MICKEY SPILLANE – Kiss Me, Deadly. Mike Hammer #6. Dutton, hardcover, 1952. Signet #1000, paperback, 1953. Reprinted many times.

   So, yeah, this is my third crack at Mike Hammer (previously having read I, the Jury and One Lonely Night). I was a big fan of the Stacy Keach TV show Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer in the 80’s. Which I think may be part of the reason why I keep trying to enjoy the books — results be damned.

   In this yarn, Mike Hammer finds himself cruising down the highway between Albany and Manhattan when an escapee from the loony bin leaps in front of his coupe wearing only an overcoat. He picks her up. Shenanigans ensue.

   They get rolled by the mafia, literally rolled off a cliff, and Hammer gets framed for the lady’s murder.

   Turns out the lady he picked up was the moll of a that guy bilked the mafia out of $2 million bucks worth of merchandise. And now the mafia thinks Hammer knows where it is. He’s got to get the goods and kill the bad guys before they kill him. And this time he’s without his trusty .45 as the FBI pulls his license. So it’s two-fisted action for Hammer. But the results are never truly in doubt. If there’s one thing Hammer doesn’t lack, it’s self-confidence.


   I think Spillane may be a better writer than he gets credit for. His prose isn’t half bad half the time:

   “Trouble. Like the smoke over a cake of dry ice. You can’t smell it but you can see it and watch it boil and seep around things and know that soon something’s going to crack and shatter under the force of the horrible contraction….”

   “I went to say something. It never came out. The moon that had been hidden behind the clouds came out long enough to bathe the earth in a quick shower of pale yellow light that threw startlingly long shadows across the road and among those dark fingers was one that seemed darker still and moved with a series of jerks and a roar of sound that evolved into a dark sedan cutting in front of us.”

   And he’s quite good at action scenes, clipped and visceral: “I had my hand clamped over his, snapped it back and he screamed the same time the muzzle rocketed a bullet into his eyeball and in the second before he died the other eye that was still there glared at me balefully before it filmed over.”


   The problem is really just that Mike Hammer is a jerk. And the dialogue that comes out of his mouth is frequently so stupid it stretches credulity: “Get your nose to the ground, kitten……Velda…..Show me your legs.” His mouth just utters one cliche after another. You couldn’t use much of the tired patter at all now for any film script other than parody.

   The other problem is the plot. You get the feeling Spillane doesn’t know ‘who did it’ either. He’s like Mike Hammer. He figures if he keeps punching and punching the typewriter and Hammer keeps punching and punching the bad guys, at some point he’ll make it. Heroes turn villains and villains turn hero on a dime, with little explanation. Motives are as hazy as are lines of authority and control. In the end all you know is that Mike Hammer metes out justice and all the bad guys are dead. And least Hammer thinks so. And Hammer says if you kill the right guy for the wrong crime, what does it matter?

   Me? I guess I care a bit too much about the process. I guess I’m just not a Hammer guy after all.

   P.S. I did really enjoy the movie — but it’s been awhile. It’s by Robert Aldrich with a screenplay by A.I. Bezzerides. It’s currently available for free at and I’ll have to check it out again soon.