Briefly Noted: ‘Kiss Me, Deadly’ by Micky Spillane

Mike Hammer, Spillane’s private investigator, is perhaps the world’s most hardboiled detective. The critics and even his own editors cringed at Spillane’s work since Hammer was almost as big a thug as those he hunted down. The cover of this book is typical of those on the Mike Hammer novels.  But it’s accurate inasmuch as every woman Mike meets wants to sleep with him. Until my brother, Barry slipped a three-novel volume of Spillane novels in with this year’s Christmas gifts, I’d never read a Spillane novel even though I do like noir. I think Mike Hammer is too rough for noir, though one could debate either side of that point.

From The Publisher

“Mike Hammer gives a lift to a beauty on the run from a sanitarium—but their joyride is cut short by two dark sedans full of professional killers, who knock the detective out cold. When he wakes up, his car has been rolled off a cliff, with his mysterious passenger still inside it. The feds take his gun away on suspicion, but Hammer’s not about to let that stop him. He’s on the hunt for the men who wrecked his ride and killed a dame in cold blood—and he’s going to teach them that armed or not, crossing Mike Hammer is the last thing you should ever do.”

The book was made into a film by the same name in 1955 starring  Ralph Meeker as Hammer. According to Wikipedia, “Critics have generally viewed the film as a metaphor for the paranoia and fear of nuclear war that prevailed during the Cold War era. “The great whatsit,” as Velda [Mike’s assistant] refers to the object of Hammer’s quest, turns out to be a mysterious valise, hot to the touch because of the dangerous, glowing substance it contains, a metaphor for the atomic bomb. The film has been described as “the definitive, apocalyptic, nihilistic, science-fiction film noir of all time – at the close of the classic noir period.” A leftist at the time of the Hollywood blacklist, Bezzerides denied any conscious intention for this metaphor in his script, saying that “I was having fun with it. I wanted to make every scene, every character, interesting.”

Once I finish this three-novel volume–which includes Kiss Me, Deadly–I don’t have any plans to read any of the other stories in this twenty-six-book series. I’m glad I read the novels in this three-novel book because I’d always wondered about Mike Hammer. Now I know. Finding out was part of my education.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of magical realism and contemporary fantasy novels and short stories. “Sarabande” is the sequel to “The Sun Singer. Both novels are set in Glacier National Park.

Potpourri for January 10th

  • How the hell did it happen. Joan Baez, whom I had a school-boy crush on years ago, is now 82. I approved of her songs, and her anti-war stance, but not her relationship with Bob Dylan. While she can’t hit the high notes the way she did when she was young, I will like to hear her sing.
  • Somehow, being too lazy to change the channel, we ended up watching the Georgia-TCU game on TV last night as the Dawgs won 65-7. I’m not really a fan of the Dawgs because I’m an Atlantic Coast Conference person and really think the SEC is trailer trash. But the Dawgs did everything right and the Horned Frogs basically didn’t do anything. The game would have been more interesting if it had been a close one.
  • I enjoyed Lydia Sherrer’s Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus. I left a four-star review on Amazon here. This book is the first in a series of seven and really seemed more like two short stories than a novel. While the novel has been advertised as the new Harry Potter, it doesn’t have the strong plot of the Potter series.
  • I’m a bit frightened of the controls in our 2019 Honda HRV because the dashboard has buttons for stuff I’ve never heard of. This is the first car we’ve owned where we had to keep looking stuff up in the manual. I don’t care for the setting that tells me whether I’m centered in the lane or the warning buzzers that remind me to shift into Park when I turn off the engine or to fasten my seatbelt. I try to avoid pushing most of the buttons.
  • My brother Barry sent me a three-novel Mickey Spillane book for Christmas. I’ve been aware of Mike Hammer, but never got around to reading “One Lonely Night,” “The Big Kill,” or “Kiss Me, Deadly.” Good noir stuff.
  • I think that whatever the hell’s inside a toilet tank is made in hell because it randomly breaks for no apparent reason, forcing one to buy a new one (also made in hell) and install it with the worse curses on the planet. At least our secondary bathroom is functional again, though we probably won’t trust it for a while. While looking at the problem, it appeared that the water was going into the closet in the next room rather than the septic tank. It wasn’t, but emptying out an entire closet was the last thing we needed in the middle of the night. Maybe this will make a good short story, “Hell’s Toilet.”
  • I continue to be addicted to Kathy Reich’s Temperance Brennan series, enabled by family members who gave me some new novels for Christmas. Just finished two more and need a pickup truck filled with new books.

–Malcolm