Wednesday, November 12, 2003

The Mike Hammer Collection, Volume 1: I, the Jury; My Gun is Quick; Vengeance is Mine!, by Mickey Spillane, with an introduction by Max Allan Collins

It's funny to me that my only early exposures to Mickey Spillane were the sanitized Mike Hammer TV series that ran in the '80's and those "Tastes Great, Less Filling" commercials for Miller Lite that ran about the same time. By Hecate, the Eighties were weird. Since then, of course, I've seen the noir oddball classic Kiss Me Deadly, but the film is almost peripherally a Hammer story and failed to intrigue me about him.

Now that I've finally gotten around to reading these novels, I feel like I finally understand the meaning of "pulp." These are quick and dirty reads, and have the feel of quick and dirty writing. And they're good. They move fast, they're well plotted (although after reading three in a row, certain patterns become clear), and the dialogue and characterization are sharp and mean. Vigilante justice is alive and well in Hammer's world, and it's easy to see echoes of him in characters from Dirty Harry to The Punisher. The cops, in particulary his pal Captain Pat Chambers, alternate between standing in his way and abetting his crusades on the sly. Mike's appeal to the WWII vets who made him an icon is easy to see. He's what every man's man imagines himself as: hard, smart, loyal, wronged by the world, irresistible to dames and the last man you'd want as an enemy. At times it's a bit much, but Spillane's tough-guy stylings have a lot of charm--he's no Raymond Chandler, but he can string a sentence together. When I get my hands on the next omnibus edition I probably won't read the books back-to-back, but I'll read them.


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