He's been slated for his use of sex and violence, condemned for his right-wing politics...  What is it about this guy that critics so loath and Joe Q. Citizen loves?  You, the jury, preside over the case of the most vilified author ever to sell 200 million copies of his books around God's green earth.  With Judge Steve Holland presiding, would the clerk of the court please read out the charges...




Hard-boiled's most extreme stylist or cynical exploiter of Machismo?


Frank Spillane has the unusual distinction of being named twice.  His father, bartender John Joseph Spillane was a Catholic and his son was baptised with the middle name Michael; at the Protestant church of his mother Catherine Anne he was christened Frank Morrison Spillane.  To his father he was always 'Mickey,' and that's the name that stuck and the way his fans have always known him.     FOOTNOTE 1.

     Growing up in Elizabeth, New Jersey, young Mickey showed a flair for sports and telling stories; the latter earned him a little extra money when he began selling yarns soon after graduating high school while the former got him a place at Kansas State Teachers College, albeit briefly.  He was soon back in New York, and in 1939 found work with Funnies, Inc., a comic strip production-line run by Lloyd V. Jacquet who supplied strips, written and drawn in-house, to the majority of the leading comic publishers of the time; Spillane found himself working on characters such as The Human Torch, Sub-Mariner, Captain America, Blue Bolt, Batman, Captain Marvel and Plastic Man for the next few years before seeing war service with the Air Force, training pilots at Greenwood, Mississippi.  He returned to New York in 1946 where he supported himself and new bride Mary Ann Spillane by writing back-up strips like "Jackie the Slick Chick" and "Smarty Pants".

     Using what money he had, Spillane bought a few acres of land near Newburgh, an hour's drive out of New York City, but needed to raise $1000 for materials to build his new home.  He'd been touting around a new comic strip character to publishers: Mike Danger was a tougher version of the "Mike Lancer" detective strip he had penned for Harvey back in 1942.  No one was biting – this was post-war and the heroes who had seen the country through the bad times had no more campaigns to fight and were on the slide.  Rather than waste the concept, Spillane turned Danger into Mike Hammer (named after the local Hammer's Bar and Grill), and pounded out a novel in a matter of days.    FOOTNOTE 2.

     Spillane passed the pages around a few close buddies like Ray and Joe Gill, friends from the Jacquet shop, and Dave Gerrity who lived nearby; the consensus was that it would never sell.  But another friend, Jack McKenna, took the manuscript to publishers E.P. Dutton.  It's said that at Dutton, vice-president John Edmondson took the book to pay back a favour to McKenna, believing that if it bombed, they'd make their money back selling reprint rights to the (then new) paperback reprint market.

     I, the Jury was published in July 1947.


Witnesses for the Prosecution


"I shook the rain from my hat and walked into the room." – Mickey Spillane, I, the Jury.


  • "The dialogue and action leave little to be imagined." – New York Times, 3 August 1947.
  • "Able, if painfully derivative, writing and plotting, in so vicious a glorification of force, cruelty and extra-legal methods that the novel might be made required reading in a Gestapo training school." – Anthony Boucher, San Francisco Chronicle, 3 August 1947.
  • "Lurid action, lurid characters, lurid writing, lurid plot, lurid finish.  Verdict: Lurid" – Saturday Review of Literature, 9 August 1947.
  • "His novel is a shabby and rather nasty little venture from the indefensible logic of its opening scene to the drooling titillation of its final striptease." – James Sandoe, Chicago Sun Book Week, 17 August 1947.


Cross-examination by the Defence


"I said [to John Edmondson at Dutton] 'I'd like to reprint I, the Jury.'  He said, 'Two thousand dollars; send along a contract.'  I said, 'Who the hell has ever heard of Mickey Spillane – let's take a chance.  Five hundred dollars.'  He said, 'A thousand.'  I said, 'Seven-fifty.'  He said, 'Boy, you've got a book."' – Victor Weybright, editor, New American Library, 1958.


