LADY, GO DIE! (2012)

by Max Allan Collins and Mickey Spillane

Review by Mike Dennis


“Take everything you find and give it to Max, he’ll know what to do.”

Those were Mickey Spillane’s instructions to his wife one week before his death in 2006. He was referring to a number of partial manuscripts and voluminous notes he had compiled and stored in his home office. “Max”, of course, was Max Allan Collins, longtime Spillane fan and collaborator, and when Collins received the material after Mickey’s passing, he went to work.

One result of his efforts is Lady, Go Die!, the unfinished second Mike Hammer book. Originally scheduled to follow I, The Jury, Spillane’s blistering debut novel, Lady, Go Die! was begun in 1945, immediately after the author finished I, The Jury. Why he set it aside is a mystery in itself, and when Collins came across it, he thought it might be an early draft of a 1960s-era Hammer novel, but he eventually realized he held in his hands the long-lost novel which Spillane had intended as a sequel to his debut.

Set in the fictional town of Sidon, an obscure little tourist spot on Long Island, the novel begins with Hammer and Velda, his secretary whom he was just getting to know, taking some much-needed R&R following the heart-pounding proceedings of I, The Jury. One night, they’re out for a quiet stroll and they witness two thugs beating up on some poor soul down a nearby alley. Mike can’t stand seeing the little guy getting the worst of it, so he decides to even the odds. As he steps in, he recognizes one of the thugs as an ex-New York cop. This triggers a sequence of events that will involve several murdered women whose naked bodies have turned up all over the area, as well as a hidden stash of money taken in by a local underground casino.

As he did in an earlier Spillane collaboration, Kiss Her Goodbye, Collins once again shows how thoroughly he understands not only the genre, but Spillane himself. Writing in the voice of another author is a difficult task, especially when the voice is as aggressive as Spillane’s, but Collins is up to the job. Lady, Go Die! reads as though Spillane could have written the entire thing, and it’s nearly impossible to tell which passages he wrote and which were written by Collins.

Fortunately, for Mike Hammer fans, this is not the end of the line. There are several more novels in the works based on notes and partial manuscripts, and Collins has vowed to complete them all.

I, for one, will buy every one of them.

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