, is the personification of the tough guy detective who is tough simply because he probably can't be anything else.
Several of these other reviewers are quite disturbing in their assumptions: Mickey Spillane invented the hard-boiled detective genre with Mike Hammer? How untrue! Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett are the true grandfathers of the hard-boiled detective story and their literary efforts remain timeless. That being said, Spillane is a colorful writer who warrants reading by rabid fans of the genre.
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on September 25, 2001
I have a B.A. degree in English literature, and I rarely read novels anymore. Being 46 years old and never having read a Spillane novel, I was always interested in his popular works. My father and older brother always read Spillane.
After reading these early works, I was amazed with my total enjoyment of each mystery. The prose improved with each subsequent work. The stories were woven with fantastic charm, wit, and style that can only be attributed to Mickey Spillane. His being a part of the World War II generation added to his distinct writing background/style.
I loved his continuing characters of Mike Hammer (Private Detective), his secretary Velda, and Police Chief, Pat Chambers. I am now "hooked" on Spillane's Mike Hammer novels and cannot wait to read more. BRAVO!!! What fun and exciting reading. Mickey Spillane is an important part of American Pop fiction.
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on July 24, 2001
As a contemporary mystery writer with my debut novel in initial release, I have often heard Mickey Spillane and his Mike Hammer character scoffed at by the writers of today. This collection, containing three early works, shows clearly why Spillane should be respected by authors and mystery fans of our time. Mike Hammer, the ultimate hardboiled American private eye, is a magnificent creation. Spillane's plots move swiftly, and the world of Mike Hammer is created in painstaking, and consistent, detail. Each of the novels in this collection clearly shows why Spillane has had the impact he has had on the mystery genre. He should not be scoffed at when he deserves to be admired. Read this collection, and you will find out why.
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on September 17, 2001
In this first installment of "The Mike Hammer Collection", Mickey Spillane's hero leads us through a trio of fast-paced, hard-hitting and thoroughly enjoyable stories. Each of these contain a rollercoaster of plot twists, a barrage of action sequences along with a ton of girls, who are as dangerous as they are pretty. I personally feel that with his first three Mike Hammer stories Mickey Spillane has created masterpieces.
Well worth buying.
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on October 26, 2001
Nowadays Spillane's descriptions of sex and violence may seem a bit less shocking, but his understanding of the mystery genre is remarkable. The only caveat? The book is a bit too pricey for the casual mystery fan; the anthology should have included 5 novels for each volume. Other than that, it's interesting to see how many famous tough guy characters were influenced by Spillane (Is it just me, or is Moneypenny a direct rip-off of Velda?).
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on August 8, 2001
This is Mickey Spillane at his very best! This master of mystery grabs the reader and doesn't let go. No writers today can weave stories in the way Spillane does. He's truly a great master in American literature. Three stories in one omnibus — what a bargain...
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on March 8, 2003
Very good treatment of what i would describe as the ultimate in hardboiled fiction. The first three novels of Spillane's anti hero keep one reading late into the night. Each novel better than the last. Nice package.
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on October 6, 2014
A great collection of the first three Mike Hammer novels. My first time reading Spillane, and I thoroughly enjoyed each story. I'm already on Volume II.
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