Friday, June 22, 2012

Lady, go die!

In Kiss her goodbye, my review of - You guessed it! - Kiss Her Goodbye by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins, I came across a little tepid toward the novel. I think in some ways I came across more tepid than I felt.

I had merely enjoyed The Goliath Bone and The Big Bang, the previous two posthumous collaborations between Spillane and Collins, and I had set my expectations so high - or perhaps merely so specifically - that it had not quite lived up to them.

So with the newest in the series, Lady, Go Die!, a direct sequel to the classic I, the Jury, the original Mike Hammer novel, I took no chances.

First of all, I had purchased a Kindle Fire a while back and since then it's offered me a free book from Audible for some time, but I've had technical problems getting that to work. I'm glad I'd not made a deal of it before, because I was able to resolve it with a single phone call and acquire the Audible Audio Edition.

I was born in 1971. That means Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer debuted shortly before my thirteenth birthday.

What this means is that, in my world Stacy Keach is Mike Hammer. No offense intended to Ralph Meeker, I promise.

So having Keach reading the text of the novel really helps put things in the right place. He's also a fantastic actor who brings the right earnest energy to his readings so the character remains between the crazy events in the '60s of "The Big Bang" or here, in "Lady, Go Die!" which takes place just after World War II.

To whatever extent it was the novel and what was Keach or my mood, it worked. This book is one crazy, fun story with plenty of mood and entertaining characters.

The story takes place directly after the events of "I, the Jury" and that novel and its ending are referred to directly. Without spoiling too much, Hammer needs some rest and relaxation after the traumas that took place during that story, as Velda, Hammer's right arm, and Capt. Pat Chambers, his best friend, are concerned with the amount of drinking he's taken up since then.

So Hammer and Velda take a vacation to Sidon, a resort town on Long Island that Hammer used to go with his family when he was a kid.

Obviously trouble ensues. First, when Hammer breaks up a fight in which a group of thugs are beating up a mildly retarded man turn out to be the local police. Second, a rather notorious woman turns up naked and dead, posed as Lady Godiva, hence the pun of the title.

It should surprise no one that these two events intertwine. The police had been beating the man in order to discover the whereabouts of the then missing woman.

More than in the previous posthumous collaboration between Spillane and Collins, I'd be very interested to see what elements were in the original manuscript and which were introduced by Collins, or how much they were developed, as one major plot point seems very much to come out of a modern understanding of psychopathic modus operandi.

(I'm also well aware that Collins does a significant amount of research for his various other historical novels, so I don't mean to cast aspersions on his knowledge.)

The important thing here is that this purrs along at a nice clip, perhaps even perfect. I found myself having the right realizations at the right times. Perhaps I'd have been "smarter" in solving the important thing if the whole world weren't such fun to get sucked right into the middle of. A good mystery story is, in that way, much the same as a good magic trick.

With all of these new books having their own very specific place within the Hammer continuity, I'd be interested to see how they'll play when read in that order, "I, the Jury", "Lady, Go Die!", My Gun Is Quick, Vengeance Is Mine!, etc.

Perhaps when the time comes I'll go through and read them that way and see. It's too bad the original novels are only available read by Keach in an abridged version. Spending several weeks with Keach reading each one individually could really make that an extra treat.

I also highly recommend Max Allan Collins on carrying on Mickey Spillane’s legacy, an interview with Collins by Bill Mesce, in which he discusses these collaborations and Spillane in more depth.

And I'll come back again and report on "Complex 90", reported here as the next of these, and give some more thoughts.

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