Re: RARA-AVIS: Brief Thoughts on Spillane (a couple of spoilers)

From: Patrick King (
Date: 01 Dec 2006

Spillane is a tricky one. You have to remember, he started life writing comic books. Of all his books, my favorite is THE DEEP, which is not a Mike Hammer story. His lack of any sense of normal behavior make his books great escapist material but very poor role models even for writers. He makes James Bond seem absolutely plausible. His sexual attitudes are what really disturb me. He has the most acute angel/whore fixation of any writer I can think of. On the other hand, his underlying homosexual themes are nearly classic. Read THE ERECTION SET for a real head shaker in this department. I think Spillane missed his true calling... as a Catholic priest!

Patrick King
--- Doug Bassett <> wrote:

> I went through a recent tear on Spillane, reading or
> Spillane is an odd duck. Truly. I think he's easily
> one of the most influential writers of the genre,
> and
> in a more general way I think he's an important
> figure
> in post WW 2 American culture. But that doesn't
> diminish the fact that a lot of his writing paled
> for
> me this time around.
> I, THE JURY has a great beginning and a great
> ending,
> but the rest of it is really a lot of vamping to the
> finish. The beginning of ONE LONELY NIGHT is, I
> think,
> the single best sustained piece of writing Spillane
> ever did, but it soon descends into a lot of cliched
> anti-Communism which, no matter how you feel about
> the
> subject, feels like a real comedown in intensity.
> VENGEANCE IS MINE is an extraordinarily interesting
> book, and a cultural critic could have a field day
> with it, but it's absurdly dated and certainly has
> lost a lot of it's punch.
> Even the two books of his I like the best, MY GUN IS
> QUICK and THE TWISTED THING can't be said to be
> successful in terms of plot. You can guess the
> villain
> in GUN by sheer process of elimination, and THING
> gives away the game in the very title.
> The first thing I want to say about Spillane is that
> he is a writer of moments. For all of his pose as
> the
> consummate self-depracating tough guy professional,
> he
> is in fact something of a Romantic -- by which I
> mean
> his work, when it's good, is good due to it's
> deliberately heightened pitches of emotion. Nobody
> can
> sustain that kind of level over a length of time,
> which is why even the best Spillane novels have
> draggy
> patches. A Spillane novel builds to a peak -- it's
> also no accident that a lot of his best moments are
> endings.
> (There is still a notion in some circles that
> Spillane
> was some kind of grunting clodhopper, but THE
> THING I think is the final refutation of that. It is
> a
> well-written and well plotted -- I think his best
> job
> of plotting, actually. It covers a world that
> Spillane
> mostly did not deal with and did it credibly. Of all
> things, Spillane is actually quite good at
> descriptions of nature.)
> The other thing I want to say about Spillane is
> this.
> The hb novel has as it's engine a process of
> uncovering. Generally, the protagonist reveals the
> truth of the world, which is seen to be far worse
> that
> what surface reality presents. Usually the truth of
> the world is unconquerable: the hb protagonist
> basically just makes his/her seperate piece with it.
> (While conversely the noir protagonist is subsumed
> by
> the "truth". But I saw there was a whole discussion
> of
> that here already, don't want to open that up
> again.)
> What Spillane did was take that uncovering to a kind
> of poetic conclusion. Hammer is constantly
> uncovering
> Hell, basically. And I mean that in the religious
> sense of the term -- in MY GUN Hammer and his bad
> guy
> are literally in flames screaming. (The books are
> constant knocking out of the props of the world:
> love,
> women in general, respectable old men, children,
> etc.
> What's revealed is corruption, yes, but corruption
> in
> a sin-and-damnation sense. Twisted thing, indeed.)
> This is an extraordinary thing, I think: the
> blending
> of the hb crime novel with what is really a kind of
> religious revulsion.
> doug
> Doug Bassett
> Want to start your own business?
> Learn how on Yahoo! Small Business.

____________________________________________________________________________________ Want to start your own business? Learn how on Yahoo! Small Business.

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 01 Dec 2006 EST