The Hammer is Dead.


The Hammer is dead. The other Hammer, the real one, not the Texas make-believe bug exterminator. Mickey Spillane, Mike Hammer’s, creator, died the other day down in Murrell’s Inlet. He went quietly to meet his own creator, with whom he had an intimate relationship.

Mickey and I go way, way back. Not that I ever met him. But I knew him, Lord I knew him. You see, for thirty years we were brothers. Brother Spillane and me, knocking on doors, preaching the end of the world. I quit one day, disillusioned by the false promises, the fake scholarship, the hypocrisy and double standards. Mickey was one of the reasons I quit.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, the apocalyptic, fundamentalist fringe Christian sect we both belonged to, prided itself outwardly on “keeping unspotted from the world.” But Mick was spotted. He was married three times, each time to a woman more beautiful than the last, each time proclaiming his loyalty to the religion which would have cast me out for just looking at the nude pictures of his wife on the cover of The Erection Set.

Mickey knew his God better than I did, I suppose. I thought God should be a lover, a reconciler, a healer. He thought God was an avenger, a judge, a killer. His books spread bodies from the first page to the last, thrown about with all the reckless abandon of Jehovah Himself.

His books were full of sex, too, or the promise of it at least. Strippers and seductresses, along with the cool and casual men who bedded friend and fiend alike. Oh, could he tell a story, that kept you turning page after breathless page until bang! The bad guy or girl is dead, and Hammer makes the world right again.

The critics thought his work was garbage, all but Ayn Rand, no mean cultist herself, whose gushy letters to Mickey seemed to hint of a mysterium tremendum in sepia-shadowed bedrooms. She dug Mickey because Hammer hated Commies, liberals and weak-kneed thugs. He dug her because she was rich and exotic. The atheist and the theist, they were not as opposite as their stories pretended.

The guy who defined cool, even more than Chandler and Hammett, who got sexy better than Fleming or Le Carre’, put down his glass of Miller Lite, grabbed his hat and walked away. He wrote the very best ending in all of American fiction, maybe all of fiction in I, The Jury:

“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.

It wasn’t that easy, Mickey. I know—I was there. But thanks for the broads, the dicks, the guns, the flashing fluorescents, the crooked cops, the lipstick coated whiskey glasses and the hapless hookers. The night’s still dark. Your gun’s still quick.

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