Mickey Spillane’s Work Keeps Coming 12 Years After His Death

Mickey Spillane

I say it’s high time Mickey Spillane received proper appreciation for his raw, visual writing. Certain critics turn their noses up at him — still — but his work nevertheless continues to attract new legions of readers every generation. Maybe they see something the so-called critics don’t. From The Passive Voice:

Mickey Spillane was never adored by critics. He famously said that his own father called his work “crud.” For the mystery novelist, none of it mattered.

“I don’t have fans,” he said in a 1981 People magazine interview. “I have customers. I’m a writer. I give ’em what they wanna read.”

He died in 2006 at 88, but his work hasn’t stopped. In the past 12 years, his estate has released nearly 20 of his unpublished and previously uncompleted novels and short stories, some as graphic novels and audio plays, many of them featuring the hard-boiled private eye he created, Mike Hammer.

Mickey Spillane has long been a favorite of mine, and definitely exerted a deep influence on my writing. Few authors can match his mastery of first person pov. Jim Traylor, Spillane’s biographer, said this about Spillane’s rough-and-tumble prose: “It’s not very highbrow, but it’s very real. It’s very Old Testament. It’s eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.”

And riveting. Not only did Spillane produce entertaining tales that still lure enthusiastic readers, but the brash new author who penned I, the Jury grew as an artist. As novelist Max Allan Collins once noted, Spillane made the leap from “brilliant primitive” to “polished professional” over his long career. In 1995, he won the Edgar Allen Poe Grand Master Award for mystery writing, which over the years has also recognized Raymond Chandler, John le Carré, and Elmore Leonard. Pretty good company for a writer so many have dismissed as a hack.


5 thoughts on “Mickey Spillane’s Work Keeps Coming 12 Years After His Death”

  1. I’ve never read Mickey Spillane, although I’ll look him up at my local library. I do have another favorite (cozy) mystery writer that some dismiss as a hack–Dick Francis.

    I dislike it when people pass such summary judgments, and I don’t think it does them much good. I remember my feelings when I read a post that derided all of Mr. Francis’s work, not just a book or two, and initially my feelings were hurt, as if the author were dismissing my judgment along with the books about murder and horseracing. But my next response was to decide that this person and I had little in common, and I could dismiss his opinions in the future.


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