Sun 28 Feb 2010
When I was a kid it was a family joke that I had never read book cover to cover. I was always a “skimmer” – but the truth is I loved to read. To this day, I try to skip a page in every book I read so I can still “brag” that I never read a book cover to cover.
My mother will point out that this claim may be true except for “An Unauthorized Biography of Farrah Fawcett” I read in seventh grade. But that is another story for another time.
When I was in high school (in the early 80’s not the 50’s when they were written), I discovered the books of Mickey Spillane, the iconic writer of the hard-boiled Mike Hammer detective stories. I loved these books! I liked them for the crisp straight to the point writing and the fact that they were great stories told in a relatively short number of pages.
I read most of Spillane’s catalog in a very confined period of time when I was about 17 and really never read him again. I do remember re-reading “I, The Jury” – the first, best and best known of the Hammer series – on winter break as a freshman in college, but that was it.
Just recently, while browsing titles on Amazon, I came across an anthology series of Spillane’s work. While reading the titles contained in these volumes I was transported back to my youth and knew I had to buy one. Most of the books I read back in the day were used paperback purchased at flea markets. So having a brand new book with these classic tales in them was welcome.
The novels have a nostalgic feel, not just because I am remember reading them, but the whole style. In a modern context the stories may seem quaint and derivative, but you need to remember that Spillane practically invented the genre.
I realize that they may not be everyone’s taste, but if you have the chance, read one of Spillane’s novels, you will come to appreciate why he is an important figure in the evolution of popular fiction in the 20th century.