To fans, hard-boiled meant the two-fisted tales of gumshoes and G-Men that had appeared in pulps like Dime Detective since the 1920s; to the critics it was still a slowly emerging literature led by Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, both ex-Black Mask writers who had surfaced in hardcover.  The Private Eye was Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe, portrayed on the screen by Humphrey Bogart; film noir had yet to be recognised in America as a style and had only just been thus named in France.  The critics ripped into Spillane's novel, and only a little over half the 7,000 print run sold.

     Mike Hammer was not the wisecracking Bogart.  He did not wisecrack.  He got angry and threatened.  Chandler's novels were relatively bloodless; although he started slowly, Hammer was to average ten killings per novel.  Spillane wasn't a new Chandler.  I, the Jury had echoes of The Maltese Falcon, especially the down-beat ending of the latter where Spade hands Brigid O'Shaughnessy over to the cops, but Spillane wasn't even a new Hammett.  He was a new Carroll John Daly, and Mike Hammer was Race Williams for the post-war audience.

     Williams, like Hammer, laid his cards on the table: "People – especially the police – don't understand me.  And what we don't understand we don't appreciate.  The police look upon me as being so close to the criminal that you can't tell the difference...  Every cop in the great city has my reputation hammered into him as a gun and a killer.  No use to go into detail on that point.  I carry a gun – two of them, for that matter.  As to being a killer, well – I'm not a target, if you get what I mean.  I've killed in my time, and I daresay I'll kill again.  There – let the critics of my methods paste that in their hats."    FOOTNOTE 3.

     "I'm a Private Investigator who doesn't believe in red tape.  I never did object to a little gun play.  I shoot fast and I hit what I shoot at."     FOOTNOTE 4.

     "That's my racket, meet lead with lead, violence with violence, and death with death.  This working on the side of the law may have its advantages, but it has its disadvantages, too.  The law is always looking for evidence; legal evidence, when a few corpses decorating the scenery would be much more effective and certainly quicker."    FOOTNOTE 5.

     It's the same personal code Spillane gave to Mike Hammer.  But ten years had gone by since Daly's hey-day when a Race Williams story could raise the circulation of a magazine by 20-25%.  The War had acclimatised the American public to brutality and, whilst critic Christopher La Farge argues [FOOTNOTE 6] that "Some men were toughened by combat but the huge majority of them came off from the experience with a desire to put that side of war – and the brutal methods self-preservation taught them – as far back in their minds as possible," the notion that danger could be faced and won by force was ingrained, not only in GIs who had fought through hell and survived, but in the wider population who had waited back home, imagining the worst.

Awareness of widespread crime in America was growing and it had none of the glamour of Prohibition era gangsters: the Senate Investigation headed by Estes Kefauver broadcast on television in 1950-51 revealed that organised crime formed a shadow government with its own laws, business practises and law enforcement (Murder, Inc.) that would require new legislation to combat.

     Juvenile delinquency was on the rise; one spark that really lit a flame was the invasion of Hollister, California, on July 4th, 1947, by 4,000 motorcyclists: a small number of arrests led to a riot in which the police station was attacked, the main thoroughfare was blocked off and turned into a dragstrip, and it took State Police intervention to diffuse the situation.  It made headline news nationwide and it showed America how powerless the legal system was against these thuggish outlaws, a large mobile force who could descend on any town they chose.  Maybe your town was next.

     Mickey Spillane gave readers a hero for those troubled times when the law seemed unable to cope, one who did not act with frustrating slowness or sit around simply debating the problem: meet violence with violence, and when the bad guy is down, kick him in the teeth.  If Hammett (in Chandler's words) gave murder back to the people who committed it, Spillane offered a sword of justice to people who dreamed of vengeance but felt powerless.  Hammer was a fantasy.

