If anyone needs me, I'll be reading. Please don't need me.

If anyone needs me, I'll be reading. Please don't need me.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Hammer's back

Again working from unused notes, plotlines, and drafts provided to him by the estate of Mickey Spillane, Max Allan Collins has produced another bang-up Mike Hammer thriller in Kiss Her Goodbye, a sharp and violent epic set in a 1970's New York wallowing in organized crime, casual drug use, and bad disco music. All but the bad music takes a hit when Mike Hammer comes to town.

Like the best franchises, this latest entry in the Mike Hammer series delivers exactly what fans expect, but in new and exciting ways. A quick example: a satisfying but familiar scene showing Mike essentially executing someone for the cold murder he committed all of a sudden displays new levels of freshness and originality when we see Mike not only refuse to be thwarted by the bullet-proof vest his unfortunate victim is wearing, but actually employ the vest as a means to intensify his victim's suffering (you'll have to read the book to see how). It was quite a scene, and one I've never run across in other thrillers.

Is the book nothing but violence? Of course not. Mike is an interesting guy who enjoys music, city life, good food (though nothing too pretentious), and, of course, the company of beautiful women. On that last point, Mr. Collins is just as skillful as Mickey Spillane at portraying a Mike Hammer who is fully devoted to his longtime love Velda yet still somehow manages to regularly bed other women... and without losing the reader's sympathies.

But as fun as all that stuff is, fans mostly read these books to see Mike Hammer search for criminals who've committed horrid crimes, identify them, and exact justice (or vengeance, if you prefer). And that's what Mike once again does here- many times- in a tightly-wound, engrossing tale that starts out as a small investigation into the suspicious death of a cop friend (ruled suicide but Mike doesn't buy it) that soon evolves into Mike exposing and confronting a huge organized crime scheme of international proportions.

At their best, Mike Hammer novels are like a bracing dose of good whiskey at your favorite bar after a day of drinking vending machine soft drinks during the course of a boring work day. And these recent Spillane/Collins collaborations, especially the last couple ("The Big Bang" and this one), have been firing-on-all-cylinders, straight-no-chaser Hammer.

So, yeah, if I haven't expressed myself clearly enough, I liked Kiss Her Goodbye a lot. You may, too.

Kiss Her Goodbye is available on Kindle for $9.99.

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