NYNT News Archive

07:18:2006: Kiss Him Deadly: Mickey Spillane Cashes In His Chips at 87

Except for a few bands and songs named after his books, Mickey Spillane doesn’t have a whole heck’ve a lot to do with music. His obit is however included here because he remains one of the biggest rock stars to ever publish a book.

In an era before arena rock, or even rock’n’roll as a mass phenomenon, critics and contemporaries hated Mickey Spillane because he was a vulgar pop culture icon. He was a sexist communist-baiting blind-patriot brut of a writer. His works turned the gratuitous sex and violence up a notch for Hammett and Chandler’s already racy tough guy detective novel genre – and, in the process, stretched the limits for the rest of popular culture in the post-war period. He was an anti-intellectual who was publicly boasted that he was a writer instead of an author, his works peanuts instead of caviar, “the chewing-gum of American literature" – and this wasn’t self-deprecation. Rivaling Kerouac in the automatic writing department, he was known to churn out a book in as little as nine days. Despite the efforts of politicians, critics, and other arbiters of taste, he was the best-selling writer of the years immediately following World War II. And, like his fellow crude rock stars, if nothing else, he was undeniably a distinct sylist.

Another odd piece of trivia: in addition to a variety of other jobs, Spillane performed the duties of both trampoline artist and human cannonball in the circus. He also used his celebrity to make extra cash endorsing light beer. And, like the rockers playing under the giant Coors banner at the stadium, it’s difficult to imagine him touching the stuff.

I can’t think of anything more rock’n’roll than all of this – except for the fact that he retired when he found Jesus and staged a comeback years later in which his work showed no traces of moral reformation whatsoever.

While I don’t agree with Mickey Spillane on most points, and don’t have much of a taste for Mike Hammer, I’ll admit that I’m a fan of his blunt writing, the exciting way it conveys American post-war anxiety, and the way it's left ice in my veins. And I can’t help but think what rock music would’ve been without him.

Guardian Obituary
Times Online Obituary
L.A. Times Obituary
NY Times Obituary
Mickey Spillane interview







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