2. Mike Hammer (Mickey Spillane)
Ayn Rand’s favorite novelist took a genre that had made strides into literary legitimacy with Raymond Chandler and put it back into the pulp sensibilities where millions of fans thought it belonged.
Mikey Spillane’s war veteran turned private eye, Mike Hammer, was the ultimate two-fisted, .45-packing American hero. Hammer was impatient with the slow wheels of justice, but also an unabashed flag-waving American.
Mike Hammer was not a guy for nuance. He believed in truth, justice, the American Way, loyalty and bedding lots of women. About the only attractive female to appear in a Hammer novel without getting… Hammered, if you will, was his devoted secretary Velda, who actually was in love with him (and whose devotion established a genre cliche).
Hammer first appeared in Spillane’s first novel, I, the Jury in 1947. Once the Korean War broke out, fighting communism became a staple of Hammer’s repertoire. His fourth book, One Lonely Night, is about a communist conspiracy and has Hammer attending a communist meeting and having to listen speeches while he simmers to great effect. Later in the book, he cheers on something similar to the HUAC hearings.
Mike Hammer’s most famous movie appearance is in Robert Aldrich’s “Kiss Me Deadly,” which added artistic pretentions to the Hammer lexicon—and doesn’t make you feel like the film makers like Hammer very much. He was also played by Darren McGavin in a TV series in the 1950s where the actor played him tongue in cheek, and by Stacey Keach in the 1980s in a series that was very true to the Hammer spirit.
Spillane retired Mike Hammer after writing the pro-Vietnam War Hammer book, Survival… Zero in 1970, and despite a few books, was mostly seen in Miller Lite commercials. He wrote one Hammer book in the 1989 and one more in 1997 which showed he still had his old writing chops. Before he died in 2006, Spillane commissioned the terrific Max Allan Collins to complete 3 of his unfinished manuscripts. One of them, The Goliath Bone, has Hammer taking on al Qaeda.