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Killing Town: The Lost First Mike Hammer Thriller


Killing Town: The Lost First Mike Hammer Thriller

The party celebrating the 100th birthday of Mickey Spillane continues and gets better than ever. The newly published KILLING TOWN is touted as the “lost” first Mike Hammer novel. A close reading of the introduction by Max Allan Collins indicates that it wasn’t really lost. Collins, Spillane’s hand-picked posthumous collaborator, was shown the unfinished manuscript prior to Spillane’s death and made substantial contributions to its completion.

To discover why the “first” Mike Hammer novel wasn’t published before Spillane’s iconic I, THE JURY, you will need to read Collins’ fine introduction to KILLING TOWN. Even if you’re familiar with the story, you won’t know all of it until you experience Collins’ in-the-room account of how it all went down, what is occurring, and what will happen to the collection of Spillane’s manuscripts, which was in various stages of completion at the time of his passing.

"[KILLING TOWN] is strongly recommended as Exhibit A for how the job of writing the hard-boiled detective novel is fittingly and properly done."

What had been 30 pages of an unfinished novel is now a full-blown work, thanks in great part to Collins’ experienced and respectful hand. This isn’t just a book for Spillane completists. It’s a wild Hammer trip for the neophyte and the veteran from beginning to end, one that doesn’t take place in Hammer’s beloved New York but rather in the small town of Killington, Rhode Island. The manner in which Hammer arrives in post-World War II Killington --- the nickname for which provides the book’s title --- is anything but auspicious, but it is classic Spillane, as is Hammer’s apparently subconscious inclination to get in trouble.

Hammer is in town just long enough to secure downtrodden lodging, a decent meal and a few beers before finding himself accused of the rape and murder of a woman he barely glimpsed and did not know. His momentary salvation is another woman who he never met but whose (false) testimony gets him released from police custody. This angel is Melba Charles, the glamorous daughter of a local industrial magnate whose considerable influence extends far beyond Killington and has more than brushed off on his offspring. Melba’s largesse towards Hammer does not come without a price, though, and it’s an interesting one indeed.

As we wonder what the fallout from Melba’s intercession is going to be, we are also left to ponder why Hammer is in the misbegotten burg of Killington to begin with. That question is introduced gradually but is not fully revealed until approximately halfway through the book. But an even more important issue for Hammer is who set him up for the rape and murder that caused him so much trouble and pain when he first arrived in town, and to what end. Longtime Hammer fans know what will happen, but getting there is a great deal of the fun while Collins, with the approving shade of Spillane standing over his shoulder, provides the remainder.

We are assured by Collins --- a marvelous, one-of-a-kind author in his own right --- that there are more unfinished Hammer novels being completed, to be published in the near future. It is hard to imagine them being better than KILLING TOWN, which has all of the elements that made Spillane and Hammer the multimedia icons of the mid-20th century and beyond. It is strongly recommended as Exhibit A for how the job of writing the hard-boiled detective novel is fittingly and properly done.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on April 20, 2018

Killing Town: The Lost First Mike Hammer Thriller
by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins