MICKEY SPILLANE & MAX ALLAN COLLINS – Kiss Her Goodbye. Otto Penzler Books, hardcover, May 2011.

   I read the first six Mike Hammer books back when Mickey Spillane first wrote them – well maybe a little later — but I haven’t read them since, nor I have read anything else he wrote, except a short story, novelette or two. I am submitting this as a preface to the rest of the review just to let you know where things stand.

   The first six were gangbusters, though, and there are parts of them that once read are simply not forgotten. I don’t suppose that I’m the only one who’s always been disappointed by that ten-year gap between Number Six (Kiss Me Deadly, 1952) and Number Seven (The Girl Hunters, 1962), but for whatever reason, it’s there and what’s done can’t be undone.

   Um. Let’s reverse that to say that what was undone can’t be done. Or perhaps it will someday? So far none of them have taken place during the 1952-1962 hiatus, but this is the third collaboration of Max Allan Collins with Mr. Spillane with some scraps of stories the latter had started but never finished.

   The first of these was The Goliath Bone (2008), in which Mike Hammer was updated to a post-9/11 21st century Manhattan, followed by The Big Bang (2010), which took place in the 1960s.

   Jumping forward in time again, the setting of Kiss Her Goodbye is now the 1970s disco era, when cocaine was a recreational drug and the police largely looked away when celebrities gathered to party.

   This would have been when Mike Hammer had a few more years of PI work under his belt and even — could it be? — mellowed out some. He is in fact, when the book begins, recuperating from the injuries he incurred on a previous case, idling away his time in the Florida keys, when news of the death of his good friend Bill Doolan reaches him.

   Could the old ex-cop have committed suicide? Captain Pat Chambers of New York City Homicide thinks so. Doolan was 85 and had terminal cancer. Mike’s not so sure. He’s also not sure he’s ready to return to New York. He has the city out of his system, he says, no nostalgia, no regrets.

   But the case for suicide is not as solid as Chambers has told him, and both that and the knifing of a young girl at the hands of a probably mugger right after the funeral keeps him in town longer than he’d planned on.

   There is also a sexy (and ambitious) female assistant district attorney who catches his eye, and the attraction definitely seems to be mutual. There’s also a gorgeous Brazilian singer in the trendiest night club in town – no Mike Hammer novels is ever without dames, even though by the 1970s they were no longer called dames.

   There is even some solid detective work, private eye style, that takes place in Kiss Her Goodbye, though maybe there was in those 1950s novels, and I was reading them for other things at the time. But if you were to think that Mike Hammer would have mellowed out at this stage of his career, as a semi-suggested above, you would be badly badly mistaken.

   There is enough violence in this book to make any Mike Hammer fan stand up and cheer, and loudly – with one long shootout in particular not likely to be forgotten by anyone who reads it anytime soon.

   Or in other works, if you are a Mike Hammer fan, you will absolutely love this book. It has the rhythms of New York City down pat – the dark streets, the sex, the fascination with guns and killing – and in every pore and fiber of its being.

   In Kiss Her Goodbye it’s a retro feeling, though, feeding perhaps (if I dare say it) too much on the past. If you aren’t already a Mike Hammer fan from before, for whatever reason — and those of you who aren’t know exactly who you are — this is not a book that will convert you, and it would make no sense for me to try.

Note:   Corrections of a factual nature have been made to this review based on information provided by Max Allan Collins, co-author of Kiss Her Goodbye. See also Comment #3.

[UPDATE] 04-09-11. More from Max:

   There’s been a lot of confusion about these posthumous works, and I keep trying to clarify, but it’s just convoluted and confusing enough to make that hard.

   Goliath Bone was the book Mickey was working on at the time of his death. He was sick and rushing to get it done, so his draft wasn’t polished and ran short, and the last couple chapters weren’t finished. He had done a partial last chapter. That book is probably 60% Mickey, with me polishing and expanding his work.

   The others all start from manuscripts of at least 100 pages, sometimes with plot notes and character stuff, but not always. Each is a different situation. For instance, Kiss Her Goodbye had two false starts from Mick.

   They were the same preliminary set-up but went in two directions — the major one dealt with the late inspector investigating mob/drugs stuff and crooked politics, the other dealt with the Nazi jewels. I wove them together. A major liberty I took was that Mickey was heading for an outdoor heavy metal festival, and I substituted the Club 52-type disco, partly to make the book more overtly ’70s, and also because his notes for the Chrome character indicated more of a disco queen than a rock act.

   These manuscripts are all over the place time-wise. Goliath Bone is chronologically last. The Big Bang is set around 1964. Kiss Her is about ten years later. The remaining three range from extremely early — would you believe 1948! — to the 90s, with one more mid-’60s manuscript in between. I’ll be doing these as well.

   There are another half dozen shorter manuscripts — more like the scraps you describe, opening chapters mostly — that I may develop if there’s a demand. I turned a one-page novel outline into the radio-style audio book, The New Adventures of Mike Hammer Vol. 3: Encore for Murder (with Stacy Keach). I’ve done a few short stories, too, developing the shorter scraps (again, that’s accurate in these instances) into one-off stories.

   Anyway, that’s probably more than you care to know…but once again, thanks very much.