Monday, April 10, 2006

The Tough Guys, by Mickey Spillane

(pb; 1965: novella anthology)

Overall review:

A must-read for anybody who’s into noir fiction. This three-novella collection is worth reading, despite a couple of notable imperfections.

Review, novella by novella:

“Kick It Or Kill!” (1963) – Kelly Smith, a blunt-spoken, mysterious do-gooder with a violent streak visits a small town that’s ruled by an international drug ring. This is one of the rawest, most electrifying noir tales I’ve read in a long time. Perfect, this: most of the lines contained in this story are gut-punches – one of the highest compliments I can pay any noir work.

“The Seven Year Kill” (1964) – Equally convoluted and less raw than “Kick It Or Kill!,” this story is good, with Spillane’s trademark elements in place: a confident chump who’s (seemingly) over his head, dirty politics, sudden twists, and non-stop action punctuated with bitch-sharp dialogue. The initial set-up reveals a major flaw (there’s a highly unlikely “coincidence” upon which the tale hinges), but it’s still enjoyable.

“The Bastard Bannerman” (1964) – Cat Cay Bannerman, the family bastard (he was born out of wedlock), returns to the family estate he abandoned many years before. He discovers that Syndicate members are blackmailing his spoiled, cruel relatives, whom he helps, despite his dislike of them. Lighter than the preceding tales, it sports an obvious killer; even with the “obvious killer” nit, it's exciting and believable.

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