Mystery Writer Mickey Spillane Dies

The Early Show, Mickey Spillane CBS/The Early Show

Mickey Spillane, the macho mystery writer who wowed millions of readers with the shoot-'em-up sex and violence of gumshoe Mike Hammer, died Monday. He was 88.

Spillane's death was confirmed by Brad Stephens of Goldfinch Funeral Home in his hometown of Murrells Inlet. Details about his death were not immediately available.

After starting out in comic books Spillane wrote his first Mike Hammer novel, "I, the Jury," in 1946. Twelve more followed, with sales topping 100 million. Notable titles included "The Killing Man," "The Girl Hunters" and "One Lonely Night."

Many of these books were made into movies, including the classic film noir "Kiss Me, Deadly" and "The Girl Hunters," in which Spillane himself starred. Hammer stories were also featured on television in the series "Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer" and in made-for-TV movies. In the 1980s, Spillane appeared in a string of Miller Lite beer commercials.

Besides the Hammer novels, Spillane wrote a dozen other books, including some award-winning volumes for young people.

Nonetheless, by the end of the 20th century, many of his novels were out of print or hard to find. In 2001, the New American Library began reissuing them.

As a stylist Spillane was no innovator; the prose was hard-boiled boilerplate. In a typical scene, from "The Big Kill," Hammer slugs out a little punk with "pig eyes."

"I snapped the side of the rod across his jaw and laid the flesh open to the bone," Spillane wrote. "I pounded his teeth back into his mouth with the end of the barrel ... and I took my own damn time about kicking him in the face. He smashed into the door and lay there bubbling. So I kicked him again and he stopped bubbling."

Mainstream critics had little use for Spillane, but he got his due in the mystery world, receiving lifetime achievement awards from the Mystery Writers of America and the Private Eye Writers of America.

Spillane, a bearish man who wrote on an old manual Smith Corona, always claimed he didn't care about reviews. He considered himself a "writer" as opposed to an "author," defining a writer as someone whose books sell.

"This is an income-generating job," he told The Associated Press during a 2001 interview. "Fame was never anything to me unless it afforded me a good livelihood."
  • John Kreiser

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