Mickey Spillane, the Original Thriller Writer
A writer par excellence of crime novels
Mickey Spillane was a writer who was " Banned" in good schools in the mid-fiftie and sixties. His books were supposed to corrupt the English language of students, but perhaps the ban concerned more about his content. The books of Mickey were popular and the covers of his books displayed lewd pictures that enticed readers. In particularly his creation of the character Mike Hammer, as a macho man and lover who killed without compunction delighted an entire generation.
Mickey wrote books that had a bizarre story and one of his novels ended with a famous line “Juno was a Man!”. Mickey Spillane was the master of fiction laced with crime, gangsters, and lovely Molls. I don’t think there is anybody who could create a better novel laced with crime and sex than Mickey in the last century
The Life of Spillane
Spillane was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1918 where his father worked as a barman. His real name was Frank Morrison Spillane. He was from an ordinary household and there was no hint that he was destined to greatness as a writer. He, however, loved adventure and in 1939 at the age of 21 joined the Army Aviation Corps. His joining was a day after the Japanese had struck Pearl Harbor. This gave him a greater impetus
Mickey loved flying and continued to fly even after the war ended. In 1999 he claimed that he had logged over 11000 hours as a flier. This is believable as Mickey was a daredevil and flying was his passion.
Once the war was over the harsh reality of life overtook him and he had to do odd jobs to make ends meet. Later he claimed that he had worked as an undercover agent for the FBI, but this was never verified. He loved women and married thrice. He married his first wife in 1946 and the couple had 4 children.
.Somebody advised him to try his hand at writing. Probably fate played a hand in this as his books became immensely popular.It's mind-boggling to learn that his books sold over 225 million copies, not a mean achievement for a writer who was supposed to write poor English.
Creation of the character Mike Hammer
English fiction is home to some great characters who were detectives and solved criminal cases. Some of the more famous are Sherlock Holmes ( created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle), Hercule Poirot( Agatha Christie) and Father Brown ( GK Chesterton).
In a similar vein, Spillane created a character, Mike Hammer. Now we can safely say that Mike Hammer books were the alter ego of Mickey. All his books are written in the first person. 'I the jury' was the first novel that featured Mike hammer. The novel was a smash hit and it was followed by 15 more books with him in as the central character. The last novel featuring Mike Hammer, The Goliath Bone was published in 2008
Mike Hammer was a real macho character. He could kill without compunction and women were to like everyday salad. Mickey had another famous quote that resounds even now. The quote" It takes a hood to catch a hood" is famous and used to justifyaction against gangsters.
Content of Mickeys Books
Mickey's books had a high content of violence, sex, and crime. This was his staple fare and he developed his characters with this ethos in mind. Most writers of mainstream books never recognized Mickey as a writer of any significance. Maybe they could not stomach his popularity and the stupendous sale of his books. He was more than an average writer and a classic example is that he wrote “ I the Jury"; in just 15 days flat and the book sold over 6 million copies.
Not all writers panned Mickey and many like Ayn Rand felt he was a very good writer.
Spillane believed that American life was dominated by gangsters and crime. Perhaps he was not wrong in this. He also felt that women were just for the pleasure of men. Thus in all his books women are just plain dumb and sleep with a strong macho hero. I wonder if this image is correct, for throughout history we have seen that women love strong and decisive men.
Do you consider Mickey Spillane as the forerunner of the action novel
Place of Mickey in the Pantheon of writers
Spillane died in 2006. His books were reissued from 2001 and his last book appeared in 2008. His other famous books are My Gun is quick, Girl Hunters, Kiss me Deadly, the Killing Man, Ring of Fear and tens of others.
His books were criticized by U.S. Senate's Kefauver Commission as promoting juvenile delinquency. But there is no answer as to why his books were so popular. You can’t sell millions of books by writing trash. In 1980 out of 15 top sellers, 7 were books were by Mickey Spillane. Thus Mickey is not a run of the mill writer. It's about time he was given his due and recognized as the master of the thriller writer. None wrote or created a story better than him.
Despite all the negative writings against Spillane by so-called purists, Mickey Spillane is assured of a place in the novelist’s hall of fame.