I, the Jury

by Mickey Spillane

Maybe I’ll even give the rat a chance to get me. More likely not. I hate too hard and shoot too fast.

Mickey Spillane’s first published novel introduces the iconic private investigator, Mike Hammer.

As the book opens Hammer is standing over the body of his best friend Jack who’s been shot in the stomach by a .45. Details reveal the killer toyed with Jack while he crawled across the floor and Hammer swears to his policeman buddy Pat that he’s going to find the killer and bring him to the exact end his friend met. It’s a race between the police and Hammer to find the killer, with one promising justice and the other a swift, brutal execution.

Hammer is the narrator, and we follow him all the way through a world where gorgeous women are constantly throwing themselves at him and he meets all obstacles in his path with ultra-violence. Everything can be solved by hitting harder and faster than the other guy, and if that fails he’s quick on the trigger. It’s a simple, sexy, gritty, violent world and the PI knows how to live in it—smash.

This story, and the style in general, has positives and negatives. It moves so quickly that any mystery actually plays out more like an action sequence, which can be both good and bad. The book’s a rocket, no doubt, but the world is black and white and the solutions to problems violently simple to the point there are no subtleties. Hammer plays it so gun-happy it’s tough to suspend disbelief to where the plot makes sense that he’s working alongside police. The guy would’ve been in handcuffs in two seconds and locked away, even if he’s only blowing away criminals. However, because he is systematically taking out the bad guys it’s OK to be on his side.

The end of the novel is especially memorable, painting a vivid picture of sex and violence that’s difficult to match, and besides the fury shown at the beginning of the book this is a real high point. And that seems to be one of Spillane’s core beliefs, as he’s quoted as saying “The first page sells this book. The last page sells your next book.”

I, the Jury lacks all of the grey area our ‘standard’ noir detectives lived in during the height of detective fiction, but the books makes up for it with breakneck pacing, sex oozing over half the pages and violence pouring out the other half. You’ll crash through the story just like Hammer does.

Three of them are dead, one is running around the city taking potshots at me, and the killer is someplace sitting back quietly giving all of us the horse laugh. What the hell, let him laugh. He won’t be doing it much longer.

3+ stars

Mike Hammer vol. 1

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