Another Column at MyShelf.Com

Between the pages, Past
A Mystery Column
By Dennis Collins

The King of Mystery Writers

Like 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, the Jury.

Frank Morrison (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 Superman.

Mickey enlisted 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.

Mickey 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.

2007 Past Columns

Interview with Mark Terry (most likely to Succeed)

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