The King of Mystery
many in my generation I was introduced to literature by the buzz
generating from my seventh grade classmates. Someone had found a
book that was exciting, suspenseful, and so racy that it was absolutely
forbidden for anyone under the age of twenty-one. The book had to
be read in secret places and hidden when it wasn’t being read.
It was especially important to keep it out of sight at school; if
one of the nuns found it, who knows what sort of punishment she
would measure out. The thought was too terrible to even contemplate.
The year was 1953 and the book was “I,
(Mickey) Spillane was born in Brooklyn, NY in March of 1918. After
a variety of short lived jobs that included a stint as a trampoline
artist with the Barnum and Bailey circus he began his literary career
writing for comic books. Some of the characters that he plotted
for were the likes of Captain Marvel, Captain America, Batman, and
in the Army Air Corps the day after the Pearl Harbor attack and
served as a flight instructor. While in the service he met his first
wife Mary and faced with the responsibility of supporting a family,
Mickey decided to write a novel and earn some extra money. It took
him an astounding nineteen days to write “I, the Jury,”
and the combined sales of hardcover and paperback exceeded six and
a half million copies in the United States. Mickey went on to write
a dozen more Mike Hammer novels. In all, more than two hundred and
twenty-five million of Mickey Spillane’s books have been sold.
Many of his books were made into movies and a television series
featuring Mike Hammer ran for three years.
In 1951 Mickey
converted to Jehovah’s Witness and remained a member of that
church until his death from pancreatic cancer in July of 2006.
I had the pleasure
of shaking Mickey Spillane’s hand back in the 80’s when
he was doing the Miller Beer commercials and I was involved in the
Gold Cup Regatta. Miller Beer was sponsoring a boat and Mickey was
there for publicity. We didn’t talk and I’m not even
sure that I told him my name. I was pretty thrilled.
I was looking forward to talking to him face to face when he was
scheduled to be the guest of honor at a writer’s conference
that I was attending but he had to cancel at the last minute because
of health reasons. He died not too long after that.
was working on four novels just before his death. He was able to
complete “The Last Stand,” an adventure
novel and it will be published soon. “Dead
Street,” his Jack Stang crime novel was well
on its way to being finished and he left a fistful of notes with
friend and fellow author Max Allen Collins and Max put the last
few chapters together in Spillane style and it will be available
on October 30, 2007. “The Goliath Bone,”
and “The King of Weeds,” are the final
Mike Hammer stories and plans for these two books are incomplete.
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