Friday, May 02, 2014

King of the Weeds

I continue to be amazed at author Max Allan Collins ability to seemingly channel Mickey Spillane when co-authoring the new Mike Hammer novels. I know that parts of the books are actually Spillane, but darned if I have any idea which parts are which. But really, it doesn't matter. Collins gets the voice and the attitude so right that the protagonist IS Mike Hammer, no matter who wrote what.
   The newest Hammer novel, KING OF THE WEEDS, was meant to follow Black Alley, the last Hammer novel written entirely by Spillane. Hammer and the rest of the cast have gotten older. Hammer is in his sixties. Police captain Pat Chambers is nearing retirement. Velda is still gorgeous of course.
   Mike's age has slowed him down a bit and a would-be hit-man gets the drop on Hammer outside his office. But Hammer's luck is holding and things don't go the way the assassin planned, and the only thing worse than trying to kill Mike hammer, is trying to kill him and failing.
   But who wants Hammer dead? That is the question. The mob? Am old enemy? Somebody who thinks Hammer knows where 89 Billion is cash is hidden away?
   To get the answers, Mike will once again take to the streets of New York, and if he's not quite the mayhem machine he used to be, he's a long way from mellow. Weeds has a nice twisty plot and plenty of action.
   One thing I really liked about this entry in the series was that Hammer's secretary Velda, who is also a licensed PI herself, plays a big part in the investigation. She and Hammer are a team and it's fun to see them banter. Hammer has a lot of faith in her too At one point, when asked if the guys who are after him might not make a run at Velda, Hammer says, "She can take care of herself." Hardly the frail secretary or girlfriend of many other PI series, always needing to be rescued. Not that anyone threatening Velda wouldn't have Hammer to deal with, of course.
   Anyway, the back of the book calls this one the penultimate Mike hammer novel, which places it before The Goliath Bone in sequence, but it's not the last Hammer book from Spillane and Collins by a long shot. That's good news because as I mentioned above this is definitely a Hammer book, no matter who wrote what or how much. I'm shelving these collaborations with Spillane's solo efforts and I can't give a better compliment. Highly recommended.

   PS. I read an advance copy of this book, but it becomes available on the 6th of this month.


Max Allan Collins said...

Thanks for the lovely review. This is in the "penultimate" book chronologically, meaning that GOLIATH BONE (already published as I'm sure you know) is last. This is the final of the six substantial Hammer manuscripts that need completion. By substantial I mean that they were manuscripts of some length, 100 or more pages and sometimes plot and character notes. KING OF THE WEEDS is a book begun by Mickey during our friendship and we spoke it about it quite a bit, so I had an insight into where he would go (and he spelled the ending out). There will be at least three more Hammer novels by the Spillane/Collins team, with me working from less substantial but still significant manuscripts -- 30 to 50 pages, sometimes with notes, and in one case the ending written. Thanks again.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

You're welcome and you've made me very happy by telling me there will be more books. I'll do a slight rewrite on the review.