When writer Mickey Spillane passed away in 2006, he left behind a number of unfinished manuscripts that wound up being completed by Max Allan Collins for publication (such as the recent novels Dead Street and The Goliath Bone). These manuscripts included a novel spotlighting Spillane's private detective character Mike Hammer which the author began in the mid sixties then shelved until Collins finished it.
The result of this combined literary effort is the "lost" Hammer novel The Big Bang (chick here to reserve it) an exciting, almost dizzying rush of a book that harkens back to the "classic" Spillane novels (including I, The Jury, Vengence Is Mine and Kiss Me, Deadly) published between 1947-52. Spillane's output in the sixties and seventies, while still compelling in the storytelling department, somehow lacked the ferocity (but not the enthusiasm, as anybody who's read Spillane's 1962's "comeback" book The Girl Hunters can attest) of his previous works.
Set sometime around 1967 (the songs "Shotgun" and "Satisfaction" are namechecked; also, there's a wild LSD sequence late in the book) in New York City, The Big Bang brings back the frantic, mad narrative rush of Spillane's early works. Once again, we've got private eye Mike Hammer, the slightly psychotic WWII veteran turned Cold Warrior and defender of conservative American values, shooting first and asking questions later, while leering at every beautiful woman that comes his way. Supporting cast members Velda (Mike's secretary/occasional lover) and NYPD Homicide Captain Pat Chambers are on hand as well.
Bang starts off with Mike, in a very graphic and violent sequence that wouldn't have been out of place in the fifties books, rescuing a teenager from a couple of drug addicts/pushers. The kid had refused to supply the pushers with drugs from the hospital he worked at. Mike figures that's that. But when an attempt is made on his own life, Mike follows various leads and quickly discovers that two competing gangsters (one of whom is related to an old enemy) are competing to get a major shipment of drugs (the "Big Bang") that'll flood the streets with nearly astronomical amounts of heroin for the "junkies", whom Mike has little sympathy for, and make whichever hood who gets it first (and distributes the dope) rich. Meanwhile, what does a pottery shop in Greenwich Village (with the usual sexy female clerk who seemingly falls for Mike) and a disillusioned doctor have to do with the case? And who set up the shipment in the first place?
With a ending that's sure to drive readers of any political ideology nuts (Mike makes a rather drastic decision that's totally in character*), The Big Bang succeeds in delivering a straightforward thriller that'll keep you hooked right to the end. Kudos to Collins for managing to preserve Spillane's original narrative "voice" as well. You can reserve the book online here.
*(It goes without saying that Mike Hammer and the characters and situations he winds up encountering in the books are not meant to be taken seriously. It's all fantasy, but entertainingly so. And keep in mind too that the character's original notoriety way back when was that he was the ultimate "anti-hero".)