It’s 2011 and I went into my old college library and asked the librarian and old friend whether I could get Mickey Spillane’s book ‘I the Jury’. It was my way of paying tribute to a man who set up the genre of the action novel.He rummaged and brought me an old dog-eared book. It was a 1953 edition and I signed for the book and took it home.
I read it in one sitting and mind you I was reading the book after almost 3 decades. I am convinced this book is the best Mickey Spillane ever wrote. It’s a pity he died in 2006 and not much was heard about him even at that time.
Mickey Spillane was a master of the art of creating a pot pourie of sex, love, revenge, murder and violence. He created a character in Mike Hammer, who in real terms was a sledge and a hammer himself. For the reader let me recap the story. It’s a simple tale of a man going out to avenge the death of his close buddy Jack who has been brutally murdered. Incidentally Jack had lost his arm in trying to save Mike Hammer during the Pacific war against the Japs. So Mike is all out for revenge and he starts from the last party Jack had attended. He hunts to death each of the attendees of that party with fiendish glee.
The killer is also hunting Mike and it has all the makings of a thriller par excellence. This novel is Mickey’s forte as he creates a heady cocktail of revenge and sex. We talk of Harold Robins now, but man you can’t beat Mickey Spillane. Can you imagine the book sold 20 million copies and created a character in Mike Hammer, who is hard as nails and loves with a macho’s gusto?
I the Jury is I feel the best book Mickey wrote. It was also made into a movie and millions read this book. The prose is simple and the language earthy. Yes, there is very little finesse in it and the critics will pan him for it, but in I the jury he creates a thrilling tale and one can agree with Mike Hammer that crime does not pay. How many know that it was the first book with the character Mike Hammer .
The book is now out of print and that is sad. Maybe people have outgrown the brand of sex and violence as brought out by Mickey. But who can forget that he was the man who launched a new era in the field of fiction. I think the best tribute to Mickey is that he was a writer who brought the period of guns, molls and crime so prevalent in America after the war alive for the reader. He mirrored society and created a man in Mike Hammer who I don’t think will die away. Not in the genre of Sherlock Holmes, but something more earthy, a hood who could tame a bigger hood.