     Nowhere else in fiction will you find a character who so openly reveals his hand as Mike Hammer: in the opening two pages of I, the Jury, Hammer is confronted with the body of his closest friend and, looking down at the corpse, knowing that the killer had cold-bloodedly tormented his friend as he lay dying, he swears an oath that he will find and wipe out his murderer.  "He won't sit on the chair.  He won't hang.  He will die exactly as you died, with a .45 slug in the gut, just a little below the belly button.  No matter who it is, Jack, I'll get the one.  Remember, no matter who it is, I promise."

     As he makes this vow, Mike Hammer is still a cipher to his readers, the "I" of the title – he is his readers.  We have no idea who this first person narrator is, only that he seems to command respect from the police the moment he walks in the room; he is kind, thinking first to offer some words of comfort to the girl crying her heart out on the studio couch, but focused.  Pat Chambers tells us its a nasty wound but we look anyway without feeling nauseous; we calmly examine the room, smartly summarise what has happened, and coldly tell the police that their system will not serve our needs, that we will take the law into our own hands:

     "You're a cop, Pat.  You're tied down by rules and regulations.  There's someone over you.  I'm alone.  I can slap someone in the puss and they can't do a damn thing.  No one can kick me out of my job.  Maybe there's nobody to put up a huge fuss if I get gunned down, but then I still have a private cop's licence with the privilege to pack a rod, and they're afraid of me.  I hate hard, Pat.  When I latch on to the one behind this they're going to wish they hadn't started it.  Some day, before long, I'm going to have my rod in my mitt and the killer in front of me. I'm going to watch the killer's face.  I'm going to plunk one right in his gut, and when he's dying on the floor I may kick his teeth out."   FOOTNOTE 7

     Hammer speaks with control over his emotions, directly and forcibly, as we would all like to.  And what makes Mickey Spillane a page-turner is not whether Mike Hammer will shoot the killer in the guts – that was his mission statement and even in those few pages you know he'll do it – but will he follow through?  Will he really kick the killer's teeth out as he lays there, dying?


Witnesses for the Prosecution


"I picked a paperback off the table and made a pretence of reading it.  It was about some private eye whose idea of a hot scene was a dead, naked woman hanging from the shower rail with the marks of torture on her...  I threw the paperback into the wastebasket, not having a garbage can handy at the moment." - Raymond Chandler, Playback.


In one novel alone – Vengeance is Mine – Spillane is guilty of:

  • Blasphemy - the title.
  • Racism - "If we had both been in the jungle and some slimy Jap had picked him off I would have rammed the butt of a rifle down the brown bastard's throat for it." (p28)
  • Violence - "I leaned back against the wall and kicked out and up with a slashing toe that nearly tore him in half.  He tried to scream. All I heard was a bubbling sound.  The billy hit the floor and he doubled over, hands clawing at his groin.  This time I measured it right.  I took a short half-step and kicked his face in." (p60)
  • Casual violence to women - "I reached up and smacked her across the mouth as hard as I could.  Her head rocked, but she still stood there, and now her eyes were more vicious than ever.  "Still want me to make you?"  "Make me," she said. (p50)
  • Homophobia - "There was a pansy down at the end of the bar trying to make a guy who was too drunk to notice and was about to give it up as a bad job.  I got a smile from the guy and he came close to getting knocked on his neck.  The bartender was one of them, too, and he looked put out because I came in with a dame." (p86)
  • Sexism - All women want Mike Hammer: Juno Reeves ("Make it up to me now"), Connie Wales ("Make me"), the secretary/mistress of a businessman ("She danced close enough to almost get behind me and had a hell of an annoying habit of sticking her tongue out to touch the tip of my ear"), Marion Lester ("I hope next time it's under more pleasant circumstances").


Cross-examination by the Defence


"There was a time when wild, gory scenes of violence were stock items in a story or script. I certainly went all out myself when that was the trend." - Mickey Spillane, TV Guide, 1961.


Individual scenes are difficult to defend, if indeed they are defendable.  The violence and sexual magnetism are part of the Mike Hammer power fantasy.  Hammer's racism (especially against the then recently defeated Japanese) and homophobia simply reflected American society of the time; and since Hammer is, in the eyes of his critics, a testosterone-driven he man, his rejection of homosexual advances is at least in character.

