A REVIEW OF MAX ALLAN COLLINS AND JAMES L. TRAYLOR'S MICKEY SPILLANE: KING OF PULP FICTION
In the postwar era, Mickey Spillane became as popular and as big a seller as Ernest Hemingway. His private eye, Mike Hammer, popularized the urban vigilante hero. In Mickey Spillane: King Of Pulp Fiction, the writer's (he didn't like being called an author) friend, Max Allan Collins teams with James L. Traylor to follow his life and his creation and how the two became intertwined.
They quickly go through his childhood and formative years. We get a kid born and partly raised in New
York, but mainly growing up in rural New Jersey to a bartender father and doting mother. While he excelled in athletics, he loved to write, selling stories while still in school. He got his start in the comic book game, working for a publisher that eventually became Marvel. Then World War Two came knocking and he trained pilots for the army.
After the service, he tried to sell a hard boiled detective, Mike Danger, to the comics. When everyone from that industry turned him down, he changed the characters last name to Hammer and put him in a book, I, The Jury, The original hardback had lackluster sales. However a new market was forming in paperback. As soon as it entered there, the book exploded and both Spillane and Hammer became a fixture in the culture to the chagrin of a lot of critics.
Collins and Traylor follow the relationship between creator and creation. Not only did Spillane write a series of Mike Hammer books, there was a comic strip, tv programs, and at movies. Some of filmed incarnations got away from his vision, others he was able to control, He wrote other books and scripts, but always came back to the hero the public demanded. He often took on Hammer's persona in public, even playing the hero in an adaptation of The Girl Hunters.
Between his relationship with Hammer, Collins and Traylor weave in Spillane's life with his three wives, friends, and famous collaborators. They shed light on his work with John Wayne and talk to Lee Merideth, his costar in the Miller Light ads he's remembered for almost as much as his books. The book warms up when Collins writes about the friendship he had with the man.
Mickey Spillane: King Of Pulp Fiction covers one crime fiction's most influential authors, in a tight, direct style. Collins and Traylor deliver a gift for fans of Spillane, Hammer, of both. Mickey would be proud.