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1: The Mike Hammer Collection, Volume I Paperback – June 1, 2001
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From Publishers Weekly
Mickey Spillane's first three Mike Hammer mysteries I, the Jury; My Gun Is Quick; and Vengeance Is Mine! are collected in The Mike Hammer Collection: Volume 1, with an introduction by Shamus Award-winner Max Allan Collins, who finds "[s]omething personal...at the heart of every Spillane novel." Hammer is a foul-mouthed, violent vigilante and a sucker for beautiful damsels in distress, some of whom pull the wool over his eyes. With his trusty, sexy assistant Velda keeping him honest (sort of), he exacts revenge on racketeers, cheats and murderers.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
"Spillane is a master in compelling you to Always turn the pages."—The New York Times
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I only had a moment before talking to a corpse, but I got it in.
"It was easy," I said.
--from I, The Jury, by Mickey Spillane
Mickey Spillane, 88, died of cancer July 17, 2006 in Murrells Inlet, S.C.. Perhaps one of the world's most famous mystery writers, he specialized in hard-hitting, fast paced novels of revenge, featuring tough as nails protagonists such as his most famous creation, Mike Hammer.
Born Frank Morrison Spillane on March 9, 1918, in Brooklyn, N.Y., he grew up in Elizabeth, NJ. Spillane told of how he concocted ghost stories as a child to distract those intent on giving him a beating. He had sold his first short story to a pulp magazine by his high school graduation in 1935.
He briefly attended college in Kansas and considered studying law before a friend got him a job writing and editing comic books in Manhattan. He served in the Army Air Forces during World War II.
Spillane had a very practical reason for writing his first novel, I the Jury (1947). He and his first wife had purchased several acres of land in Newburgh, N.Y., and he needed the money to build a house on it.
If there ever was a novel that tapped into the American Zeitgeist, it had to be I, the Jury. Written in nine days, the best-seller introduced Spillane's hard-nosed series hero Mike Hammer, whose tough-talking machismo perfectly suited the needs of the postwar "male action" market. Though originally published in hardcover, Spillane's Hammer novels led to the creation of the paperback original when Fawcett, his distributor, established the Gold Medal imprint to satisfy the demand for fiction in the Spillane mold.
A truly iconic character, Hammer is more vigilante than PI. I, the Jury lays down the basic template Spillane would follow thereafter. Mike's marine "buddy" Jack, who lost an arm saving Hammer's life in the Pacific, is sadistically murdered. Hammer sets out to avenge him, skirting the niceties of the law. Nothing more complicated than that.
Per Spillane friend and fan Max Allan Collins,
"Hammer himself, with his vigilante tendencies and willingness to sleep with women, changed the tough guy hero forever. Without Hammer there is no Dirty Harry, certainly no James Bond, and SIN CITY is Frank Miller doing Spillane outright (and not getting called on it, because reviewers today have the sense of history of a gnat)."
Spillane took advantage of the niche he had created with Hammer, penning several sequels over the next five years, including Vengeance Is Mine (1950), My Gun Is Quick (1950), One Lonely Night (1951), The Big Kill (1951) and Kiss Me, Deadly (1952). Hammer subsequently appeared in the novels The Girl Hunters (1962), The Snake (1964), The Twisted Thing (1966), The Body Lovers (1967), Survival Zero (1970), The Killing Man (1989) and Black Alley (1996). The character also appeared in a number of television adaptations and films (Spillane himself played Hammer in the 1963 film adaptation of The Girl Hunters).
In 1964, Spillane created a new series hero, secret agent Tiger Mann, who first appeared in Day of the Guns. The Mann novels, and his non-series books, The Erection Set and The Last Cop Out (1973), were heavily promoted, but not as commercially successful as the first Mike Hammer books.
During this period he was famous to the American television-watching public for his appearance in Miller Lite beer commercials in which he parodied his tough-guy alter ego as a pitchman for the beer, replete with trench coat, a porkpie hat and a buxom blonde he referred to as "doll".
Late in life, he received a career achievement award from the Private Eye Writers of America and was named a grand master by the Mystery Writers of America.