     Physically, Mike Hammer is a six-foot New Yorker, 190 pounds, not especially good-looking.  He can rough house it with the best, take a licking and hand one out.  If he needs it, his .45 can be in his hand faster than you can blink.  He fights for the underdog, and sometimes that's himself. He makes promises and he keeps them. He is a loyal friend.

     Hammer is, however, the archetypal homme fatale.  Women fall for him in a moment, attracted to, and turned on by, his toughness. Hammer, in his own way, places them on pedestals: Charlotte Manning in I, the Jury, Juno Reeves in Vengeance is Mine, and others, have lit Hammer's heart and soul.  The women he feels he has fallen in love with, he rejects sexually, asking them to wait: he tends to have opportunistic sex with call girls and nymphomaniacs who plead with him to stay overnight.  Ultimately, Hammer is in love with his secretary, the curvaceous Velda with her long dark hair kept in a page-boy cut, but "I never made a pass at her.  Not that I didn't want to, but it would be striking too close to home." [FOOTNOTE 8]   She is Hammer's equal – she holds a private investigator's license and isn't afraid to use the .32 automatic she carries.

     Being a friend to Mike Hammer is a dangerous business: we tend to meet his best friends over their corpses, and even police officer Pat Chambers was put on Spillane's earth to occasionally pull his pal out of the fire, but mostly to do his legwork and remind him (and the reader) why Mike has to operate outside the law.

     Hammer is only able to forge lasting relationships with ex-Army veterans, those he fought alongside, like Jury's Jack Williams, or casual acquaintances like Vengeance's Chester Wheeler.  The only thing we learn about Hammer's past is that he fought "in the muck and the slime of the jungle, there in the stink that hung over the beaches rising from the bodies of the dead, there in the half-light of too many dusks and dawns laced together with the criss-crossed patterns of bullets," and it has so traumatised him that "I had gotten a taste of death and found it palatable to the extent that I could never again eat the fruits of normal civilization."    FOOTNOTE 9

     This is Hammer's dilemma and the cause of much interior monologue: although he fights for the forces of right, he has to keep himself a man apart because he does not want to taint the few good things in his life.  This is especially noticeable in One Lonely Night where Hammer becomes almost suicidal: "I was looking at myself the same way those people did back there.  I was looking at a big guy with an ugly reputation, a guy who had no earthly reason for existing in a decent, normal society."    FOOTNOTE 10

     At the end of the book, Hammer finds his answer: "I lived to kill because my soul was a hardened thing that revelled in the thought of taking the blood of the bastards who made murder their business.  I lived because I could laugh it off and others couldn't.  I was the evil that opposed other evil, leaving the good and the meek in the middle to live and inherit the earth!"    FOOTNOTE 11

     The biblical imagery, which peaks in the line "I lived to kill so that others could live," infuriated Spillane's critics even more; this was his answer to their constant sniping at Hammer's sadistic motives.  Mike is, literally, the Hammer of God.


Witnesses for the Prosecution


"They can't kill me. I still got potential." - Mickey Spillane, 1984.


  • "As ammunition for the various bodies crying for the suppression or control of crime writing, this new Spillane novel could hardly be surpassed; as a detective story, it is in inferior to his I, the Jury in plot (which is both strained and obvious) and writing (which often approaches parody), but fully equal to it in its attempt to see how far uncensored publishing can go." - Anthony Boucher, New York Times, 12 February 1950, reviewing My Gun is Quick.
  • "The mixture even more repellent than before...  As rife with sexuality and sadism as any of his novels, based on a complete misunderstanding of law and on the wildest coincidence in detective fiction, it still can boast the absence of the hypocritical 'crusading' sentiments of Mike Hammer.  For that reason, and for some slight ingenuity in its denouement, it may rank as the best Spillane – which is the faintest praise this department has ever bestowed." - Anthony Boucher, New York Times, 5 August 1951, reviewing The Big Kill.


