Battling Bosoms

For a decade Mickey Spillane has been on my should-read-someday list of authors. His "Mike Hammer" series of hard-boiled detective thrillers were hugely popular in the 1940's and for decades thereafter. Something that sensational has to be good, eh?! Recently at the used-book sale I picked up a pair of yellowed-page cracked-spine paperbacks: copies of the first two novels in Spillane's signature series. Sadly, at the same time I also snagged a couple of Raymond Chandler mystery collections and James Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice.

Major mistake! In comparison to Cain and Chandler, Spillane's prose stutters and stumbles. His improbable female landscapes are punctuated with blunt-force-trauma paintings of improbable male violence. Soon the repetitive motions turn into comic self-parody. Three mildly risqué samples from I, the Jury, the book that introduced Mike Hammer:

... The picture was taken at a beach, and she stood there tall and languid-looking in a white bathing suit. Long solid legs. A little heavier than the movie experts consider good form, but the kind that make you drool to look at. Under the suit I could see the muscles of her stomach. Incredibly wide shoulders for a woman, framing breasts that jutted out, seeking freedom from the restraining fabric of the suit. Her hair looked white in the picture, but I could tell that it was a natural blonde. Lovely, lovely yellow hair. But her face was what got me. ... (Chapter Two)

and

... The dress she wore was not at all revealing, being a long-sleeved black business garb, but what it attempted to conceal was pure loveliness. Her breasts fought the dress as valiantly as they had the bathing suit. I could only imagine how the rest of her looked since the desk blocked my vision. ... (Chapter Four)

and

... She strode provocatively across the room and back toward me. Under the dress her body was superb, unlike what I imagined the first time. She was slimmer, really, her waist thin, but her shoulders broad. Her breasts were laughing things that were firmly in place, although I could see no strap marks of a restraining bra. Her legs were encased in sheer nylons and set in high heels, making her almost as tall as I was. Beautiful legs. They were strong looking, shapely ... (Chapter Six)

A glance through the second novel in the Mike Hammer series, My Gun is Quick, turns up the similar:

... Her dress was loose at the shoulders, tapering into a slim waist that was a mass of invitation. She sipped her drink, then drew her legs up under her, letting me see that not even the sheerest nylon could enhance the firm roundness of her thighs. When she breathed her breasts fought the folds of her dress and I waited to see the battle won. ... (Chapter Seven)

No imagery, no poetry, no metaphorical depth. Perhaps Mickey Spillane's later works are better ...

(cf. Catfight Club (2003-09-05), The Simple Art of Murder (2005-12-04), The Thin Man (2006-01-21), ...) - ^z - 2008-07-09


(correlates: Metabo versus The Media, Trouble Is My Business, Buss and Ride, ...)