by Mickey Spillane
“Cut it out.”
“No.” She drew the word out. Her eyes were half closed. “It’s me that wants you, Mike. I’ll do what I can to get you. I won’t stop. There’s never been anyone else like you.”
Gorgeous, naked women feature heavily in this novel, and that’s saying something because they’re already a mainstay in Mike Hammer’s world. Women hurl themselves at his feet; the guy can’t walk into a bar without catching the attention of them all and going home with the best. But that’s always been the case. It’s just amped up here.
Hammer loses his PI license and his gun right at the beginning of the book, as he’s woken up next to a dead man shot with his own pistol. Marked as a suicide, Mike’s old friend and drinking buddy from the night before had more booze than even they could handle, and the D.A. finally has the detective where he wants him. Out.
Mike’s not buying the suicide angle, and he’s drags the police chief down with him while he investigates against orders and without protection. As the plot thickens they’re coming at him from all sides, cops and killers. As in the previous novel, prostitution is a central theme and again, the city’s elite are protecting their own at the expense of the regular people, the poor saps.
The cracks in Hammer’s steely persona that began to appear in My Gun is Quick widen here, showing a bit more vulnerability, but the lack of any official support lends him a grim determination and adds a playing for keeps element that keeps the music playing.
Velda, Hammer’s assistant through these first three novels and not-so-secretly smitten with him, takes over his office while he’s barred and we finally get to see this relationship develop a little. We even start rooting for the two, and it’s nice to see her getting more time in the spotlight. And while the women in these novels can be strong, their eagerness to bend to Mike’s will sometimes pulls the reader back a little. It’s fun, but far enough over the top it’s sometimes hard to take it seriously. It works in that pulpy way, but does limit these books in comparison to other noir mystery writers and it remains to be seen if this is permanent.
Any criticism aside, this was another excellent novel. It moves fast in its mystery and features plenty of candy, which is all good. More of Hammer’s armor falling away feels like a step in the right direction, and Velda’s got something that’s screaming for more air-time. As for the world, Spillane’s high-contrast, low color atmosphere quite obviously helped inspire a great deal of the overall noir framework. Even if future volumes never reach beyond pulp, the hard hitting characters and the inability to put the books down still cement Spillane’s place as Grand Master.
These are great books, and they’re rockets fueled by sex and violence.
“You’ve forgotten that I’ve had some punks tougher than you’ll ever be on the end of a gun and I pulled the trigger just to watch their expressions change.”