Cross-examination by the Defence


"I don't care what they say about me, as long as they don't rip up my dollar bills." - Mickey Spillane.


Critics were given a voice in both the D.A. in Vengeance is Mine ("You let yourself get out of hand once too often...it's my opinion that the city is better off without you") and the Judge in One Lonely Night ("Goddamn, he wouldn't let me alone! He went on and on cutting me down until I was nothing but scum in the gutter").  Neither were sympathetically drawn characters.

     Spillane's style was often the target of critics, who typically found his writing painfully bad.  Certainly he had none of the eloquence of Raymond Chandler, but who did?  "I'm not an author, I'm a writer," Spillane told Julie Baumgold in an Esquire interview FOOTNOTE 12.  "I can write a book in a few weeks, never rewrite, never read galleys.  Bad reviews don't matter."  Elsewhere, he has said, "I'm writing for the public.  An author would never do that.  They write one book, they think they're set.  I'll tell you when you're a good writer.  When you're successful.  I'd write like Thomas Wolfe if I thought it would sell."    FOOTNOTE 13

     His writing was stylish enough for Anthony Boucher, one of Spillane's harshest critics, to comment that the release of Kiss Me, Deadly "Comes almost as a relief after the interim flood of Spillane imitators. Chief difference, I think, is that Spillane really believes (God help him) in what he's writing, while the imitators are just trying to turn a fast buck."    FOOTNOTE 14

     Spillane's writing style is best described as hard-boiled easy reading in which the text was written to make the reader want to turn the pages; Spillane drops in the very occasional literary or mythological allusion, but for the most part sticks to driving the plot along efficiently from problem to solution, occasionally having Mike reflect on the case so that nobody forgets the plot.  He sticks to the well-rehearsed puzzle formula: the murder in the opening chapter is solved in the final chapter, but rather than gathering the suspects, it's a one-on-one meeting between Mike and the villain he needs to smite.

     It has always been presumed that Spillane's audience was mostly male since there are no statistics available to say who was buying his books, but to say they only sold to "horny ex-GIs looking for a hot read" [FOOTNOTE 15] is a simplification: he was, for instance, Ann Rand's favourite novelist because Hammer "meets out justice immediately, lethally and illegally"; Janis Joplin read his novels; his fan base ranged from school campuses to the Supreme Court.

     It was the paperback buying audience that put Spillane on the map.  In hardcover, he made a reasonable impact, selling 25,000 copies of his first six novels; Kiss Me, Deadly, released in 1952, sold an astonishing 75,000 copies and found its way onto the best-seller lists of the New York Herald Tribune and the New York Times.  In paperback, Signet Books (a division of New American Library) had already sold 15 million copies by then, doubled that figure by 1958 (during which time no new Spillane titles had appeared) and were piling on two million sales a year.  The substantial printings produced by Corgi in the UK in the early 1960s helped worldwide sales leap to 70 million (half of them in the USA).  By 1988 that figure had nearly doubled again at 130 million; nowadays the quoted figure tends to be around the 200 million mark.

     Statistically, Spillane was a phenomenon in a class of his own: his first seven novels still rank in the top fifteen sellers of the past fifty years.  At one point, when they were all in the top ten, Spillane joked that it was a good thing he hadn't written three more.

     He is the fifth most translated author in the world behind Lenin, Tolstoy, Gorki and Jules Verne.  "I have no fans," he told Art Harris of the Washington Post [FOOTNOTE 16]   "You know what I got?  Customers."

     His ability to draw his customers back book-after-book speaks volumes about his abilities, proving that he has a natural talent for writing to a market.  But, more than that, his work is translated all over the world and audiences other than "horny GIs" lap up his novels: his influence can be seen in the work of Dutch author Jan Cremer, Swedish novelist Lars Goerling and even Kenyan Meja Mwangi.  The "Sons of Spillane" are a recognisable breed who followed in Hammer's heavy-treading, gut-kicking footsteps.

