Thursday, July 6, 2017

Oh boy, Mickey Spillane

The tropes of hard-boiled detective, and particularly hard-boiled prose, have been so relentlessly parodied that it comes as a shock to see them in non-ironic contexts. I had a few Mickey Spillane books lying around and, although I almost never read detective fiction, I've been meaning to try him out because:

(A)  He was massively popular in his day, and I like to keep  my snobbishness at bay, and
(B) Ayn Rand, of all people, absolutely loved him.

Anyway, I'm only three chapters into a very short book, and it's already a struggle. The detective's name is Mike Hammer (HAMMER, for crying out loud) and he's so bitter, cynical, and sneering that I absolutely detest him already. But the prose, the prose! If you believe in gems of atrociousness, then I submit to you the following:

  • "Two drunks with a nickel between them were arguing over what to play on the juke box until a tomato in a dress that was too tight a year ago pushed the key that started off something noisy and hot" (5). This is the very first page of the book, mind you.
  • "[The picture] was a big shot of Marsha in a pre-Civil War dress that came up six inches above her waist before nature took over" (33). I can't be sure until I do some historical, OED-level research, but I think Mike Hammer may be talking about boobs.
  • "I let my hat drop and it stayed on the floor. My hands ran up her arms until my fingers were digging into her shoulders and I drew her in close. She was all woman, every bit of her. Her body was taut, her . . "  Well, I'll trail off here -- there could be children reading this. Suffice to say that "nature took over" very shortly thereafter. But seriously, she was all woman?!?!?!?!?

Spillane, Mickey. The Big Kill. New York: Signet, 1951.

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