In addition to watching a hell of a lot of movies, I'm also a frenzied reader (no, I don't get out much). My favorite genre is classic hard-boiled detective fiction, by genius like Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and Ross Macdonald. When I first picked up a book by Mickey Spillane, I was stunned at how different his style was from that of the writers I loved: There was a pulpy, hard, nastiness there, as well as a casual misogyny that, while it offended me, was also probably a lot more realistic than the romantic tendencies of most of my favorites.

As turned off as I thought I was by Spillane, I could never get either him or his bastard of a main character, Mike Hammer, out of my head. There was always something about both of them that was unshakable: A total lack of shame, and a commitment so strong that, no matter how much they pissed you off (and for me, that happened a lot), you had to respect their passion. The best Hammer films (Spillane, just as tough as his creation, played Hammer in 1963's The Girl Hunters) had that same passion -- and they were also, for me, just as hard to stomach as the novels, with their conservatism, violence, and dismissal of woman. The thing is, though, that those damn things stuck with me, too. And after I saw it for the third time, I suddenly realized that I loved the bizarre, wonderful Kiss Me Deadly. And that Ralph Meeker's macho, foolish Mike Hammer was a fantastic, perfect character, in spite of all the things I thought I hated about him.

And when I heard this morning that Spillane had died at 88, I was stunned by how hard it hit me. It may be against our better judgment, Mickey, but you're already missed.
categories Cinematical