I’m sitting here trying to remember the first time I got interested in Mickey Spillane. Must have been sometime around when I was about 14. The first Spillane book I read was I, The Jury, which I just absolutely loved. I’ve probably read that one four or five times. I devoured the rest of the Mike Hammer novels in short order, but never really read any of his non-Hammer work.
My love for all things Hard Case Crime is well documented in this blog, so when I heard that the HCC line was going to publish a new Spillane novel, I was thrilled. Then Spillane died and I wasn’t sure what that would mean for the new Mike Hammer novels I’d heard about or the Hard Case Crime offering. But the new Spillane, Dead Street, was published right on schedule in November, 2007 as the 37th HCC book.
Spillane had only written eight of the eleven chapters at the time of his death, but left detailed notes and instructions to friend and fellow crime writer Max Allan Collins to finish the book. The result is a great, entertaining read that’s at times vintage Spillane, but offering just the right amount of something new to make it a page turner. The plot follows ex-NYPD cop Jack Stang as he’s drawn into a 20-year-old case – the presumed death of his fiancee. Turns out the girl is alive, but has no memory and is completely blind. Stang moves from the Big Apple to a retirement community for cops in Florida just as things start heating up in the long dead case. Spillane takes the reader on a journey that’s both action-packed and surprisingly reflexive, touching on things like 9/11 and terrorism and the potential for a nuclear terrorist attack on US soil.
I expected the novel to end much differently than it did, given some of the endings from the Hammer novels, but this was a mellower happy ending that made me smile a little, but didn’t really pack a punch. I still highly recommend Dead Street and pretty much everything else Spillane’s done. But it’s just great. Not Spillane Great.