Book Review: My Gun is Quick by Mickey Spillane

“What can I expect from you?” “Hell,” I said.

Spillane-signet0791My recent purchase of a Smith-Corona Super-Speed, led me to pick up Mickey Spillane again.  Spillane was originally for me a guilty pleasure. His books the kind that you read quickly and thought little about.

I have come over the years though to think of Spillane as something he would probably not want to be thought of, a true artist. A hard-boiled poet. In fact, I have begun to imagine that it is Spillane, not Ginsberg or Bukowski, that is the true poet of the Beat Generation. Again a title that I am sure would cause Spillane no end of aggrevation.

Now that I have the same machine he had, it got me curious. Would having spent some time writing on my own Super-Speed change the way I read Spillane now as a writer?

With that in mind, I started with his second novel, My Gun is Quick. Not my favorite Mike Hammer book but the one with my very favorite of all pulp covers.

Those who have read book reviews at MontanaWriter before know that when I review a book I seldom write about the plot. Plot does not interest me, language does. For a Mickey Spillane novel this is even more true, for the plot is really always the same: some person or persons deserve to pay violently for killing and hurting others, and Mike Hammer is going to make sure they do. In this case, the dead person is a redhead Hammer meets briefly and befriends.

Plot for Spillane is merely a vehicle for a his force-of-nature character to inhabit and act in. What is important in a Spillane story is the big, sexy dames and his incredible over-the-top cliche lines that are ultimately in his hands neither over-the top nor cliche. They are hard-boiled poetry

As to question of whether or not writing on the same typewriter as Spillane has changed how I think of him as a writer, I think my comments about his writing being hard-boiled poetry indicate clearly that it has.

Here are some lines from the opening paragraph and a few others.

Enjoy!

 

My Gun is Quick

Some more great lines from My Gun is Quick

Right up the street under the el was an all-night hash joint, and what I needed was a couple mugs of good black java to bring me around.
* * * * * * * * * * *

“Big mugs like you never have to pay, mister. With you it’s the woman who pays.”
* * * * * * * * * * *

When I got a girl to hold down the office I figured I’d might as well get a good-looking one as a bean head, and I sure skimmed the cream off the top. Only I didn’t figure she’d turn out to be so smart. Good-looking ones seldom are. She’s big and she’s beautiful, and she’s got a brain that can figure angles while mine only figures the curves.
* * * * * * * * * * *

My guts were a tight little ball under my belt, because Red wasn’t the only one I remembered. There was that greaseball with the rod and the dirty sneer. There was the way Red had looked at him with terror in her eyes, and I felt my fingernails bite into my palms and I started cursing under my breath. It always starts that way, the crazy mad feeling that makes me want to choke the life out of some son of a bitch, and there’s nothing to grab but air. I knew damn well what it was then.
* * * * * * * * * * *

It was a mess no matter how you looked at it, and it was getting messier all the time. That’s why I was so sure. Death is like a bad tooth … no matter what’s wrong with it, you pull it out and it’s all over. That’s the way death usually is; after that people can talk all they want, they even do things for dead joes that they wouldn’t do for the living. Death is nice and clean and antiseptic. It ends all trouble. Someone gathers up your belongings; says a word of praise, and that’s it. But the redhead’s was a messy death. There was something unclean about it, like a wound that has healed over on top, concealing an ugly, festering sore brewing a deadly poison that will kill again. When the butt burned down to my fingers I started the car and shoved off, threading my way across town to the address Cobbie had given me. New York had its sinkholes, too, and the number of this one placed it smack in the middle of the slime. It was a one-way street of rats’ nests with the river at one end and a saloon on each corner, peopled with men and women that had the flat, vacant look of defeat stamped on their faces.
* * * * * * * * * * *

“What can I expect from you?” “Hell,” I said.
* * * * * * * * * * *

Suddenly I wasn’t tired any more. I was on my feet and my lips were split into a wide-mouthed grin because the ring I was holding was the redhead’s ring and somebody was going to die when they tried to get it away from me. They were going to die slower and harder than any son of a bitch had ever died before, and while they died, I’d laugh my goddamn head off!
* * * * * * * * * * *

The wind picked up and began throwing the rain around. The few pedestrians left on the sidewalks were huddled under marquees or bellowing for cabs that didn’t stop. Every time I stopped for a red light I could see the pale blur of the faces behind the glass store fronts, the water running down making them waver eerily. All with that same blank look of the trapped when nothing can be done to help.
* * * * * * * * * * *

I slid my arm under her and lifted her off the couch. Her eyes had a hungry sparkle that could mean many things. “You’re a big girl,” I said. “I have to be … for you. To the kitchen, James.” She scooped up the bag as I passed the chair and went through the doorway.

 

 

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