Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, July 22, 2016


The Snake by Mickey Spillane (1964)

Say what you will, Mickey Spillane could write, and (in IMHO) knew just what he was doing whenever he sat down at his typewriter.

Tough-guy private eye Mike Hammer blasted his way through six best-selling blockbusters before taking a ten-year hiatus.  When he returned in 1962 with The Girl Hunters, we learn that Mike has been on the bottle for years, mourning his vanished and long-thought dead secretary, the voluptuous Velma.  In The Girl Hunters, Mike learns that Velma is alive and has been working the spy guy game on something important to national security.  Velma is being hunted by an assassin and Mike blasts his way through the enemy to save her.  In the end, Velma is safe -- although she is never seen in the book; that's something reserved for this follow-up.

The Snake begins with the short-lived Hammer-Velda reunion, interrupted by a bad guy with a gun, who -- in turn -- is interrupted by two bad guys with guns.  Bullets start flying and Mike finds himself on another case.  This one involves a not-so-young Lolita type who is the adopted daughter of a powerful and likable pol who is running for governor.  The girl is convinced that her father is trying to kill her.  But one near miss by a careless driver and one episode of feeling someone is following her does not a murder plot make.

Things get complicated when a thirty year old heist and three million dollars in missing cash are added to the mix.  The bodies pile up and the new D.A. and new police inspector are out for Make's blood but, because of his work in the previous book, Mike has a get-out-of-jail-free card from the federal government.  That card doesn't help Mike when various gangsters and killers go after him.

As with any Spillane book, this is a fast-moving, nonstop train ride. and Spillane is having a ball with it.  Mike may have bounced back from his seven-year binge but he wouldn't have survived this caper without several over-the-top dei ex machina.

A Mike Hammer novel would be a Mike Hammer novel without a healthy dollop of (looking back) pretty mild sex.  Mike Hammer has a strong, albeit slightly bent, sense of honor.  He may bed all sorts of women, but he refuses to bed Velma until they are married.  (He also, in his way, tries to stay faithful to her.)  Velma, we learn, is still a virgin and is eager to have Mike alter that status.  This leads to several cases of third-basus interruptus (if I can coin a phrase) and most often the interruptus is a bad guy (or guys) with a gun.

Mike Hammer may be a mythic feature but that doesn't mean the author can't have fun with him.

Hammer may not be everyone's cup of tea but he remains a strong cultural figure for good reasons.  I, for one, have always enjoyed his adventures, both the ones written by Spillane and the posthumous ones produced by Max Allan Collins from Spillane's notes and partial manuscripts.


  1. I read THE SNAKE many years ago and liked it. i, THE JURY floored me when I first read it. I've reread it a couple of times and it still has the power to move me. You're right about Mickey Spillane's talent as a writer.

  2. I've got a bunch of Spillane paperbacks around here. I need to read another

  3. I've got a bunch of Spillane paperbacks around here. I need to read another