Saturday, April 09, 2016

Don't look behind you

I've been lax in my reviewing of everything, but especially books. I've also been lax in my reading of reviews. Part of my reason is the pure limitation of it.

For example, I recently read Murder Never Knocks, the most recent Mike Hammer novel by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins and made the effort to add reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, because I was so excited about it.

Here's the thing, though. It wasn't that long ago I read Black Alley, the last novel Spillane completed, and King of the Weeds, the direct sequel he started and did not complete before his death. Both of these are enjoyable, well-written entries, but they both involve a plot point, a hidden cache of $89 billion, that I didn't find very interesting at all, so most of the sections of both books that focused directly on that element dragged a bit for me. I suspect there are many people for which that element is a highlight for them and that's great for them.

Do I have a critical reason to explain this? Nope. Perhaps it's a bit over-the-top, but then Spillane and Collins's The Big Bang is high on my list of favorites specifically because of its over-the-top elements, so that's not a reasonable excuse. Honestly, I have no way to explain it.

"Murder Never Knocks" is a blast, though. A pitch-perfect series entry. There's a great cast of characters and an admirable plot-line involving a series of attempts on Hammer's life that leads to a lot of great twists. All of the things that make for a good Hammer story for me.

The only complaint I have is that title. It was originally announced as "Don't Look Behind You", which is a wonderfully little spooky hard-boiled title. "Murder Never Knocks", while it makes at least as much sense after reading the book, just lacks that same impact. It feels like it could be any of the recent mystery novels with dull, market-tested names.

And, yes, that is one petty complaint for what is an all-around fun book that once again fills in the Hammer of the '60s, which it turns out could be my favorite period for him. I highly recommend it.

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