KISS HER GOODBYE by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins (2011)

Review by Mike Dennis

Mike Hammer is back.

It’s the 1970s. He’s a lot older now, a little mellower, and far more world-weary, as he makes his way through Kiss Her Goodbye, by Mickey Spillane in a 2011 posthumous collaboration with Max Allan Collins (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

After a near-fatal gunshot wound, Hammer has left New York and heads for the lower Florida Keys to recuperate and, for that matter, to retire. He’s had it with PI work, with New York and all its lowlifes, with having to deal with an ever-increasing number of critics and enemies, and with the loneliness that thirty hard years in the business has brought to him.

Not only that, Velda has gone. The love of his life, the one woman who understood who he was and why he did the things he did, has left, sent away by Hammer for her own protection.

Can he handle New York for one more go-around?

Turns out he’ll have to, as he returns for the funeral of Bill Doolan, his mentor, whose death was officially declared a suicide.

It all looks too perfect, too well-assembled. Doolan took a bullet in the heart, ballistics showed it came from his own gun, which lay at his side, and paraffin tests revealed that he had fired the shot. To top it off, he was found in his apartment with the door locked.

Open and shut, right?

Hammer smells a rat.

What follows is another classic Mike Hammer trek through Manhattan as he becomes ensnared in a search for Nazi jewels. Along the way, he encounters glad-handing politicians, a hardboiled female Assistant District Attorney, a Studio 54-type nightclub where cocaine flows like wine, and enough Mafia types to populate three more novels.

Hammer has a harder go of it this time around, though, because he’s a lot less agile. His pain meds have run out, but there’s still plenty of pain to go around, and a lesser man might not have made it through this maze of a plot.

There’s an underlying sense in this book that Hammer has, with the passage of the years, lost some of the anger that drove him through the earlier novels. He seethed his way through books like I, The Jury and One Lonely Night to the point where the reader hoped he wouldn’t blow an artery. His anger surfaces in spots throughout Kiss Her Goodbye, but overall, Hammer seems far more at peace with himself than he ever has, and frankly, it fits him well. It feels right, like a natural transition in his life. This might be attributed to Collins’ hand in the writing.

According to Collins’ introduction, the novel was assembled from an unfinished manuscript and various notes found in Spillane’s home following his death in 2006. Other than occasional nods to 1970s culture points, which probably came from Collins, the writing is seamless. It’s difficult to spot where Spillane left off and Collins begins. One key scene at a Mafia social club seems like vintage Spillane, but is it really? It could easily have been penned by Collins.

Either way, the Mick would’ve liked this one.

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