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Mike Hammer: Murder Never Knocks


Mike Hammer: Murder Never Knocks

The phrase “hard-boiled detective” should immediately conjure up the names of author Mickey Spillane and his creation, Mike Hammer. Spillane introduced the world to Hammer in I, THE JURY and never looked back, writing 12 additional Hammer novels before 2006. Max Allan Collins, a legendary author in his own right, was tapped by Spillane to complete any manuscripts that might be unfinished before Spillane’s death. Collins has been performing yeoman’s work on this project, a labor of love that has resulted in a series of seamless posthumous collaborations between the two authors. The latest --- and absolute best --- of these is MURDER NEVER KNOCKS, which reads as if Spillane whispered it word for word in Collins’ ear. It will bring tears of joy to fans of both writers.

For the uninitiated, Hammer is a one-man crime wrecking crew, a trouble magnet who is possessed of a skill set that is more than equal to dealing with whatever danger comes his way. In some ways, he is the flip side of Dick Tracy, the iconic NYPD comic strip detective (whose exploits, interestingly enough, were at one time also penned by Collins). While both men could arguably be called knights, Hammer’s armor is tarnished and dented from all of the wondrous shortcuts he has taken over the years. He also has an extremely vigorous appreciation of women, one that is hardly considered de rigueur in our so-called, ever-so-enlightened times, but Collins has wisely preserved it.

"MURDER NEVER KNOCKS is simply the best. The mystery is fine, with plenty of twists and turns, and there’s enough (mild) sex and violence to satisfy anyone...but it’s the little touches that make the book so terrific."

Accordingly, MURDER NEVER KNOCKS presents Hammer pretty much as Spillane conceived him. The story is set in the mid-1960s and begins with an attempted hit on Hammer in his own office. Hammer, of course, comes up on the long end of it, but the would-be assassin gives him just enough information for him to know that he is the subject of a contract job. He starts wondering who has it in for him --- it’s a long list for sure --- but he has other things on his mind as well, including a security gig for a high-end bridal shower where, oddly enough, someone tries unsuccessfully to take him out again. If that’s not enough, a sniper’s bullet from a perch in Central Park barely misses its mark. As Hammer would be the first to tell you, “almost” counts only when you’re playing horseshoes or hand grenades, so he is all the more determined to find out who is after him.

There’s some indication that the matter is tied to the hit-and-run killing of a veteran society reporter, but there’s more, much more to it all than that. Hammer spends his time using tried-and-true investigation techniques, but his business and the attempts on his life don’t prevent him from occasionally sampling the local fauna along the way, his love for Velda, his always-loyal secretary, notwithstanding. There are plenty of twists and turns leading up to the conclusion, which features some symmetry and, at the very end, a fine bit of irony.

MURDER NEVER KNOCKS is simply the best. The mystery is fine, with plenty of twists and turns, and there’s enough (mild) sex and violence to satisfy anyone --- Hammer is lusting after or hitting everything that moves --- but it’s the little touches that make the book so terrific. Hammer reads Playboy (the old version) and...Saga. I love it. There’s also a bit of history concerning a club called the Peppermint Lounge, which became famous as the result of a hit record called “Peppermint Twist,” which had a connection at one point to Joe Pesci, and...okay, I’ll stop.

I could go on all day and all night about Hammer, Spillane and Collins, but instead I will just strongly suggest that if you are a fan of pulp fiction, old paperback novels and detective stories written when men were men, you need to read MURDER NEVER KNOCKS. And here’s a tip of the fedora for keeping the brand alive and Spillane immortal.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on April 1, 2016

Mike Hammer: Murder Never Knocks
by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins