RARA-AVIS: Re: Spillane and misogyny

From: JIM DOHERTY ( jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 08 Jul 2006


Re your comment below:

"As you say, Spillane took a number of attributes that were already standard. Based on my slight, long ago reading of him, I believe he stripped those elements down to their basics. And maybe that's part of why I never continued on with him. All that was left were cliches and Hammer, and I never much liked Hammer."

He's not to everyone's taste, obviously. For years, I avoided him myself because I found I THE JURY, which I read in high school, to be such a load of dreck
(though, even then, disliking the book, I had to acknowledge that the first and last chapters were pretty powerful).

I tried the subsequent books years later, in college, because people whose opinions I respected suggested that he was a much better writer than my first impression suggested.

I fyouy've read beyond I THE JURY, as your posts suggest you have, I guess his particular charm is one that's lost on you. And that's fine.

Regarding the misogyny issue, though, I have one more observation to make.

One of the "basic cliches" that Spillane employs to good effect is the gorgeous secretary in love with the boss. But Spillane manages to work in a few twists.

First of all, Velda is a licensed PI herself, with a concealed weapons permit on top of that investigator's ticket. She is, therefore, presumably, like Hammer, an ex-cop.

She's tough and hard in her own right, and though she has to be rescued by Hammer occasionally, there's never the sense that she was an easy prey for the bad guys. Indeed, you have the sense that, if Mike weren't around, Velda could, and would, simply take over the business and carry on (which is, essentially, the premise behind Al Collins's MS. TREE series).

Years later, in THE GIRL HUNTERS, we find out that she was not just an ex-cop, but some kind of sub rosa super-fed, who, in the course of a case, gets called back into service, sent on a deep cover assignment in the Soviet Union (she's presumed dead all this time, and Hammer goes into an emotional tailsping blaming himself), and gather enough intel, we are led to believe, that she damned near wins the whole Cold War single-handedly.

No THAT'S a strong woman. You may argue that it's
"comic-book" strong, and I won't dispute that, but strong is strong. I can't imagine Effie Perrine, Lucy Hamilton, or even Della Street managing to cripple, if not quite bring down, the whole Soviet espionage system.

I'd argue that no one who was truly a mysogynist would, or could, create a character at once so strong and so sympathetic.

That may not make him any more to your taste, but that's a different matter.


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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 08 Jul 2006 EDT