Mickey Spillane


"Dead Street"

(reviewed by Hagen Baye DEC 4, 2007)

It is highly appropriate for Hard Case Crime to include Mickey Spillane among the writers in its stable and one of his last books to its inventory of books.  As a label of hard-boiled crime fiction, it would be incomplete not to include the best selling writer of our time, whose 140,000,000 in total sales worldwide were for books that are part and parcel of the hard-boiled crime tradition.  Dead Street is the last “cop/crime novel” Spillane worked on.  It was unfinished at the time of his death, but he anticipated that possibility and had lined up his friend Max Allan Collins to finish it in case he died before completing it, which Collins did based on conversations with Spillane before his death and on extensive notes Spillane left behind.

The principal character of Dead Street is Jack Stang, a retired NYPD officer.  At the time of Stang’s retirement, he held the rank of captain and commanded a station house on a block whose properties, including the station house, were slated for demolition in anticipation of redevelopment by a group of foreign investors.  Bit by bit, the inhabitants relocated and the properties demolished--hence, the title, Dead Street.

Stang’s reputation is for being a good, tough cop, a straight shooter and straight arrow, who earned the nickname “Shooter” due to his not being afraid to shoot it out with the bad guys, even when outnumbered.  As Stang describes himself, he is a “[h]ardass, but fair.”  He is a typical Mickey Spillane hero: rough, tough, righteous and a bit larger than life.

At the start of this story, Stang is approached by a Dr. Thomas Brice, a veterinarian, who tells Stang that his late father, also a vet, had some twenty years prior rescued a woman who had washed ashore unconscious on a Staten Island beach.  Dr. Brice’s father had reason to believe that this woman was Stang’s long presumed dead fiancé, Bettie Marlow, who had been abducted by mobsters and believed to have drowned during a police chase of her abductors. Dr. Brice’s father found her in terrible condition.  In addition to severe physical wounds, she was also blind and suffering from amnesia.

Recognizing that publicity of her rescue would keep her life at risk, the vet’s dad quietly nursed Bettie back to health and assisted her to deal with her sightlessness to the point where she could eventually live independently.  Just prior to his death, the father bought her a house in Sunset Lodge, a Florida retirement community where many retired police officers and firemen reside.  He reasoned that this type of community was like an insurance policy to ensure her safety in case those who had abducted her tried to get back at her.  Bettie had worked for a computer company that did work for the government and it was surmised that she had information that mobsters were willing to kill for.

The vet’s father learned of Stang, checked him out, and purchased the house next to Bettie’s for Stang, so they could be reunited and perhaps Stang could assist Bettie to reconstruct her memory.  Stang is all too happy to accept the offer, as his feelings for Bettie never waned despite the intervening years.  He does relocate to Florida and little by little their relationship is rekindled, and ever so slowly he assists her to recover chunks of her memory.

However, it soon becomes increasingly clear that despite the passage of 20 years, the survivors of the mobsters who had originally abducted and sought to kill Bettie were still out to get her and the information she had been privy to (but her amnesia had erased).  Additionally, Stang learns that there was a larger terrorist plot also brewing that involved nuclear material that introduced the ominous specter of widespread destruction.

Stang springs into action, traveling back and forth between New York and Florida to investigate what he could about those who are after Bettie, to do what he can to thwart any attempt on Bettie’s life and also the diabolical plot that is in play.  Stang is up to the challenge and handles it in Spillane-hero-like fashion.

There does not appear to be any slippage in style between the last few chapters written by Collins and the earlier ones written by Spillane.  There is little doubt that Spillane would have been satisfied with the final product.  It is a good, exciting read that is worthy of the Hard Case Crime collection of hard-boiled crime fiction, this one being a new work by an old master.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 13 reviews


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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)

** Morgan the Raider

Young Adult Fiction:

Mike Hammar Series:

Mike Hammar Collections:

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About the Author:

Mickey SpillaneMickey Spillane was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1918. He was a former comic book writer and one of the originators of Captain Marvel and Captain America. Spillane was one of the world's best-selling authors, a master of the "hardboiled" style. More than 140 million copies of his novels have sold since he wrote his first thriller, I the Jury, in 1947 when he introduced his most famous character and alter-ego, "the chain-smoking, quick-shooting private eye" Mike Hammer. At one time, Spillane had authored seven of the top ten bestsellers in history, and may hve been the most widely read author in the world. His 1962 Mike Hammar novel, The Girl Hunters, was made into a film that starred Mickey Spillane as Mike Hammer, whose script was co-written by Mickey. He has since appeared in a number of other films and television shows, including the Columbo series and the famous Miller Beer commercials as Mike Hammer/himself. In 1979, Spillane published his first young adult fiction, which received the Junior Literary Guild Award. In 1994, he was honored with the title of Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America at the Edgar Allen Poe Awards. Spillane, in his mid-80s, is still writing books.

He lived in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina until his death July 2006.

"If you're a singer you lose your voice. A baseball player loses his arm. A writer gets more knowlege, and if he's good, the older he gets, the better he writes." - Mickey Spillane

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