Spillane's obituaries cited numerous stories about his contentious relationship with his critics. One tells of the comment that Anthony Boucher in a review of The Big Kill . Writing in The New York Times, the critic said that novel "may rank as the best Spillane -- which is the faintest praise this department has ever bestowed."
Spillane's success incensed other critics, who sometimes stooped to attacking the author. One reportedly called him "a homicidal paranoiac," and went on to detail Spillane's reputed misogyny.
Spillane took it all in stride, once saying "I pay no attention to those jerks who think they're critics. I don't give a hoot about readin' reviews. What I want to read is the royalty checks."
He also deflected criticism with a wry sense of humor. Early on in his career, he was insulted at a dinner party by "some New York literary guy" who told him it was "disgraceful" that seven of the 10 best-selling books of all time bore Mr. Spillane's name. Spillane retorted, "You're lucky I've only written seven books.""
But Hammer, as anyone familiar with him, knows has a soft spot for his secretary Velda: "She had million-dollar legs, that girl, and she didn't mind showing them off. For a secretary she was an awful distraction. She kept her coal-black hair long in a page-boy cut and wore tight-fitting dresses that made me think of the curves in the Pennsylvannia highway every time I looked at her. Don't get the idea she was easy though. I've seen her give a few punks the brush off the hard way. When it came to quick action she could whip off a shoe and crack a skull before you could bat an eye." What a description! Spillane could write as well as anyone out there and has seldom been given enough credit for his tight, descriptive phrases.
“My Gun Is Quick,” first published in 1950, was the second book in the Mike Hammer series by Mickey Spillane. Spillane explained at the beginning of “My Gun Is Quick” that the Romans used to watch wild animals rip a bunch of humans apart and, although there isn’t a Coliseum any more, the city is a bigger bowl and a man’s claws can be just as sharp and twice as vicious. This story starts with Hammer, barely awake, stopping into a hash house for a “couple of mugs of good black java to bring me around.” The place is a dump with two bums and a drunk seated there and a “fluff sitting off to one side at a table” with “red hair that didn’t come out of a bottle.” Hammer notices that she wasn’t pretty at all, but she once had been. He explains that “there are those things that happen under the skin and are reflected in the eyes and set of the mouth that take all the beauty out of a woman’s face.” He beats up a hood who wanders in with a piece to bother her and then, with a soft spot in his heart, gives her some dough and asks her to get out of the life, open up the classifieds, get a job, and get her life straight. She doesn’t live to see the next day and Hammer isn’t satisfied when told it was a hit-and-run. Hammer has a soft spot for all the people who get ripped apart by life, who have their dreams torn to tiny little bits as each gray day goes on. What’s great about this book isn’t necessarily the plot, which is typical of hardboiled fifties stories, but the great Spillane writing in it. The guys he deals with are “greaseballs.” The women are “dames” or “fluffs.”
“Vengeance Is Mine,” first published in 1950, is the third Mike Hammer book by Mickey Spillane. The title pretty much says it all. Spillane created Hammer as the toughest, most uncompromising private eye that ever existed on the pages of any publication. He is not simply for sale to any client to protect the reputation of the rich client’s two psychotic daughters. Hammer sees injustice and goes out and knocks head to wreak vengeance, particularly where the legal system is too incompetent or corrupt to do what it needs to do on its own. In this particular novel, Spillane takes on a theme that is found in many fifties hardboiled novels, that of a man wrongfully accused of murder and at odds and often on the run from the legal system while trying to solve the crime on his own. Spillane, however, takes this theme and weaves it a little differently from most authors. Hammer, here, goes on a all-night bender with a friend from out of town and, when he wakes up in a hotel room with his friend on the other bed, the friend has a hole in his chest and isn’t going to be out carousing with anyone ever again. Hammer has his license taken away and has to operate sort of outside the system with Pat being his only friend on the force. The theme of a lone man out to do justice when no one else cares rings true here. Everyone officially says it was a suicide, but Hammer can’t buy it and there is a web of corruption and dirty dealing that is unearthed here. What Hammer finds when he scratches the surface of the city is not pretty. Nor are the bodies that keep piling up. All the people who lost their lives because Hammer poked his nose into this business.