‘The Last Stand’ by Mickey Spillane

As noted last month, 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of mystery writer Mickey Spillane (born March 9; d. July 17, 2006) and thanks to Max Allan Collins, several manuscripts of the latter’s works are now being edited and/or completed for publication.  As a big Spillane fan, this is great news!  Spillane’s hard-hitting, punchy style, which spotlighted strong male & female characters (not always on the side of right) mixed in with groundbreaking for the time sex & violence, could (and still does) hold readers’ attention!

Now out in hardcover is the last novel by Spillane, completed just weeks before his death, The Last Stand.  Held back by Collins for this anniversary, the novel was paired up with a shorter novella, “A Bullet for Satisfaction”, a manuscript written by Spillane probably in the early/ mid-50s.  In his introduction to the two stories, Collins explains that he edited and completed “Satisfaction”, including removing a “risible” subplot involving Communism, to make it suitable for publication.  (I wish Collins had kept the Commie subplot, especially since Spillane’s Mike Hammer books at the time also had those kind of villains, with appropriately over-the-top situations. But then again, Collins saw the “inconsistencies and rough patches” in the manuscript, not me.)  The story, about a rogue cop named Dexter taking on corrupt politicians & gangsters to solve a political figure’s murder, is full of the delirious, take-no-prisoners style that marked Spillane’s writing, and Collins did a great job fine tuning this exciting thriller.  The way Dexter dispatches a group of hoods in the climax will make any reader jump!

The Last Stand itself is a pretty engaging -and compared to “Satisfaction”, very mellow– adventure revolving around middle-aged tough guy pilot Joe Gillian (named after Spillane’s fellow writer friend Joe Gill, who, among other things, was also the main writer at Derby, CT’s Charlton Comics from the 50s to the 80s).  When Joe is forced to land his old WWII plane in the desert, he winds up getting caught up in a series of events involving an  arrowhead composed of a strange metal, a Native American village full of colorful characters, including the gorgeous Running Fox and the menacing Many Thunders, AKA “Big Arms”, FBI agents with an unknown agenda, missing Aztec gold, and a local gangster who also has something going on.  All of it is told in a pleasant, relaxed tone, apparently suiting Spillane’s mood at the time.  It’s less frantic and bloody (there’s only one violent death), and the sex is downplayed (Joe is a perfect gentleman to Running Fox) than Spillane’s more famous works, but The Last Stand is still compelling stuff.  Both stories in the book will hold any reader’s interest, so check out a copy from us online!

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