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Mike Hammer: Lady, Go Die! Hardcover – May 8, 2012
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”Once again, Collins displays his mastery of Spillane’s distinctive two-fisted prose.” - Publishers Weekly
"Collins knows the pistol-packing PI inside and out, and Hammer’s vigilante rage (and gruff way with the ladies) reads authentically." - Booklist
About the Author
Mickey Spillane is the legendary crime writer credited with igniting the explosion of paperback publishing after World War II as a result of the unprecedented success of his Mike Hammer novels. Spillane's novels sold tens of millions of copies - I, The Jury went through more than 60 paperback printings in 1947 alone. In 1995, he was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America. Before his death at the age of 88 in 2006, Spillane chose long-time friend Max Allan Collins to complete his unfinished work and act as his literary executor.
Max Allan Collins is the bestselling, award-winning author of Road to Perdition, the graphic novel that inspired the Oscar-winning movie starring Paul Newman and Tom Hanks, and of the acclaimed Nathan Heller series of historical hardboiled mysteries. Also a filmmaker himself, Collins' films include the documentary Mike Hammer's Mickey Spillane.
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In "Lady, Go Die!", Mike and Velda, his secretary, assistant, and lover, head to the small town of Sidon, a Long Island beach town. Mike interrupts the savage beating of a hapless beach bum by two local detectives, one of whom, Dekkert, is a dirty cop having been kicked off the NY force. Before he knows it, Hammer's code of justice has him knee deep in a mystery involving the death of Sharron Wesley, a former wealthy socialite of dubious background, a high stakes illegal gambling establishment, small town corruption, angry cops, and elements of New York's mob who may or may not sympathize with Mike. Along the way, Mike shuttles bqack and forth to the City to meet with his buddy, Pat Chambers, as well as with many of his less than steller NY contacts.
As Mike peels back the layers of this mystery, he senses they are all related yet somehow they don't seem to fit the usual pattern--is there more than one "perp", are certain elements of the criminal activities unrelated red herrings? Readers familiar with the older writings of Mickey Spillane will smile at his tough guy dialogue and his take-no-guff attitude as his trigger temper begins to take its toll on the bad guys of Sidon. Only when Velda goes missing does Mike ratchet up his desperation enough to find the answers he demands, even if it means taking the town apart piece by piece.
This is the second collaboration I have read of Collins and Spillane, and I admire Max Allan Collins' devotion to maintaining the "voice", stylings, and texture of Mickey Spilane's iconic character--a character that surely begat most of today's justice seekers from Jack Reacher to Dave Roubidoux. Yes, the prose is simpler than we expect today and yes, it is filled with dated, even sexist remarks, yet that is the point of Collins' painstaking devotion to recreating the times and milieu of Mike Hammer. Having grown up reading Mickey Spillane and watching the Mike Hammer Movies and TV shows, I found this an enjoyable, fast, satisfying walk down memory lane.
"Lady Go Die!" is the fifth of the seven Mike Hammer novels that Max Allan Collins completed following Mickey Spillane's demise. Spillane wrote dozens of Mike Hammer novels, starting with "I, The Jury" in 1947. "Lady Go, Die" is chronologically the second Hammer novel, although Spillane never completed it in his lifetime. Collins describes the partial manuscript as one of the most exciting finds in the treasure trove of writings that Spillane did not complete. By completing these manuscripts, Collins has introduced an entirely new generation of readers, including myself, to the Mike Hammer series.
These collaborative efforts are seamless. As the reader, you cannot tell where Spillane stops and Collins begins and vice versa.
Although controversial in his time for the frank portrayal of sex and violence in his books, Spillane was loved by the public and was one of the most successful authors of the twentieth century.
Hammer is a private eye. He is known for being brutally violent and metes out his own brand of justice. It is not unusual for a trail of bodies to be left in his wake as he defends himself against attacks. The Hammer stories are filled with action from cover to cover and "Lady Go Die" is no exception to this rule.
The overall plot is fairly typical of the kind of hardboiled PI stuff that was put out in the fifties. It involves murder, gambling, corruption, a rich blonde who may have killed a few husbands, and some toughnosed pugs. But, what makes this different from the typical fifties PI novel is that it is Mike Hammer and nobody was tougher than Hammer was. Nobody did a better job of mixing it up than Hammer.
The story begins with Hammer taking a weekend getaway with his secretary, the irrestible Velda, to a small hamlet on Long Island. Without even meaning to, Hammer immediately gets involved in a brawl when he sees a little guy getting the crap beat out of him by three goons. "They were kicking the hell out of the little guy," it begins. "The big guys seemed to be trying for field goals, their squirming prey pulled in on himself like a barefoot fetus in a ragged t-shirt and frayed dungarees," it is explained. Hammer can't just walk by the alley and let the bullies get away with this. He takes a last drag on a cigarette, "slipped out of [his] sportcoat and handed it to [his] raven-haired companion," and sends a right into one goon that "would have broken that nose if there had been enough cartilage left to matter." Hammer smashed him in the back of his neck and send him to the alley floor in a "sprawling belly flop." After rubbing his face in the gravel, Hammer makes mincemeat out of the other two goons. And, this is just the start of Hammer's weekend in the country. Nobody ever wrote action sequences better than Mickey Spillane. And, if you like hardnosed action, this book is your ticket. When the kid being beaten asks Hammer who he is, Hammer deadpans that he is the Lone Ranger and wait til you get a load of Tonto.
This early in the Hammer series Velda is still just his secretary and he hadn't made a pass at her yet, but the sparks are flying whenever she is around. She is described as a "big, beautiful dark-haired doll" with a "lovely fanny." "She looked equipped enough to handle anything" from where Hammer was sitting. Velda, though, is also a licensed PI and carried a .32 in her purse next to her lipstick. But Hammer is fascinated by her: "She was as pretty as anything I had ever seen. Tall, jet black hair, always in that sweeping pageboy that I so admired. Big and beautiful with more curves than a mountain road...." Spillane was definitely a romantic. Hammer and Velda's romance is probably the longest running one in hardboiled fiction.
From beginning to end, this is just a fantastic read. This book most definitely rates five stars or more.
Max Allan Collins unveils a previously unseen case for Mickey Spillane’s infamous private eye. It’s unclear exactly how much Collins contributed to Spillane’s original draft, but the result is in the tradition of dark and gritty film noir. Set in the post-WWII period following his debut in I, THE JURY, the Mike Hammer in this novel is in his prime. An anti-hero whose activities one can revel in, he’s the kind of character who doesn’t let rules and regulations obstruct the way to justice. It’s also enjoyable seeing Velda portrayed as an equal to Hammer in terms of deductive skill. Packing her own PI license and loaded gun, she is a fleshed out character in her own right. The romantic tension sizzles in this one. Women may come and go in Hammer’s life, but Velda is something special.
The remaining characters are varied, and the action is expanded to include the seedy underbelly of Manhattan, giving Hammer plenty of angles to figure. There’s a fair amount of misdirection thrown his way, and the killer turns up from a most unexpected corner.
LADY, GO DIE is a bracing read, buoyed by the charm of the central characters, the turns of the plot, and the changes in setting.
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This book was started by Mickey Spillane and finished by Max Allan Collins with Mickey's permission.Read more