by Mickey Spillane
He couldn’t lose me now or ever. I was the guy with the cowl and the scythe. I had a hundred and forty black horses under me and an hourglass in my hand, laughing like crazy until the tears rolled down my cheeks.
Our ultra-violent, hard as rock private detective Mike Hammer has a chance meeting with a burned-out redheaded prostitute in a diner and the two take a friendly shine to each other. The next day she’s dead. Mike’s convinced it was murder, but the police are thinking accident. A rich old man crosses Hammer’s path and after hearing his story decides to finance the detective in digging into the girl’s past and uncovering her real name, which remains a mystery.
What follows is a spiraling, city-wide conspiracy of prostitution ranging from the lowly street level operations up to the highest ranks, the ones that service New York’s elite including politicians, city officials, and the ultra-rich. Mike’s friend Pat, the same police captain from the previous novel (I, the Jury) is helping get to the bottom of the conspiracy but is feeling the pressure from all sides. It’s a race to clean up New York before the guilty can cover their tracks.
This novel differs from Spillane’s first in a few minor but important ways. It gains some of the complexity the noir detective genre has buried in its bones, and it also humanizes our terminator of a detective, Hammer, showing us a few cracks in his otherwise invincible persona. He still faces down all opposition, but when they fight back this time it hurts. Both of these combined serve to elevate the idea of Mike Hammer, tying him to the world in a way the first novel did not. In I, the Jury, he was a nearly indestructible, trigger-happy super(anti)hero. In My Gun is Quick, he’s more a trigger-happy anti-hero.
This works. While we’re not yet be at the level of some of the other recognized masters in the field, we’re well on our way with this second novel. Mickey Spillane did not just write the violent, misogynist comic book type of hero who smashes through all obstacles, unable to be stopped. This book keeps these factors that fired the imagination in his initial outing, but brings it down a notch or two here which conversely serves to elevate the story.
It’s still a relatively short novel, and it is a good idea to read the first Hammer novel before this one to help you appreciate how the character has improved, but they’re both great stories. They both use a gritty, determined, black-and-white anti-hero to right the wrongs that are so crystal clear to him, while everyone else is mottled in gray.
This style was good to begin with, but it gets even better with this second book—Hammer’s here to stay.
You have to be quick, and you have to be able, or you become one of the devoured, and if you can kill first, no matter how and no matter who, you can live and return to the comfortable chair and the comfortable fire.