A hard-boiled noir novel published by Titan Book 2012, running 241 pages.
In the Mickey Spillane ‘Mike Hammer’ universe, this novel is set to take place between the original Mike Hammer novel “I, The Jury” written in 1947, and “My Gun Is Quick” written in 1950.
Shooting a gun out of a crooked cop’s hand in his own police station with the chief watching… even in a small town like Sidon, that takes balls. So much so that I’m amazed Mike can walk through the front door without turning sideways. But here we are, and Mike Hammer continues to be a champion of the downtrodden, and of a local beachcomber on the receiving end of some ‘enhanced interrogation’ by local cops. This mind you, is Mike on vacation.
Max Allan Collins does a great job of writing this story, published in 2012, as if it were written in the late 1940’s timeline. There is a scene in the novel where Mike is sitting down with his friend Pat, a homicide detective and they are discussing the various aspects of what defines a serial killer. This conversation is written into the story because the writer, of a work in the late 1940’s wouldn’t assume that his readers would know well what a ‘serial killer’ is. It reminded me very much of how Poe had to lay down the various aspects of what a detective is when he wrote the Murders In The Rue Morgue because he couldn’t assume that his readers would know.
Reflecting on this collaboration of Spillane and Collins, I can’t recall if there are references to Mike’s war-time service in this novel. Mickey makes sure to underscore Mike’s ease around violence by referencing his service record fighting the ‘Japs’. The first three novels were written right after the war, with a reader base of veterans who had served.
But Max makes a point of Mike being more introspective of the violence that he needs to employ to meet out justice to those who richly deserve it.
“And Mike – you’re the goddamnedest, most cold-blooded killer I have ever seen in my life. And… you’re good at it.”
I looked down at my hands and suddenly the weight of the .45 under my left shoulder seemed a little too heavy. When I looked up my face was tight.
“I’ve had judges tell me that more than once. I can’t say I liked it.”
He didn’t back off an inch. “Well, tough shinola, sport! Because it happens to be true. I know you. Any time you pull the trigger, you are in the right. The bleeding hearts will never understand people like us. So feel flattered instead of getting touchy about it. I’ve killed people too and never lost sleep over it.”
That was more than I could say.
“Anyway,” he said with an awful casualness, “you’re a killer, not a murderer… and murderers need killing. Somebody has to do it. And I’m electing you.”
Mike is aware that there is a price to pay, and internal toll that all this takes on him. He’s perfectly willing to take that on, and not show that cost to others, and even as others blasely brush it of as a necessary evil… its easy for them, they don’t actually have to do it. Mike is there, and Mike will do it, because that’s how he rolls. But contrary to popular opinion, he doesn’t go looking for it.
But another reason I love reading writing like this…
Bill was one of those medium guys – medium build, medium height, medium weight, with the kind of face they build crowds out of.
C’mon, how can you NOT love a line like that. And this novel is littered with those gems at almost every turn of the page…