A penny saved is ridiculous.

A penny saved is ridiculous.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Hammer time

Being a longtime fan of writer Max Allan Collins, it was a treat being offered The Big Bang for review. Thankfully (though no big surprise), I liked the book a lot, avoiding the awkward situation of having to write something negative about a favorite writer's work. But, really, a new Mike Hammer novel? How hard was that going to be to like? Not very, I said to myself, and I was right.

The other part of the equation here, of course, is the great Mickey Spillane. The Big Bang was born of notes and an outline by Mr. Spillane and some literary elbow grease by Mr. Collins. The result is a seamless and entertaining tale, set in the nineteen sixties, involving drugs and its growing influence on both urban life and organized crime.

Though I enjoyed The Goliath Bone, the previous collaboration between Mr. Collins and Mr. Spillane (who entrusted many of his notes and outlines to his friend Mr. Collins shortly before his death), I liked this one a little better. For one thing, the sixties setting places Mike Hammer in his prime, so we don't have to deal with the creaky bones and speculations about retirement that peppered the other book, which was set post 9/11 and involved the terrorism issue. There's nothing wrong with an old Mike Hammer, and I'm glad we got to see him, but give me the younger, more vital urban knight any day.

Mr. Collins does a nice job here bringing home Hammer's complex personality. And it is complex. Though he's pretty much a front-and-center conservative right winger when it comes to issues of justice, people often forget that Mike Hammer is fairly easygoing and open minded when it comes to other social issues. For example, though Velda is his one true love, Hammer enjoys sleeping with consenting women and often tries to line 'em up for his friends, too. He's pretty relaxed about most aspects of society, in fact, and is known to be a soft touch when someone needs a favor. Just don't ask him to coddle criminals.

Anyway, The Big Bang offers everything one looks for in a Mike Hammer novel- the mystery, danger, violence, women, and urban moodiness- with enough polish and enthusiasm to make it all sparkle like new. Oh, yes- you also get another Hammer trademark: the memorably dark ending. Not to relate too much, but I think the ending will be debated among Hammer fans. I sort of had a horrified smirk upon finishing the last page, which isn't a bad result upon completing a Mike Hammer novel. Still, I wouldn't be surprised if there's some debate about the many semi-innocents who are essentially thrown to the wolves at story's end for, in Hammer's mind, a possible greater good. Is Hammer's decision (and, sorry, you'll have to read the book to learn more about what I'm talking about here) too harsh for even Mike Hammer? Maybe. Maybe not.

But, hey, debate can make a book fun. And it was already fun to begin with. After all, how can you not a like a Mike Hammer novel with a major set piece depicting a hopped-up-on-LSD Hammer (his coffee was spiked) taking on a small army of hoods, as hallucinations swirl around him.... and Hammer is still kicking butt.

If you like Mickey Spillane, Mike Hammer, Max Allan Collins, or any combination of the previous, pick up The Big Bang. You'll have a bang-up time.

Though I read this one the old-fashioned way (in print!),The Big Bang is available for $9.99 on Kindle. It'll read just fine either way.

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