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Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Writer's Life 7/21 - Hardboiled

I couldn't recall if I'd ever read a novel by Mickey Spillane, the scourge of literary critics. Since there were none of his works on my book shelves, I assumed I hadn't. When Survival Zero fell into my lap, I immediately put it on my desk. I just finished it. Published in 1970, mid-career, it is told from the point of view of the iconic Mike Hammer, an intrepid, non-nonsense P.I. often drawn into violent confrontation, and steamy encounters with beauties -- dolls or broads. I really enjoyed the mystery and the NYC setting. Spillane, born in Brooklyn, paints an unflattering picture of the Big Apple, which at that time was dirty and crime-ridden, so unlike the scrubbed tourist mecca it has become. The plot involves the hunt for a pickpocket who apparently murdered a friend of the gumshoe. The sub-plot involves Cold War intrigue. Spillane ties it all together neatly. The prose is intentionally unpolished, the dialogue filled with the slang of the era. Profanity is virtually absent. I would not say it is an easy read, but it is a satisfying one. Known for his lean and mean style, Spillane tells the story in a mere 160 pages. I did not have as much trouble with the tiny print of the Signet paperback as I'd expected. The violence is shocking even in light of today's relaxed standards. Six users at Amazon have rated Survival Zero, forging to a consensus of four out of five stars. I say 3.5. Spillane enlisted in the Army Air Corps during WWII and served as a fighter pilot and flight instructor. His first and most popular novel, I, the Jury, has been filmed twice, 1953 and 1982. The best adaptation of his work is Kiss Me Deadly (1953), which is always mentioned among the top film-noir of all-time. His books -- I counted 45 at Wiki -- have sold 225 million worldwide. There have been three series based on his iconic character, '58-'59, '84-'87, '97-'98. Hammer has been played by Ralph Meeker, Stacy Keach, Armand Assante, Darren McGavin and Kevin Dobson (Kojak). Spillane played Hammer himself in The Girl Hunters (1963). He has six credits as an actor, including an appearance on Columbo in which he played the victim, a writer. Married three time for long periods, he, ironically, neither drank nor smoked. He was a convert to Jehovah's Witness. In 1995 he was honored with the Edgar Allen Poe Grand Master Award. He died in 2006 at 88. Here are a couple of telling quotes attributed to him: "Those big-shot writers could never dig the fact that there are more salted peanuts consumed than caviar... If the public likes you, you're good." "I'm a writer, not an author. The difference is a writer makes money."

Three days and no violence thus far at the RNC, knock wood. Has there even been an arrest?... Ted Cruz insists on being hated. He would have made an excellent pro wrestler heel... Here's an excerpt from Mike Pence's speech, gleaned from a Kyle Smith op-ed piece in today's NY Post: “The national debt has nearly doubled in these eight years and [Hillary Clinton’s] answer is to keep borrowing and spending . . . they tell us this economy is the best that we can do. It’s nowhere near the best that we can do. It’s just the best that they can do.”

CBS' American Gothic seems to be vying for the most lurid prime time show ever. It fully embraces dysfunction and seems to paint all families as similar to the sorry bunch it features. If all families are as is portrayed -- even remotely -- I doubt civilization would have lasted this long. Of course everyone has sins and dark secrets, but this show piles them on. And yet I keep watching.

My thanks to Lev, who bought two mysteries in Russian, and to the young construction worker who bought the James Patterson/Michael Ledwidge thriller, Zoo. I'm not looking forward to the long heat wave that has been forecast.
Vic's Short Works:
Vic's 5th Novel:'s 4th novel:
Vic's 3rd Novel:
Vic's Short Story on Kindle:
Vic's Short Story Collection:
Vic's 2nd Novel: Kindle:
Vic's 1st Novel:

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