Many years back when I was a student of the Air Force School at New Delhi, I was introduced to a novel by Mickey Spillane by a friend of mine. After I read the book I was convinced that Mickey Spillane was my kind of writer and I loved his books. The thing that most impressed me about Mickey Spillane was a character that he created with a macho image named Mike Hammer. The character appealed to me and I associated with the hero. He was my alter ego and Mike Hammer was my inspiration. Mike Hammer was a strong man who fought for justice. He fought evil by his own methods which were violent and also took revenge on the evil doers in a manner that can only be described as chilling. For this the hero Mike Hammer used his fists, fingers and gun with lethal effect. He was invincible and he enjoyed sending the criminals to the next world.
In this ride to fight the criminals, Mike came across innumerable beautiful women whom he seduced with his macho image and without a second thought. The women loved being possessed by Mike Hammer. This was the general theme of the Mike hammer novels of Mickey Spillane- women, guns and death for evil doers.
Spillane as a Writer
Boys and readers of that period were fascinated by the character of Mike Hammer. Credit must go to Mickey who created this character. I have no doubt that Mickey Spillane was a master of writing the action novel and deserves full credit for it. The central theme of Spillane’s books is crime, violence and an overdose of sex, ingredients that he skillfully integrated in his books and the people of that period loved it. However the purists frowned on the English of Spillane, but they were in a minority as millions of readers sat glued to his books.
How good and popular a writer was Mickey Spillane ? If figures have any meaning, than it is worth knowing that more than 225 million copies of his books were sold world-wide. If you add a readership of 4 per book ( which is a conservative estimate) the astonishing figure of a billion readers emerges. This is to say the least, is not an insignificant figure. Not many writers of the 20th century can match these figures.
Spillane’s life style was a roller coaster ride like his books. The characters he created were perhaps akin to his dreams. He lived life to the hilt and married and divorced 3 times. He dabbled in films and once agreed to star as Mike Hammer himself in a movie. It must be the only occasion when a writer starred as a hero in a film and played a character created by him. All the heroes of Spillane’s books were strong and masculine and the heroines sexy and beautiful. In this he played to the gallery and the fantasy of the common man. But his greatest contribution is the creation of a genre of action and adventure books laced with sex. In fact one of his books had a bizarre ending with the words ’ Juno was a man!’
Many of Mickey Spillane’s books are read even now. His most famous books are ’I the jury’, My Gun is quick, Vengeance is mine, one lonely night and the long wait. In fact the novel ‘I the jury’ saw the light of teh day in just inside 3 weeks. That will be hard to match. Violence, sex and crime were the staple diet of Mickey’s novels and by writing this he had his hand on the pulse of the people. He was certainly a master story-teller. I have a lurking feeling that many later writers who wrote action books like the famous.James Hadley Chase and even Harold Robbins took a leaf out of the books of Mickey Spillane.