Re: RARA-AVIS: long post on spillane

From: Mario Taboada (
Date: 25 May 2002

In the light of the discussion, I grabbed a couple of Spillane books and browsed them (I remembered them well). My conclusions confirm my previous image of the writer, which I will summarize thus:

Spillane is as innocent of Literature as he is of the erotic use of language, particularly when compared with masters of eroticism such as Chandler, Willeford and Jim Thompson.

He seems painfully unaware of specific gender domains; if he has any understanding of women, it has escaped me completely.

Spillane's hero, Mike Hammer, is a quintessentially American product: he thrives on activity and is short on thinking other than goal-specific planning. He is made for efficiency and, because of that, the character works very well within his narrowly defined domain. It would take a lot to make Hammer fully human; he seems to have shut off a lot of doors. He represents, quite realistically, the predicament of many American males. This is also his attraction for his overwhelmingly male readership.

If Mike Hammer's world view, or at least the expression of that view, is obsolete, the action which he protagonizes projects as strongly as ever for this male reader. In his action writing, Spillane captures something genuinely modern-masculine (the rage, the efficient ineptitude, the cluelesness, the overt bravery, the unsavory triumph).

In conclusion, an unsubtle writer capable of great action scenes, with a hero whose popularity attests to the vitality of repression, violence and narcissism.

The anecdote: a female acquaintance of mine thought that a Spillane book was a parody. She only thought this after reading a few pages, after which she returned the book to me.

Apologies for yet another long post on Spillane, who must be pretty good after all (since so many of us react to him).

Best regards,


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