MY GUN IS QUICK by Mickey Spillane
Review by Mike Dennis
“You have to be quick. And able. Or you’ll be dead.”
That pretty much sums up Mike Hammer’s philosophy of life in New York City throughout all of his appearances in Mickey Spillane novels. But in My Gun Is Quick, Spillane’s searing 1950 tale of revenge, Hammer actually says this to the reader. He then sets out to prove it.
After making a post-midnight delivery to a client, he stops off at a slimy diner for a hot cup of java. There he encounters a gorgeous redhead down on her luck. He buys her a cup of coffee. They chat. A guy comes up to her, a guy with “a built-in sneer that passed for know-how”, and begins hassling her. Hammer pushes him around, gives the girl some money, and leaves.
Well, come to find out she’s a prostitute and she turns up dead the following morning. As in many other Hammer novels, he dedicates himself to finding her killer and dispensing his own brand of justice before the system can screw it up.
For the uninitiated, Mickey Spillane was considered beneath contempt by much of the literary world for virtually his entire career, which spanned sixty years. His hard-charging, gritty style turned off the literary elites, who also were not wild about his unabashed identification with the working class, which occasionally included prostitutes, gamblers, and street hustlers. Despite this institutional bias against him, Spillane sold over 130 million books during his life. They’re still selling.
All of the snide remarks and bad reviews couldn’t mask the passion that comes blasting through in Spillane’s prose. The dark streets and back alleys spring to life on the page, as Hammer slinks through them like a feral cat on the trail of his prey. The reader will feel Hammer’s hot desires as he strokes the naked skin of a beautiful woman. When he takes a wrong turn and is severely beaten by a few tough guys, the reader will feel the blows. This was pretty strong stuff in 1950, when readers of “mystery novels” were being spoon-fed Miss Marple.
My Gun Is Quick is currently available in a 3-book collection of Hammer novels, alongside I, The Jury and Vengeance Is Mine. The collection contains an outstanding introduction by Max Allan Collins, a longtime Spillane fan and collaborator. Highly personal and revealing, it sheds plenty of light on Spillane’s role in postwar America.
This book is the perfect entree for those who are unfamiliar with Spillane’s work. Get it. You won’t be sorry.