Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Review: Kiss Her Goodbye, Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins

File this book under the categories: hardboiled, detective fiction and Do-Not-Miss. It fell to his close friend, Max Allan Collins, to organize and complete several unfinished manuscripts after Mickey Spillane’s death in 2006. The pairing was providential. Collins, who is underrated by critics and under-appreciated by publishers, is the only one that could handle a Spillane manuscript. His own Nathan Heller novels are neglected classics of hardboiled fiction. Kiss Her Goodbye is the third Mike Hammer collaboration and fourth effort by Collins working from one of Spillane’s stories. And it’s a knockout.
Time-wise this book takes place after Spillane’s Survival…Zero! (1970) and The Killing Man (1989). Mike Hammer returns to New York after learning of a friend’s death. Troubled by his aging and recently wounded body, Hammer sets out on the trail of a killer, ruminating at the changes time had brought to his beloved Manhattan, as well as to his own life. According to Collins the theme of an older and ailing Mike Hammer returning to New York was important to Spillane. In fact, I’m confident scholars will one day wake up and trace the cultural and societal themes that are evident in all of Spillane’s work. This was a man that paid attention to the world around him, and as a writer he consistently explored new themes set against the backdrop of an adventure story. Sometimes it’s subtle, but it’s there. Collins knows the character. There’s even a sly reference to Velda’s original hair color (See “Tonight My Love” in Byline: Mickey Spillane, Crippen and Landru Books, 2004).
 (Previously unpublished photo of Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins at the Chicago Comic Book Convention, summer 1995: Copyright 2011 by Thomas McNulty)

Kiss Her Goodbye is a thrill a minute ride; violent, sexy, and unforgettable. The lion’s share of the credit belongs to Max Allan Collins who has worked so diligently in fostering an appreciation for Spillane’s work. Kiss Her Goodbye should make converts of you all. When all is said and done, and the last Spillane manuscript has been prepared for publication, I would love to see Collins get the nod to produce a new series of novels starring Spillane’s Mike Hammer. And wouldn’t it be grand if he even teamed Hammer up with Nathan Heller.

Keep writing, Max. Somewhere in the hereafter the man in the porkpie hat is mighty proud of you.

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