Re: RARA-AVIS: Spillane

pabergin (
Fri, 17 Sep 1999 17:27:15 -0400

I used to have a college professor who claimed -- usually after having strong drink taken -- that Spillane was both the best and the worst writer of his generation. The best because his sales gave him a legitimacy that was inarguable. He defined crime fiction for a huge number of readers. The worst because he was a Pandarus, eager to exploit the surface -- the merely obvious, button-pushing appearance of events and of people -- at the expense of reasoned evaluation.

He was right. Spillane's greatest (of many) failures as a writer is that he lived in a world that he WISHED to exist -- not the one that did exist. Even in the time and locales that he wrote about, a lumbering thug like Hammer would have been scooped up and tossed into the cooler to languish until he was as old as Mick is now.

I have attempted Spillane repeatedly (sorta like my periodic assaults on Under The Volcano, another literary dead end) without success. I've tried I, the Jury, Kiss Me Deadly and even The Girl Hunters. Never made it all the way through a single one.

Mick is, in the final analysis, kinda boring. Imagine your grand-uncle telling war stories by the fireside, provided your grand-uncle is bitter, a religious fundamentalist, and none too bright. That's Mick, PB

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