Friday, July 21, 2006

The Girl Hunters, by Mickey Spillane

(pb; 1962)


Mike Hammer is yanked from his seven-year, guilt-ridden drunken gutter spiral when a dying man (Richie Cole), shot by a mysterious assailant, requests Hammer's bedside presence. Cole will only talk to Hammer, not the investigating police officers, which, naturally, pisses off the police – with whom Hammer already has an unfavorable history.

What Cole tells Hammer sobers him: a woman (Velda) that Hammer loved, and might've accidentally killed seven years prior, is still alive, and being stalked by a vicious killer known as The Dragon.

With the police, the Feds and thugs dogging his every step, Hammer sets out to rescue her. History, personal and otherwise, and dating back to two world wars, haunts Hammer (and others) as he sifts through secrets, lies and violence. There's a much larger game afoot, one that just may kill Hammer, whose physical condition no longer reflects his hard-guy mentality.

Spillane's tough-guy prose is as uncompromising and exhilarating as ever, with Hammer, again the low-life but noble underdog, slugging it out – mentally and physically – with those who'd see him dead, in bed, or in jail.

The slam-bang, seemingly off-the-cuff finish is as wild as Spillane gets, which is pretty damn wild.

A must-read, if you're looking for no-frills noir action.

The Girl Hunters was released as a film in 1963. Author Mickey Spillane played Mike Hammer. Shirley Eaton played Laura Knapp, Senator Knapp's widow. Scott Peters played Police Captain Pat Chambers, Hammer's estranged friend. Directed by Ray Rowland.

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