May 17, 2012

Off the Shelf: Lady, Go Die!

Title: Lady, Go Die!
Authors: Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
Publisher: Titan Books

Mike Hammer, as well as its creator Mickey Spillane, are up there in the bestselling series and author of all time. Mike Hammer has been adapted into movies, TV shows, and comics. Spillane has influenced modern hard-boiled writers such as Frank Miller and Ed Brubaker, and chances are you’ve seen a Spillane influenced work such as Sin City or Max Payne (video game series). Not only is the author well known for his works, he’s also recognizable for his down-to-earth and humorous personality (think of him as…a conservative Stan Lee who writes crime novels). Yet ask any Generation Y/Z fanboy who Mike Hammer or even Mickey Spillane is, and chances are they’ll be scratching their heads.

While Spillane has since passed away, there have been several unreleased manuscripts by him that have been carried out and co-written by longtime friend and “apprentice” Max Allan Collins (Road to PerditionNate Heller series, etc.). Lady, Go Die! is the newest lost Mike Hammer tale and is a sequel to the first Hammer story, I, the Jury (hmm…three words, one comma…).

While there’s the familiar gritty, violent shade of noir that Mike Hammer fans are familiar with, the setting is different. Rather than being set in New York City or a sprawling, gutter ridden metropolis as one might expect, Lady, Go Die! primarily takes place in a small beach town called Sidon. This might sound like a trivial fact, but the setting is in a way its own character. Beneath the surface of what looks like a peaceful beach town, lies corrupt cops, illegal gambling, and a bunch of other dirt just waiting for Mike Hammer to dig up. It’s a refreshing change of scenery over New York City, and for those of you who crave the urban jungle, don’t worry, Mike Hammer takes a few trips to the Big Apple.

Of course, there’s also many things Mike Hammer fans have come to know and love. The violent fights, a slew of allusions and analogies, and sexy dames can be found at the turn of a page. However, the difference between mystery greats such as Spillane and Collins compared to second hand versions, is that these techniques and tropes are used wisely and aren’t put in there for the sake of it.

As far as the writing team goes, I cannot tell when Spillane ends and Collins begins. Some collaborative efforts (Good OmensThe Talisman, etc.) are easy to decipher who wrote what. But here, both writers’ contributions are camouflaged into each other. This is certainly not to suggest that it was a bad/lazy collaboration or that Collins is an imitation of Spillane. Rather, it’s to say that Spillane and Collins are a creative match made in heaven, and Spillane made a very wise decision of entrusting Collins with his unpublished manuscripts.

In many ways, Mike Hammer is like James Bond, because you always expect certain things out of it. There’s murder, mystery, twists, women swooning over Mike Hammer, wise-ass remarks, and vomit punches. Just like the James Bond franchise, each time you’re at the edge of your seat wondering how it will end. Point is, if you love Mike Hammer, you’re in for a treat here. There’s plenty of things to enjoy. It has plenty of interesting characters, from beachcomber Poochie to crooked cop Dekkert; lots of suspenseful action to keep you turning page after page; and memorable lines that will get you to smile. Likewise, if you hate Mike Hammer and think of the series as nothing more than gestapo training, then I doubt this book will change your opinion.

Despite having some I, the Jury spoilers in it, Lady, Go Die! might be the perfect introduction to newcomers of Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins. A Mickey Spillane novel is required reading for any mystery enthusiast or those who like a little hard-boiled and noir in their comic books (this applies to you, too, Batman fans). Maybe you’ll love it, maybe you’ll hate it. But with action, dames, and cleverly written lines, what’s to stop you from giving Lady, Go Die! a try?

Andrew Hudson