     Even the critics started to soften to Spillane's smack-in-the-face style when he returned to writing novels in the 1960s, and even more-so in the 1990s when he was welcomed back like an old friend who had been away too long.  His 1979 children's novel The Day the Sea Rolled Back won a Junior Literary Guild Award.  The notion that he wrote tough because that's all he was capable of, that he lacks intelligence and cynically exploits his audience (ignore the contradiction) are unproven.  His only tip of the hat to marketing has been to give the audience what they want.


Witness for the Prosecution


"I had one good, efficient, enjoyable way of getting rid of cancerous Commies.  I killed them." - Mickey Spillane, One Lonely Night.


"Mike Hammer is the logical conclusion, almost a sort of brutal apotheosis, of McCarthyism; when things seem wrong, let one man cure the wrong by whatever means he, as a privileged saviour, chooses... he operates, as has Senator McCarthy, on the final philosophy that the end can justify the means; in this Hammerism and McCarthyism are similar." - Christopher La Farge, "Mickey Spillane and His Bloody Hammer", The Saturday Review, 1954.


Cross-examination by the Defence


"There is no shame in killing a killer.  David did it when he knocked off Goliath.  Saul did it when he slew his tens of thousands.  There's no shame to killing an evil thing." - Mickey Spillane, One Lonely Night.


Hammer is a more complex character than many give him credit for and the notion that Hammer is Spillane and Spillane is Hammer has been given credence because Spillane has so often played the role of his creation, on book covers, in films, on adverts and in interviews.

     Spillane himself has been described as "a moral, quietly religious person," [FOOTNOTE 17] who became a Jehovah's Witness in 1951; it was rumoured that he quit writing in 1952 because his religious beliefs no longer allowed him to pen the sex and violence he was famous for.  His editor, Victor Weybright, believed he had a psychological block; he and others felt that the criticism of his work had finally taken its toll.

     In fact, Spillane had not quit writing at all, providing magazines and comics with a slow but steady output of stories and articles, acting on a record and working on film scripts over the next few years.  The enormous success of Kiss Me, Deadly allowed him to sit back and take a break from the character who had taken over his life.  During his break, he moved from Newburgh to a beach home on Murrells Inlet in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where he indulged himself stock car racing, diving and generally enjoying the comforts of wealth.

     But before that, Spillane had penned two of his most famous books, One Lonely Night and Kiss Me, Deadly, which rounded out the first phase of Mike Hammer's life.  The Big Kill (the fifth Hammer novel) was a more atypical revenge story, and Spillane had even experimented with a second character in The Long Wait, which featured Johnny McBride in a yarn about amnesia and vengeance, although McBride was summarily dismissed by critics as Hammer under another name.

     One Lonely Night was the novel that earned – or confirmed in many eyes – Spillane his reputation as a right-wing fanatic.  The character of Mike Hammer raised the notion from his very first appearance: Would a nation give its problems over to one man to be solved?  Part of Hammer's attraction was, after all, that one man could – by force and determination – make a difference and this one-man army was more effective than the combined strength of the police force at solving crime.

     Perhaps the concept of Hammer as God's Tool was too uncomfortable.  Instead, critics turned him into a witch-hunting McCarthyite, out to destroy godless Commies by any means possible, burning to death those he can't machine gun down.  The book seems an implicit political statement from Spillane... except that Hammer's actions are so over the top that they read like a parody, and the fanatical anti-Communist Joe McCarthy figure, here named Lee Deamer, turns out to be the real Russian agent sent to steal government plans.  The snake in the grass.  The danger that lurks within.

     People who are not what they seem is a favourite theme for Hammer novels: Charlotte Manning, the psychiatrist, turns out to be the psycho; businessman Arthur Berin-Grotin's business turns out to be prostitution; Juno Reeves turns out to be a man!; actress Marsha Lee is not who she seems; nor is Lily Carver.  Even the straightforward murder-revenge motivation that draws Mike Hammer into a situation masks a bigger plot, be it blackmail, destroying Communist cells, or chasing Mafia heroin.

