Friday, July 01, 2016

Book 47: Eh, okay whatever.

I was in the midst of an audiobook drought when I picked out book 47. Both the books I wanted to listen to were temporarily unavailable; when the borrowing time had expired I had to get back in line for them. But I had lots of driving to do, so I went looking for something that would be entertaining. Remembering that I'd enjoyed Joyland I looked at some other Hard Case Crime books and picked out this one.

I'd never read a Mickey Spillane book before, mostly because I'm not really big on mysteries. As mysteries go, this wasn't much of one, but I kind of gathered that wasn't the point.  This was somewhere between a real mystery and a Quentin Tarantino gangster movie. It was really a pretty basic book, which isn't to say bad but also not really something that made me want to read more of his books. I kind of get the feeling that if you've read one Mickey Spillane book, you've read them all.

The basic plot is this: Mike Hammer gets back into New York after a trip to Florida to recuperate from a knifing. On his first day back, a kid almost gets beaten up by goons in front of him, but he intercedes and beats the attackers up. That gets him embroiled in a gang war of sorts between a guy called "The Snowbird" and some mobster, with a doctor and the kid also involved as well; the plot hinges around the fact that there is a shortage of drugs on the streets but a big shipment -- the "Big Bang" of the title -- is headed in.

This being a pulp fiction Mike Hammer book, the characters are basically Dick Tracy cartoons: all the women are voluptuous sex kittens (except one skinny girl that pops out of nowhere to be interviewed by Hammer, who is told that Hammer prefers them skinny), the mobsters are cordial but cold ("The Snowbird" is somehow foppish, described as speaking in a fake British accent and sounding like he dresses like Austin Powers), the cops are suspicious, the G-men are straight arrows, and Mike Hammer is basically Batman but with a gun and a looser moral code. (Well, looser than Comic Book Batman. Batman vs. Superman Batman is more of a killer.)

Mostly the book just chugs along, hitting all the marks you expect, and moving where you figure it will go.  I was kind of surprised at the hint of a moral question at the end, when Hammer has a decision to make about whether he should stop the drug shipment or not (SPOILER ALERT: the drug shipment may be tainted, so that it'll kill a lot of junkies.)  There's a lot of sort of social judgment and hamhanded commentary on issues like the drug war, but it doesn't interfere too much.

This was a book that Spillane is supposed to have written in the 1960s and then left on the shelf for decades before whoever this co-author is got it out (with permission I guess) and maybe added or edited it a bit? It had the feel of filler, right down to the generic title and the so-so mystery/gang war at the center of it. Probably it was just put out to make a buck off something Spillane never bothered to publish himself. So maybe pure Spillane might be a bit better, but I doubt I'll be checking anything else by him out.


Andrew Leon said...

Doesn't sound like my kind of thing at all.

Briane Pagel said...

I'm not sure whose kind of thing it is. Then again, the world mostly likes mediocre, predictable things so this is probably the exact kind of book people love. It's a lot easier to be successful if you appeal to people, and people like things that don't surprise them or make them think to hard.

PS I guess I'm in a cynical mood today.

Andrew Leon said...

Me, too.

Liz A. said...

I had a mystery phase, but I stuck to Sherlock Holmes and books by Agatha Christie.