Everybody, myself included, always believed that Mickey Spillane’s first published novel, I, the Jury (1947), was also the first installment of the writer’s classic private detective character Mike Hammer. Well, turns out that’s not so, according to Max Allan Collins, who’s been restoring and completing leftover manuscripts and outlines left by the late Spillane (1918-2006) for the past decade. Seems some years before, Spillane had once shown Collins an unfinished 30 page typewritten (and single-spaced) draft that, in honor of the 100th anniversary of Spillane’s birth, is now seeing print (having been completed by Collins) for the first time as Killing Town.
Set sometime around 1946-47, before the events of Jury, Killing Town finds the usually NYC-based Hammer pretty much on his own in unfamiliar and unfriendly surroundings, namely the title town of Killington, Rhode Island. Hammer sneaks into town one evening to carry out a mysterious errand when suddenly he finds himself framed for the rape-murder of a woman. Unable to prove his innocence thanks to a couple of corrupt cops. Hammer gets rescued, if that’s the word, by the beautiful and sexy (natch!) daughter of local fish cannery owner Senator Charles, Melba. She’ll testify that she saw Hammer someplace else on the night of the crime. The only catch is, if Hammer wants to stay free, he’ll have to marry Melba!
Toss in the aforementioned corrupt cops, some Mafia killers showing up looking for Hammer, several violent beatings, and Melba’s somewhat shady relatives, and Hammer, more on his own than the reader’s seen him before, realizes he’s in deep trouble. The real killer and their motive is exposed by novel’s end in a typically “Spillaneian” twist, with Hammer’s last (and obscenely funny) line of dialogue summing everything up perfectly! Killing Town is a lot of rough-edged fun from start to finish and will hold your attention right up to the bizarre but compelling end. Definitely check out Killing Time!
(Note: This is the third Spillane/Collins collaboration I’ve reviewed so far this year. My reviews of The Bloody Spur & The Last Stand can be found online. And if you’re a Spillane and/or Collins fan who wants the library to offer more works from these authors, suggest a purchase!)
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