Saturday, February 23, 2013

My Gun is Quick

   Sometimes you're just in the mood for some Spillane. That was me yesterday. It was a cloudy, rainy day and I had planned to spend it reading. I chose Mickey Spillane's second published Mike Hammer novel, my Gun is Quick. in this one, Hammer has just finished a case and he's gone three days without sleeping. He's on his way home late at night and after briefly falling asleep behind the wheel, he decides he'd better pull over and get a cup of Joe at an all night hash joint under the elevated train. And man, can't you just see it? Hammer in his raincoat and pork pie hat walking on the rain slicked sidewalk to the blurry square of light thrown by the hash joint's flyspecked window.
   Mike has barely plopped down on a stool when a hooker, a redhead who's seen better days, asks him to buy her cup of coffee. Hammer obliges and he and the redhead chat. He comes to realize that there's a story behind this soiled dove. Her manners and her vocabulary speak of better times. Hammer likes her.
   Just then a rough looking character comes in and latches onto the redhead. Hammer warms him to back off. The guy gets belligerent and learns the hard way what it means to get in Mike Hammer's face.
   Hammer deals with the guy, but the redhead is shaken and she begs mike to go before things get worse. He does, but he gives the redhead some of the fee he's just collected and tells her to buy some clothes and get a decent job and she looks at him with "A look that belongs in church when you're praying or getting married or something."
   The next day Mike learns that the redhead is dead, apparently killed in a hit and run accident. But Hammer doesn't buy the accident story. He believes the girl was murdered and as usual, he's determined to do something about it. It's time for another kill-crazy ride with Mike Hammer.
   Like most of the Hammer books, plot is secondary to the bombastic character of Mike Hammer. It's not so much whodunnit but how Hammer goes about hunting them down and the situations he gets into as he goes. You know that there will be booze, bullets and broads. Spillane's Mike hammer yarns speak to the emotions. You can feel Hammer's simmering rage, his passion for justice, and his outrage at those who would prey on those who can't fight back. Well Hammer can damn well fight back and he's going to.
   Not that Spillane isn't capable of being subtle or funny. There's a line about a girl name Lola that made me have to close the book for a moment while I laughed out loud. Don't let anyone kid you. Mickey Spillane was a good writer. A lot better than he gets credit for. I think the force of his writing and the sometimes over the top actions of his heroes often eclipsed his ability to turn a phrase. I find more evidence of this on every re-read.
   Anyway, this is a terrific book for a rainy afternoon, a fine time out on the mean streets with a man who is sometimes mean and sometimes tarnished, but seldom afraid.

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