RARA-AVIS: long post on spillane

From: Robison Michael R CNIN ( Robison_M@crane.navy.mil)
Date: 24 May 2002

hi everybody!

i just finished spillane's _i, the jury_. many years ago i read one of his books. it was my dad's book and i
"borrowed" it from him. all i can remember of it is mike hammer dripping condensation from his beer onto a girl's breast and then licking it off. 13 year old boys don't forget that sorta thing. the only other thing i remember is my 7th grade literature teacher telling me it was trash.

about 20 pages into the book i was thinking i wasn't going to be able to finish it. the dialogue wasn't so hot and it was obvious the characters were never going to amount to much more than unbelievable, shallow, two-dimensional props for the plot.

i read recently somebody's comment that fiction should actually be "truer" than nonfiction, and there was a big spiel about why this should be. the rationale passed me by, but the premise didn't. when i read fiction, i'm looking for it to be "believable", and for it to have some sort of depth to stir some emotion in me or make me think. it looked to me like spillane was failing on both counts.

but then i thought about it for a while and changed my way of looking at it... i decided the book has a sort of comic strip/cartoon feeling similar to ellroy's american tabloid. rather than portraying a slice of the real pie, its more of an absurd fantasy adventure. with this in mind, the book was much more readable and fun. after finishing the book, i read an excellent interview with him where he stated that mike hammer DID indeed start out as a comic, mike danger.

i wanna talk about mike hammer's character some. is that ok? ;-) i like hammer's character. he's not real pro- found and he's not riddled with the proverbial devil demons of the past. he's damned cocky and very sure of himself. its a refreshing change from some of the more recent detective characters. he's a bigtime hardcore badass. and its interesting the way his character as seen by readers has evolved. from the brave macho lady's man of the 50's to something darker and more noir nowadays. somebody here recently on the list suggested he was a violent psycho. add racist and sexist pig to the list, and he becomes even darker. is this in itself a reason to dislike spillane's books? no. lou ford is not a real likable guy, and _killer inside me_ is considered a classic.

ok... it would be dishonest to sidestep the issue. violent, racist, sexist characters do not mean that a book advocates violence, racism, or sexism. i think any reading of pelecanos would confirm that. but as one of our noble rare bird's has suggested, if the book appears to accept or, worse, glorify these traits, then the writing becomes ques- tionable. i think my stand on the issue will be that the spillane novels are told thru the eyes of hammer, and do not necessarily advocate or glorify his social views. i know that some might see that as me sticking my head in the sand, but hell, thats an improvement over where most people think i got my head located.

and i'm not thru yet! i have a few non sequitur type comments. i'm certain that this interview is very old news here on the list, but here's the link anyway:


did you know that at one time spillane had 7 out of 10 books on the new york times bestseller list? and that he's sold over 200 million books? and that spillane turned religious and mike hammer quit drinking and fornicating? is this last bit true?

ok. i'm thru. thanks to everybody who took the time to read this whole thing.


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