RARA-AVIS: Recent Article Re: Mickey Spillane

From: Larry Newton ( ldnewton2@comcast.net)
Date: 21 Jul 2006

  Mickey Spillane's first hour in heaven

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Julia Keller, Tribune cultural critic

July 20, 2006

Editor's note: Mystery writer Mickey Spillane, author of such hard-boiled tales as "I, the Jury" (1947) and creator of detective Mike Hammer, died earlier this week at 88. A day later, as Tribune cultural critic Julia Keller sat in her favorite seedy bar nursing a beer and a grudge, an unseen hand slipped a cassette tape into her coat pocket. Here's a transcript. Take it or leave it. Just don't give us any lip.


I shook the clouds from my hat and stepped up to the gates. They were pearly. White. I don't like white. I'm a messy guy, and white makes me nervous.

"What's the big idea?" I said.

The guy at the gates shrugged. He was wearing some kind of weird white bathrobe and sandals. Looked like a sissy to me. Clean face, combed hair. He made me feel like I needed a shave and a shower. Which I did. Like always.

"Your name, sir?" he said. He had a clipboard. When I spoke, he looked down at it, like he was checking something.

"Spillane," I said. "Mickey."

"Just a minute, Mr. Spillane."

I'd had enough. I was getting sick of the holdup. I had a job to do and this guy was in my way.

"No." I pulled out my .45. I let it do a lot of my talking. It's got a real way with words. "Step aside, chump."

"Hey -- ."

I jammed the cold nose of the .45 up against his pretty little neck. In two seconds, I knew, I could turn his face into hamburger. I knew that he knew it too.

"You want to continue the argument?" I said.

He didn't seem like a wiseguy. Just somebody who was getting his orders from somebody higher up. So I lowered the .45. But I kept it where he could see it.

He said, "Why do you think you're here, sir?"

"Only one reason I can think of," I replied. "There must've been a murder. And I'm here to figure out who did it. And then to make the poor sap regret it for the rest of his very short life." I looked around.
"Hey," I said. "Is there a bar in this hick town? I could use a drink."

He ignored my question and checked his clipboard again. "Spillane. Spillane." He looked troubled. "What do you do, sir?"

I laughed. It was a brittle, hollow laugh, a laugh like an alley at 3 a.m. It's got nothing in it but the promise of trouble.

"Do? I'll tell you what I do. I go after the bad guys. OK? I go after the sleaziest, shadiest, greediest, ugliest mugs you ever saw, and by the time I'm through with 'em, their own mothers wouldn't let 'em back in the house. 'Cause it's hard to get bloodstains out of the carpet, you know?"

Over the guy's shoulder, I saw something I liked. A lot. It was a blond. She had the kind of curves that make you wish you had an extra pair of hands, just to feel all of those curves at the same time. Her lipstick was so red, it looked like somebody had smashed a dozen roses against her mouth and then rubbed 'em in. Hard. Her hair was a thick river. I wanted to dive in. Bad.

"Who's that?" I said, trying to keep the hunger out of my voice.

He didn't turn around. "Never mind her," he said. "We've got to figure this out."

I was getting restless again. Itchy. I don't like standing around. I've done a lot of things in my life -- I was born in Brooklyn, then I bounced around and worked for a circus and wrote comic books and trained fighter pilots in World War II -- and when anybody gets in my way, I don't ask them politely to move. I barge right through. I don't have manners. Manners make me sick. Manners are what you have to use when you suddenly remember you left your gun in your other pants.

"Stand aside," I said. "I'm goin' in."

He frowned. "Well, sir, I'm afraid I can't allow that. It says here that you write brutal, formulaic crime fiction that most literary critics sneer at. You celebrate violence and misogyny. Your female characters are voluptuous caricatures and your male characters are tired stereotypes of hypermasculinity that probably mask a subliminal fear of homo-erotic tendencies."

I had the .45 in his face so fast that the blur made both of us dizzy.

"Homo-WHAT?" I said.

"I'm sorry, sir. I'm just telling you what I see written down here. I'm afraid I can't let you in."

I was tired. Beat. I'd had a hard night. I could've used a stiff drink and a good smoke and a clean white shirt, the kind my personal assistant keeps in a nice fresh stack back in the office.

But I wanted this guy to understand something, and understand it good. So I put the .45 back in my pocket. I rubbed my chin. The stubble was as hard as a bouncer's stare when you're two bucks short of the cover charge.

"Listen, slugger," I said. "I've got a few simple rules I live by. I do my job. I never leave a buddy in a jam. If I tell a dame I love her, I mean it -- for at least as long as the kiss lasts. Sometimes for a few minutes after that too." I took a deep breath, and then I went on:

"I believe that evil ought to be punished and that if you want the good guys to win, you've got to help 'em win. I believe you give people what they say they want. I believe you do an honest day's work for an honest day's dollar. You can't be scared. You don't apologize. Ever. You are what you are. You do what you do. And to hell with the consequences -- and the critics."

He looked down at his clipboard. Then he looked up at me.

"I don't care what it says here," he said. "Go on in."

I didn't make him say it twice. I pushed my way through the gates. I was in a hurry.

I had a blond to catch up to.



Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune <http://www.chicagotribune.com/>

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