A blog dedicated to reviewing crime novels published by independent presses everywhere.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Kiss Me, Stupid: What is Mickey Spillane's Appeal?
The recent arrival of Dead Street, the latest Hard Case Crime release, and the final crime novel by writer (not author) Mickey Spillane, has got me wondering, exactly what is the appeal of the man's work? I intended to write a review of Dead Street, but I don't think I'm going to be able to finish it. It's too corny. This isn't my first attempt at reading Spillane. I've tried a couple times before and always given up. I'm beginning to think it's him, not me. I posed a similar question on the mailing list Rara Avis, and no one has yet to offer a real defense of Spillane's work. There has been a lot of talk about how successful he was, and there's no arguing with that. He was a one man publishing phenomenon, and one of the most successful writers of the 20th Century. Still, he's not any good. His characters are all the same-psychopathic thugs. His dialogue is stilted and ridiculous (Was there ever a time when men called women doll?) and his plots don't exactly leave room for shades of gray. Violence is always the answer. In Spillane's world there's no problem that can't be solved with a gun. It's always the first resort. In Dead Street, in a particularly stupid scene, the protagonist fantasizes about shooting a veterinarian in the face. A veterinarian who bought him coffee and wanted to talk to him. The veterinarian's mistake is bringing up a traumatic event from the protagonist's past. That's all it takes to set this guy off. That's not tough. It's pathetic. But Spillane doesn't present him as the damage case he obviously is. No, there's nothing wrong with this guy. Now, I like a tough guy protagonist. Take Westlake's Parker, for instance. He's a guy for whom violence is always the answer. But he's a crook and a psycho. Westlake doesn't hold him up as a hero. Violence also causes Parker as many problems as it solves. In Spillane's world violence only solves problems. Is that what made him so popular? Is there really a longing deep in the hearts of men to shoot every guy who says the wrong thing and every woman who does them wrong? If so, Spillane's success says a lot about human nature, none of it good.
Welcome to the Indie Crime Blog. As the name implies, this blog is dedicated to reviews of crime fiction published by independent presses. There are many books published every year that seem to be ignored for a variety of reasons. The books sections of newspapers are getting smaller. Bookstores give more shelf space to more established authors. I could go on, but you get it.My intent is to review books both old and new in the hopes that some deserving writers and worthy publishers will gain some exposure. I can be emailed at IndieCrime-at-gmail-dot-com