Legendary author Mickey Spillane, the creator of the best-selling, "hard-boiled" Mike Hammer detective novels, died Monday in his hometown of Murrells Inlet, SC. He was 88.
Born Frank Morrison Spillane in Brooklyn, NY, began his writing career during high school. After a brief time at Kansas State Teachers College, he returned to New York City to work in retail, but that bored him.
Spillane's true avocation was writing, so he found a job with a firm known as Funnies, Inc., a firm which later became Marvel Comics. There he wrote wrote text fillers and scripts for comics such as "The Human Torch" and "Edison Bell, Boy Inventor," and was one of the originators of the
"Captain Marvel" comics.
His first book, "I, the Jury" was written in only nine days. It became such success that he quickly produced five more Mike Hammer detective novels 1950 and 1952. "The Long Wait" (1951) sold 3 million copies in a single week in 1952. There were many young men from that era of the '50s and '60s who were quite "moved" for lack of a better term) by prose like this:
"No, Charlotte, I'm the jury now, and the judge, and I have a promise to keep. Beautiful as you are, as much as I almost loved you, I sentence you to death."
(Her thumbs hooked in the fragile silk of the panties and pulled them down. She stepped out of them as delicately as one coming from a bathtub. She was completely naked now. A sun-tanned goddess giving herself to her lover. With arms outstetched she walked toward me.
Lightly, her tongue ran over her lips, making them glisten with pssion. The smell of her was like an exhilarating perfume. Slowly, a sigh escaped her, making the hemispheres of her breasts quiver. She leaned forward to kiss me, her arms going out to encircle my neck.)
The roar of the .45 shook the room.
Charlotte staggered back a step. Her eyes were a symphony of incredulity, an unbelieving witness to truth. Slowly, she looked down at the ugly swelling in her naked belly where the bullet went in. A thin trickle of blood welled out.
I stood up in front of her and shoved the gun into my pocket. I turned, and looked at the rubber plant behind me. There on the table was the gun, with the safety catch off and the silencer still attached. Those loving arms would have reached it nicely. A face that was waiting to be kissed was really waiting to be splattered with blood when she blew my head off. My blood. When I heard her fall I turned around. Her eyes had pain in them now, the pain preceding death. Pain and unbelief.
"How c-could you?" she gasped.
I only had a moment before talking to a corpse, but I got it in.
"It was easy," I said.
Like so many others, I read "I, the Jury" at a rather young age, and felt that I had gotten away with reading something really erotic, but not really pornographic. Actually there were other books that had their "really dirty" sections, such as Grace Metalious' "Peyton Place" (1956), and later any number of novels by Harold Robbins, but there were many Mickey Spillane books to choose from, and they all seemed to have a certain comfortable familiarity to them.
Many of Spillane's Mike Hammer novels were made into movies, including the film classic "Kiss Me Deadly" (1955). Spillane himself starred in "The Girl Hunters" (1963), in which he played his creation, Mike Hammer. This was one of the rare occasions in film history where an author of a popular character later depicted his own character.
He married his second wife, Sherri Malinou, in 1965. She was a model who later posed in the nude for the cover of his book "The Erection Set" 1972. He dedicated the book to her.
Spillane appeared as a writer who is murdered in the TV series Columbo. He also appeared in a series of commercials for Miller Lite beer, which parodied his tough-guy image. Often criticized for his writing style and characterizations, with book sales of over 200 million, he remains one of the most successful writers of this era.
Nobody reads a mystery to get to the middle. They read it to get to the end. If it's a letdown, they won't buy anymore. The first page sells that book. The last page sells your next book.
~ Mickey Spillane
It should also be noted that another South Carolina resident, Robert Brooks, died of natural causes on Sunday at his home in Myrtle Beach. He was 69.
Brooks was the chairman of the Hooters restaurant chain famous for its scantily clad waitresses, and he made his fortune from the firm which uses the slogan "Delightfully tacky, yet unrefined" for its style of cuisine and service.
Hooters opened its first restaurant in 1983 and Mr. Brooks, with a group of other investors, bought franchise rights a year later. "Good food, cold beer and pretty girls never go out of style," he told Fortune magazine in 2003.
This coincidence makes one wonder if Mickey Spillane and Robert Brooks knew each other.