Thursday, March 03, 2016

Murder Never Knocks -- Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins

It's the middle of the 1960s, and someone's trying to kill Mike Hammer.  It's not the first or the last time that will happen, and if you've followed Hammer's adventures for any length of time, you know that when hit men show up to kill him, it doesn't work out well for them.  Hammer's hardly even bothered by the fact.  He kind of expects it.  But he'd like to know why someone's gunning for him.  

So would Pat Chambers, Captain of the Homicide Division, as would Velda, Hammer's partner in the P.I. game.  But with Hammer, things are never simple.  There's the matter of a hit-and-run accident in the past and the newsie who witnessed it.  You can shoot at Hammer, and he might not even get mad.  You shoot at one of his friends, and you're in big trouble.

Then there's the matter of the fancy party where Velda and Hammer are bodyguards.  Just a heist, or another attempt on Hammer's life?  

You won't be surprised to learn that all these things are connected, but just how they're connected takes Hammer a while to figure out.

As usual in these posthumous collaborations, Collins is working from material that Spillane left behind, in this case several chapters, notes on the plot and characters, and a draft of the ending.  Once again, the transition between what Spillane wrote and what Collins has added is so smooth that you won't notice any difference.  The historical details are handled with Collins' usual skill, by which I mean that he doesn't try to dazzle you with his research.  The details are there, but they don't intrude on the story, which cooks right along.  No slowdowns allowed.

The shadowy villain has his own agenda, and he has something else, too, in a plot twist that's unlike anything in Spillane's previous work.  It leads to a fine concluding chapter that's both typical and untypical and just about perfect.  This is another outstanding chapter in the Hammer chronicles, so don't miss it.

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