     Hammer is always working to a deadline (an apt phrase remembering his regular shoot out finales) and under duress, usually from authority who have taken away his license or have an APB out for his arrest for murder.  If Mike wasn't in immediate danger, Velda would be.  This simplifies motivation but does not remove all complexities.  Hammer is eternally tortured by his memories of shooting Charlotte Manning that resurface in dreams and sometimes in the faces of those he finds intimacy with.  The ongoing almost-romance between Hammer and Velda develops slowly over a number of titles until, in The Girl Hunters, it seems that he has left it too late.  After a ten year hiatus, Spillane returned to Mike Hammer and, as Collins and Taylor put it, "the themes of the first six Hammer stories are resolved in a satisfying manner rare to series fiction." [FOOTNOTE 18]  Even Anthony Boucher now recognised the "genuine vigour and conviction lacking in his imitators." [FOOTNOTE 19]  "For almost twenty years I have been one of the leaders in the attacks on Spillane; but of late I begin to wonder whether we reviewers, understandably offended by Spillane's excesses of brutality and his outrageously antidemocratic doctrines, may not have underestimated his virtues."    FOOTNOTE 20.


Judge's Summing Up


The majority of Mickey Spillane's novels were produced in two distinct periods: 1947-52 and 1961-73, with the occasional brief resurgence; the latest two Hammer novels were published in 1989 and 1996.  Although his later books have sold nowhere near as many copies as the first seven, they have been more welcomed by reviewers, who – late in the day – have noticed the narrative grip Spillane can hold and saw him prove his ability to alter his style for a different market in his two children's novels.

     That said, his latest Hammer yarns have been described as limp, "softened with time" and the stories tread familiar territory, especially Black Alley which even begins with the murder of another army buddy.

     Does this imply an inability to dream up new plots for an outmoded hero past his sell-by date, or a continuing tradition to give his readers what they want?  Has Hammer's machismo grown tired through Spillane's own writings or have his followers dulled the readers to tough-guy heroics?  In retrospect, should we consider Spillane a unique stylist in the hard-boiled genre or a cynical exploiter of sex and violence to market his novels?

     That, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is for you to decide.  You may now retire to consider your verdict.




With thanks to expert witness Denny Lien.

[1]  Biographical details are mostly derived from One Lonely Knight: Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer by Max Allan Collins & James L. Taylor, Bowling Green, OH, Popular Press, 1984, "Night of the Guns" by Lynn F. Meyers Jr., Paperback Parade #46, Aug 1996, and Contemporary Authors.  Since the publication of the former, all biographical features about Spillane must begin with the 'named twice' sequence or the writer will have his authors license revoked.

[2]  A feature in Life magazine in 1952 said he'd taken 19 days to write his first novel, although in his article "Night of the Guns", op cit, p68) Lynn Myers relates that Spillane later claimed it took only nine days.

[3]  Carroll John Daly, The Hidden Hand (serialised in Black Mask, Jun-Oct 1928), New York, Clode, 1929 (HarperCollins, 1992, p[1]-2).

[4]  Carroll John Daly, Murder From the East (serialised in Black Mask, May-Jun, Aug 1934), New York, Clode, Stokes, 1935 (International Polygonics, 1978, p8).

[5]  Carroll John Daly, "The Death Drop", in Black Mask, May 1933 (quoted in Yesterday's Faces Volume 4: The Solvers by Robert Sampson, Ohio, Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1987, p201).

[6]  Christopher La Farge, "Mickey Spillane and His Bloody Hammer", The Saturday Review, 6 November 1954.

[7]  Spillane, I, the Jury (Corgi, 1967 printing, p9-10).

[8]  Spillane, ibid (p14).

[9]  Spillane, One Lonely Night (Corgi, 1970 printing, p8).

