Mon 25 Aug 2008
MICKEY SPILLANE – The Long Wait.
E. P. Dutton, hardcover, 1951. Paperback reprint: Signet 932, May 1952 [plus many subsequent printings].
The Long Wait, Mickey Spillane’s first non-series novel, is the author’s variation on the one-man- against-municipal-corruption theme as found in such novels as Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest. The Mike Hammer-like narrator/hero, whose name is either Johnny McBride or George Wilson (even he isn’t sure), returns to the town of Lyncastle to clear up a robbery-and-murder charge against McBride.
His motive, as usual in Spillane’s work, is revenge: One man is to get his arms broken, and one man is to die. Actually, a lot of people die before the narrator accomplishes his lofty goal, but not before he absorbs more physical abuse than seems even remotely possible.
And speaking frankly of credibility, it must be admitted that The Long Wait contains enough coincidence and enough improbable, even downright incredible, plot devices for four or five books. There is violence galore, too, and a lot of voyeuristic sex (the final scene is a rewrite of the striptease that concludes I, the Jury).
None of this affects the story adversely, however. Typically, Spillane pulls it off. The pacing and the fierce conviction of the narrative voice grab the reader and carry him relentlessly along. Spillane seems to have had a high old time writing The Long Wait, and the reader who is willing to grin, plant his tongue in his cheek, and go along with him is in for a hell of a ride.
Other nonseries books by Spillane with more or less Hammer-like heroes are The Deep (1961) and The Delta Factor (1967). The Erection Set (1972) and The Last Cop Out (1973) are Spillane’s only books with third-person narration.
Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007. Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.