Mike Hammer Creator Mickey Spillane Dies

(NOTE: I met "The Mick" at a Dayton Octoberfest back when he was shillin' for Miller Lite. He was at once gracious and tough as nails. I still have the autographed photo of Mickey Spillane. The infectious grin went on forever.

Mickey finally published his "Mike Danger" detective comic book - actually, it was an excellent, black & white, noirish yet thoroughly up-to-date, graphic novel - in the late '90s. Yes - Da Rev has a copy in pristine condition.

The Mick was Ayn Rand's favorite writer for entertainment, her "guilty pleasure". She admired the strict code of right and wrong of his heroic protagonists.

"I, The Jury" was a breakthrough for the hard-boiled detective genre - from the controversial ending to the original cover art. The controversy? Protagonist Mike Hammer had promised his dying partner he would find and kill "the guy who did this". The killer turned out to be a babe with whom he'd been intimate. He shot her in the gut and watched her die a slow, agonizing death - the way she had watched his partner suffer and croak...)

The Associated Press
Tuesday, July 18, 2006; 12:22 AM

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Mickey Spillane, the macho mystery writer who wowed millions of readers with the shoot-'em-up sex and violence of gumshoe Mike Hammer, died Monday. He was 88... Spillane's wife, Jane, told The (Myrtle Beach) Sun News he had cancer.

As a stylist Spillane was no innovator; the prose was hard-boiled boilerplate. In a typical scene, from "The Big Kill," Hammer slugs a little punk with "pig eyes."

"I snapped the side of the rod across his jaw and laid the flesh open to the bone," Spillane wrote. "I pounded his teeth back into his mouth with the end of the barrel ... and I took my own damn time about kicking him in the face. He smashed into the door and lay there bubbling. So I kicked him again and he stopped bubbling."

Mainstream critics had little use for Spillane, but he got his due in the mystery world, receiving lifetime achievement awards from the Mystery Writers of America and the Private Eye Writers of America.

Spillane, a bearish man who wrote on an old manual Smith Corona, always claimed he didn't care about reviews. He considered himself a "writer" as opposed to an "author," defining a writer as someone whose books sell.

"This is an income-generating job," he told The Associated Press during a 2001 interview. "Fame was never anything to me unless it afforded me a good livelihood." ...

Spillane was born Frank Morrison Spillane on March 9, 1918, in the New York borough of Brooklyn. He grew up in Elizabeth, N.J., and attended Fort Hays State College in Kansas where he was a standout swimmer before beginning his career writing for magazines.

He had always liked police stories _ an uncle was a cop _ and in his pre-Hammer days he created a comic book detective named Mike Danger. At the time, the early 1940s, he was writing for Batman, SubMariner and other comics.

"I wanted to get away from the flying heroes and I had the prototype cop," Spillane said.

Danger never saw print. World War II broke out and Spillane enlisted. When he came home, he needed $1,000 to buy some land and thought novels the best way to go. Within three weeks, he had completed "I, the Jury" and sent it to Dutton. The editors there doubted the writing, but not the market for it; a literary franchise began. His books helped reveal the power of the paperback market ...

Viewed by some as a precursor to Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry, Spillane's Hammer was a loner contemptuous of the "tedious process" of the jury system, choosing instead to enforce the law on his own murderous terms. His novels were attacked for their violence and vigilantism_ one critic said "I, the Jury" belonged in "Gestapo training school" _ but some defended them as the most shameless kind of pleasure...

The Hammer novels had a couple of recurring characters: Pat, the honest, but slow-moving cop, and Velda, Mike's faithful secretary. Like so many women in Hammer's life, Velda was a looker, and burning for love.

"Velda was watching me with the tip of her tongue clenched between her teeth," Spillane wrote in "Vengeance is Mine!", an early Hammer novel.

"There wasn't any kitten-softness about her now. She was big and she was lovely, with the kind of curves that made you want to turn around and have another look. The lush fullness of her lips had tightened into the faintest kind of snarl and her eyes were the carnivorous eyes you could expect to see in the jungle watching you from behind a clump of bushes."

While the Hammer books were set in New York, Spillane was a longtime resident of Murrells Inlet, a coastal community near Myrtle Beach. He moved to South Carolina in 1954 when the area, now jammed with motels and tourist attractions, was still predominantly tobacco and corn fields.

Spillane said he fell in love with the long stretches of deserted beaches when he first saw the area from an airplane.

The writer, who became a Jehovah's Witness in 1951 and helped build the group's Kingdom Hall in Murrells Inlet, spent his time boating and fishing when he wasn't writing. In the 1950s, he also worked as a circus performer, allowing himself to be shot out of a cannon and appearing in the circus film "Ring of Fear."

The home where he lived for 35 years was destroyed by the 135 mph winds of Hurricane Hugo in 1989. Married three times, Spillane was the father of four children.