[10]  Spillane, ibid (p9).

[11]  Spillane, ibid (p148).

[12]  Spillane, interview by Julie Baumgold, Esquire, August 1995 (quoted in Contemporary Authors).

[13]  Spillane, interview by Margaret Kirk, Chicago Tribune, [?18 Apr 1986] (quoted in Contemporary Authors).

[14]  Anthony Boucher, review, New York Times, 26 Oct 1952.

[15]  Collins & Taylor, op cit, p7.

[16]  Spillane, interview by Art Harris, Washington Post, 24 October 1984 (quoted in Contemporary Authors).

[17]  Collins & Taylor, op cit, p7.

[18]  Collins & Taylor, op cit, p87.

[19]  Anthony Boucher, New York Times Review of Books, 14 October 1962.

[20]  Anthony Boucher, New York Times Review of Books, 27 February 1966.



  The Mike Hammer Novels

I, the Jury. New York, Dutton, Jul 1947; London, Barker, 1952.

My Gun Is Quick. New York, Dutton, Feb 1950; London, Barker, 1951.

Vengeance Is Mine. New York, Dutton, 1950; London, Barker, 1951.

One Lonely Night. New York, Dutton, 1951; London, Barker, 1952.

The Big Kill. New York, Dutton, Aug 1951; London, Barker, 1952.

Kiss Me, Deadly. New York, Dutton, Oct 1952; London, Barker, 1953.

The Girl Hunters. New York, Dutton, 1962; London, Barker, 1962.

The Snake. New York, Dutton, 1964; London, Barker, 1964.

The Twisted Thing. New York, Dutton, 1966; London, Barker, 1966.

The Body Lovers. New York, Dutton, 1967; London, Barker, 1967.

Survival...Zero!. New York, Dutton, 1970; London, Corgi, 1970.

The Killing Man. New York, Dutton, 1989; London, William Heinemann, 1990.

Black Alley. New York, Dutton, 1996.


  Other Novels by Spillane

The Long Wait. New York, Dutton, 1951; London, Barker, 1953.

The Deep. New York, Dutton, 1961; London, Barker, 1961.

The Day of the Guns (Mann). New York, Dutton, 1964; London, Barker, 1965.

Bloody Sunrise (Mann). New York, Dutton, 1965; London, Barker, 1965.

The Death Dealers (Mann). New York, Dutton, 1965; London, Barker, 1966.

The By-Pass Control (Mann). New York, Dutton, 1966; London, Barker, 1967.

The Delta Factor. New York, Dutton, 1969; London, Corgi, 1969.

The Erection Set. New York, Dutton, 1972; London, W.H. Allen, 1972.

The Last Cop Out. New York, Dutton, 1973; London, W.H. Allen, 1973.

The Day the Sea Rolled Back (for children). New York, Dutton, 1979; London, Methuen, 1980.

The Ship That Never Was (for children). New York, Bantam, 1982.

Something's Down There. New York, Simon & Schuster, 2003; London, Robert Hale, 2004.


  Short Story Collections

Me, Hood!. London, Corgi, 1963.

Return of the Hood. London, Corgi, 1964.

The Flier. London, Corgi, 1964.

Killer Mine. London, Corgi, 1965; New York, Signet, 1968.

Me, Hood!. New York, Signet, 1969.

The Tough Guys. New York, Signet, 1969.

Tomorrow I Die, edited by Max Allan Collins. New York, Mysterious Press, 1984.

Together We Kill, edited by Max Allan Collins. Waterville, ME, Five Star, 2001.

Primal Spillane: Early Stories 1941-1942, edited by Max Allan Collins. Brooklyn, NY, Gryphon Books, 2004.

Byline: Mickey Spillane, edited by Max Allan Collins & Lynn F. Myers, Jr. Norfolk, VA, Crippen & Landru Publishers, 2004.



© Steve Holland 2006.  First appeared in Crime Time 2.6, December 1999.              

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