Re: RARA-AVIS: long post on spillane

From: Brian Evankovich (
Date: 24 May 2002

Finally a discussion I can really sink my teeth into.... Hammer actually grew as a character as Spillane grew as a writer (as did the hero's of the non-Hammer books). Go through the first six books again. It becomes harder and harder for Hammer to seek the "easy" solution he did with the killer in
"I, The Jury". Spillane's religious views in the later novels had Hammer killing only in self-defense, no more "executions" (though a case could be made for "The Body Lovers" that he executed the baddies). His dialogue got better, but the stories lost their impact. I can think of several of his later books (especially the short stories) where you know who the killer is on page five and by the end, he's re-used whatever "surprise" ending worked in an older book. He twice used the trick of the bad guy committing suicide instead of killing Hammer or another story's hero; I lost track of how many times the hero's "girlfriend" was the killer. His two "newsest" novels, "The Killing Man" and "Black Alley" are downright laughable. "Killing" was great until the end, which just doesn't work; "Black" wasn't even a Hammer book at all, it seemed.

"I, the Jury" was a good book with (some) silly dialogue; I think if Spillane had been able to use more curse words he would have instead of the
"lousy no good louse" kind of lines; "Kiss Me, Deadly" just plain didn't go anywhere (when Hammer props two bad guys up against a signpost that says
"Dead End" you got the idea Spillane was at the same spot), but the first and last chapters are real exciting .

That being said, Spillane is one of my favorites. You can't beat his descriptive narration of the city, women, or violence. The opening pages of
"One Lonely Night" are not to be missed. Nobody will ever have a better ending than what Spillane did in "Vengeance is Mine." Check out "The Delta Factor" for a non-Hammer book that's just a fun adventure. "The Long Wait" is another non-Hammer that will keep you guessing.

Chandler and Hammett may be the greater artists (I, personally, can't stand Chandler, he just doesn't do it for me; nor Ross MacDonald), but Spillane deserves credit for creating some entertaining murder mysteries that, obviously, keep people talking. --Brian

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