Here’s a bit of writing to brighten your day!
Caution: graphic (not sexual) stuff ahead. Feel free to skip the next paragraph. You can always come back to it if you want.
I snapped the side of the rod across his jaw and laid the flesh open to the bone. 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.
Isn’t that a bit…..um….violent?
Yes, it is, and it was penned by Mickey Spillane, who died last week at 88 years of age. He was the most selling author of the twentieth century. But I’ve never heard of him, whine the twenty-somethings. That’s because his monster-sellers were written late 40’s and early 50’s, starting with I, the Jury, in which tough private eye Mike Hammer set out to avenge his pal’s murder. He’s gonna plug the sadistic creep when he finds him, instead of arresting him for trial, because…..well….the title says it all!
Spillane wrote it quickly, in just nine days, because he needed a down payment for a home. Within two years, he had achieved superstar-author status.
And then he became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The guy who brought broads and blood to the reading masses is a Jehovah's Witness, a fundamentalist [group] that preaches the imminent end of the world. "There's nothing phony about them. Everything they say is true," says Spillane, a one-time "nominal" Protestant converted years ago by a Jehovah's Witness who knocked on his door.
[We would never characterize ourselves as a fundamentalist group…..indeed, we maintain a certain distance from those folks. But, alas, sometimes people confuse us with them……Sheepandgoats]
This posed a problem for Mike Hammer, because Jehovah’s Witnesses are not blood and guts people. Of course, Mike Hammer didn’t become a JW, Mickey Spillane did, but Mike, as an invented person, can’t do squat without Mickey’s okay. In 1952 he (Mickey) told Life magazine: There are more books on the way, but they won't contain the things that bolster the excuses for the moral breakdown of this present generation. I've changed my work and course of action to be in harmony with Jehovah's Kingdom. Spillane didn’t write again for 10 years.
When he did, Mike Hammer was somewhat tamer, though hardly domesticated. The bad guys, after all, are bad, and you can only be so nice in dealing with them. New characters appeared as well: Tiger Mann, (not Woods) a James Bond wannabe of the 1970’s. Spillane also wrote a couple of children’s books, The Day the Sea Rolled Back (1979) and The Ship That Never Was (1982).
I wrote those books as an exercise, they sold, they won the Junior Literary Guild Award, which made all the guys who write kids books very aggravated, 'how can you win that award?', but you know what that does, it gets you into all the school libraries, which is a lot of sales.
For about twenty years, he did Miller Lite TV commercials…. we made Miller Lite the second largest selling beer in the world and everybody said 'no one'll drink that stuff'.
High-brow authors thought his writing stunk to high heaven, but Ayn Rand (The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged) loved it. She examines a passage of his writing:
"The rain was misty enough to be almost foglike, a cold gray curtain that separated me from the pale ovals of white that were faces locked behind the steamed-up windows of the cars that hissed by. Even the brilliance that was Manhattan by night was reduced to a few sleepy yellow lights off in the distance" -- and then compares it to a passage by Thomas Wolfe -- "The city had never seemed as beautiful as it looked that night. For the first time he saw that New York was supremely, among the cities of the world, a city of night. There had been achieved here a loveliness that was astounding and incomparable, a kind of modern beauty, inherent to its place and time, that no other place nor time could match."
To Rand, "there is not a single emotional word or adjective in Spillane's description; he presents nothing save visual facts; but he selects only those facts, only those eloquent details, which convey the visual reality of the scene and create a mood of desolate loneliness." Wolfe, she argued, used only estimates, "and in the absence of any indication of what aroused these estimates, they are arbitrary assertions and meaningless generalities."
I’ve only read three of Mickey Spillane’s novels: his first, and his last two. So I have a few to catch up on. I wrote to him, but he never replied. However it was only a few months ago, and I guess he’d been in bad health. He was 88, after all. And I had to go through his publisher; my letter to his googled address came back undeliverable.
In his 80's, he knew he wouldn't write too much longer.
I'm going to write my last Mike Hammer novel...I used to write fast, but I can't now, my rear end gets tired...I can't put in 12 hours a day sitting in a chair.