This post is the twelfth in a series that I’ve been writing about the individuals that I view as the masters in my genre of choice, crime/detective fiction. I am a firm believer that you become better in whatever field you pursue by following those that excelled and paved the way before you.
Studying the Masters of Crime/Detective Fiction
Part 12 – Mickey Spillane
Frank Morrison ‘Mickey’ Spillane born in Brooklyn in 1918. He wrote several novels featuring his detective character, Mike Hammer which have sold more than 225 million copies internationally. He also received an Edgar Allan Poe Grand Master Award in 1995.
Spillane was in the Army Air Corps (predecessor of the Air Force) during World War II and became a fighter pilot and a flight instructor. Spillane, an active Jehovah’s Witness, was married three times.
Spillane started as a writer for comic books. While working as a salesman in Gimbels department store basement in 1940, he met tie salesman Joe Gill, who later found a lifetime career in scripting for Charlton Comics. Gill told Spillane to meet his brother, Ray Gill, who wrote for Funnies Inc., an outfit that packaged comic books for different publishers. Spillane soon began writing an eight-page story every day. He concocted adventures for major 1940s comic book characters, including Captain Marvel, Superman, Batman and Captain America.
In 1947 Spillane decided to boost his bank account by writing a novel. He wrote I, the Jury, his first Mike Hammer tale, In 19 days, which sold 6 1/2 million copies in the United States alone. Spillane’s Mike Hammer character originally started out to be a comic book character.
Although not very shocking by today’s standards, Spillane’s novels featured more sex than those of his contemporaries. Interestingly, the violence was more subdued than most detective novels of the time.
In all, Spillane wrote 45 novels, 11 of which were completed or are being completed by Max Allan Collins between 1947 and 2016. At the time of his writing, critics were tough on him because of the amount of sex in his work. This later became tempered and his work has since gained a great deal of respect in the crime/detective genre.