July 17, 2006

Hard-boiled detectives lose a champion

Mickey Spillane has died. I admit I haven't given Mike Hammer's creator much thought since I was about 16, but it still surprised me. I remember reading I, The Jury and being astonished at the ending, when Hammer shoots the murderer in cold blood. That wasn't the way mystery novels (and it was a mystery, not just a violent private detective story) were supposed to end. In my reading to that point, the proof was shown to the reader in the last chapter, the criminal was denounced, and the cops came and took the perp away. Hammer took the law into his own hands.

It's almost as though Spillane took the Western genre and transposed it to the hard-boiled detective one. Westerns end with shootouts. The good guy survives (often wounded), but the law is only tangentially involved unless he's the lawman himself (see High Noon). In detective stories, the cops, no matter how bumbling (think Lestrade in the Holmes stories), are handed the crook after the brilliant detective susses out the facts.

Spillane changed that with Hammer and I, The Jury.

Posted by Linkmeister at July 17, 2006 03:08 PM | TrackBack

For me, at age 12 or so, the shocker was the last line:

"Juno was a man." Oh, wow. He was a trendsetter.

Posted by: terry in AZ at July 17, 2006 04:00 PM