Mike Hammer Is Back, and That's Always A Cause for Celebration!
May 13, 2013
I’ve said it before: I grew up on the dime-novel prose of Mickey Spillane. He’s always delivered a solid premise along with a likeable hero and ‘hissable’ baddies. For those of you who don’t know (and ‘shame on you,’ by the way, for not knowing), the master passed away a few years back, but, before he did, he handed off his notes and half-completed works to fellow scribe Max Allan Collins for posterity. Since that time, Collins has continued to churn out some quality reads begun by the writer who perfected the hard-boiled novel, and that’s no small feat. Sadly, the closing advertising pages hint that the ride will be coming to an end in a few more books, but, in the meantime, fans of the classic detective novel still have COMPLEX 90 and a handful of others to anticipate.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last paragraph for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Mike Hammer – God bless his soul – is in trouble. At the onset, he’s being hauled in before a gathering of Congressional politicians, Presidential advisors, and military suits for doing the unthinkable: at the heart of the Cold War, Mike busted his way out of the Soviet Union leaving the bodies of 45 Russians in his wake. It seems he was hired to serve in the detail of a Congressman’s personal bodyguard on a fact-finding mission behind the Iron Curtain, and – as things can happen when Mike Hammer’s in town – things took a turn for the worst. Still, he’s out now, but word in the intelligence community says that Russian spies are still gunning for Hammer, but this time they’re on U.S. soil. A shadowy agency of our government gives Hammer the ultimatum: you bring us one of the Russkies alive, and we’ll drop all of the charges against you!
COMPLEX 90 is a terrific read, told with the same gusto common to all of the Hammer tales. What that means is that Mike finds himself with his back against the wall, and he has to come out shooting or die trying. It also means there’ll be dames aplenty, and there are as a popular Washington socialite throws parties where only the finest women (with the longest gams) are in attendance. In past novels, Hammer has only flirted with government agencies and national intrigue, but here our national interests take center stage, and Spillane (with Collins) weaves a wonderful tale where the stakes couldn’t be higher unless the faithful private eye had a nuclear missile up his sleeve or, better yet, in his trousers.
There are plenty of allusions to the events already explored in other Spillane books, but rest assured: you don’t need to have read these other tales because there’s enough info sprinkled consistently throughout that readers are kept up-to-speed. Suffice it to say, much of it involves Mike’s previous efforts to take down ‘The Dragon,’ a nefarious two-person hit team that spelled previously certain doom for the private eye and his lovely secretary, Velda Sterling. Also, there’s some backstory involving Velda’s seven-year absence from Mike’s life – where she was, what she was doing – but, again, it’s ably summarized in these pages so as to keep the reader following the current action and not rehashing the past.
And – as is the customary signature of any Spillane book – keep reading all the way up until the last sentence. Arnold Schwarzenegger built a career around the fatal quip before dispatching his cinematic villains, but nobody but Mickey Spillane can put the real punch behind famous last words. Each and every book of his is practically structured around Hammer’s last observation before putting the bad guy (or bad girl) in the act of going six feet under, and, like all of his other works, COMPLEX 90 delivers.
COMPLEX 90 is published by Titan Books. The story is by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins, two heavies were never met a dame they couldn’t seduce. It bears the cover price of $22.99, and are you kidding me? You can’t fork over as much to enjoy the stark, clean prose of two legendary writers? Get outta here!
HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION POSSIBLE. It’s Spillane – well, maybe Spillane-lite – by way of the master’s notes and Max Allan Collins doing the deed to fill in the blanks, and that’s still a cause for celebration in my book. I grew up on Mickey’s prose. While he’s passed into the great beyond, it’s great that there’s still some new bits of his coming down the publishing pike. COMPLEX 90 is a blistering read – I read it in a single six-hour sitting – full of just what Mickey (and Max) did best: cops, guns, double agents, femme fatales, crooked politicians, and even a few Commies thrown in for good measure. Mike Hammer gets a terrifically bloody sequence breaking out of Russia that’ll arguably go down in the history of badassery … as well it should.