Friday, May 7, 2010

The Big Bang by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins (Mike Hammer)

Mike Hammer went to Florida to recover from a stab wound from one of Junior Evello's boys — Junior is the nephew of Carl Evello from Kiss Me, Deadly — "that had opened my side like somebody wanted to slip in there and hide." On his first day back in Manhattan, he chances across hospital messenger Billy Blue being jumped by drug dealers who think he can get them easy access to the hospital's drug stash, and Hammer quickly dispatches the assailants with his signature brand of street justice.

It looks like Evello might be involved, but Hammer assures Homicide captain (and long-time friend) Pat Chambers that he has no interest in the case. Of course, when somebody tried to kill Mike, he gets interested fast. Now it's on.

The Big Bang is one of the handful of unfinished manuscripts Mickey Spillane entrusted to Max Allan Collins upon his death in 2006. Two others have been published previously: the non-Hammer Dead Street and the "last" Hammer novel chronologically, The Goliath Bone.

In addition to being about one-third complete, The Big Bang was also fully outlined and included the ending, which was one of Spillane's favorites. When the deadline for this book was approaching and it did not look like he could finish it, Spillane took the previously shelved "second" Hammer novel For Whom the Gods Would Destroy (he had written it after I, the Jury but quickly pounded out My Gun Is Quick as a followup instead), updated it with references to more recent cases, and sent that one in. It would be published under the title The Twisted Thing.

Spillane's and Collins's styles mesh well throughout The Big Bang, since Collins expanded Spillane's original one-third out to about one-half and then completed what was missing. Collins has somehow managed to produce a novel that is firmly grounded in the 1960s but does not feel dated. This is not an artifact, but a fully vital modern novel.

Collins stays mostly in the background, preferring to let his friend and mentor shine from beyond. Those who have followed Hammer through numerous adventures will appreciate it most, but The Big Bang can be enjoyed even by those relatively new to the detective.

One definite highlight is the climax, when Hammer unwittingly drops acid and sees his potential final moments with all the clarity of a warped record. ("Shotgun" by Junior Walker and the All-Stars gets a prominent role in the melee.)

But the ending of The Big Bang is just stunning, related to a huge shipment of heroin coming into the city (the "big bang" of the title — sorry physics fans, no beginning-of-the-universe theories discussed in these pages1). It may in fact be one of the best of the series. Just don't try to skip ahead and read it because you won't understand its significance unless you've read the rest of the book. The whole thing is well orchestrated for maximum impact. It's a keeper and one that will likely go down as one of the more memorable.

At least one more of these Spillane/Collins collaborations (Kiss Her Goodbye) is already scheduled to be published. There are at least three more substantial manuscripts that could be completed: Complex 90 (a sequel to The Girl Hunters), Lady Go Die!, and King of the Weeds. However, whether these see their way into print depends, like all things in publishing, on how well these sell, so support them however you can (preferably with your wallet) and help Spillane's legacy continue well into the future.

1Try What's Next?: Dispatches from the Future of Science for that — specifically Sean Carroll's "Our Place in an Unnatural Universe."

1 comment:

Evan Lewis said...

Just picked up Dead Street at Dollar Tree. Gotta read these Spillane/Collins books.

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