"Imagine this guy hits Mike Hammer over the head with a wooden coathanger and knocks him out. You hit Mike Hammer over the head with a wooden coathanger, he'll beat the crap out of you." -- Mickey Spillane
Frank Morrison Spillane (March 9, 1918 – July 17, 2006), better known as Mickey Spillane, was a U.S. author of crime novels, many featuring his signature detective character, Mike Hammer. More than 225 million copies of his books have sold internationally. In 1980, Spillane was responsible for seven of the top 15 all-time best-selling fiction titles in the U.S.
"Authors want their names down in history; I want to keep the smoke coming out of the chimney.""Critics themselves, they used to tear me up.""Hemingway hated me. I sold 200 million books, and he didn't. Of course most of mine sold for 25 cents, but still... you look at all this stuff with a grain of salt.""I dont like any of them, because they don't read the books. In Kiss Me Deadly my story is better than his story. Anthony Quinn played in The Lond Wait and he didn't read the book either.""I know an awful lot of Hollywood people, who are so self-important, I can't understand it.""I played in a movie called Ring of Fear with Clyde Beatty and Pat O'Brien.""I read all the time... I read a lot of history books.""I started off at the high level, in the slick magazines, but they didn't use my name, they used house names. Anyway, then I went downhill to the pulps, then downhill further to the comics.""I try to stay in good physical shape, I don't smoke, I don't drink.""I wrote the original Mike Hammer as a comic, Mike Danger.""I'm 82 years old, wherever I go everybody knows me, but here's why... I'm a merchandiser, I'm not just a writer, I stay in every avenue you can think of.""I'm a commercial writer, not an author. Margaret Mitchell was an author. She wrote one book.""I'm a country boy. I hate New York. But that's where things happen, so I use it as a base for stories, I know enough about it. But I have to keep going back there.""If I need something, I'll invent it.""If the public likes you, you're good.""If you're a singer you lose your voice. A baseball player loses his arm. A writer gets more knowledge, and if he's good, the older he gets, the better he writes.""My father was Catholic, my mother was Protestant, and because of that I got Christened in both churches, so I've got all these names... but my Dad always called me Mick.""Nobody reads a mystery to get to the middle. They read it to get to the end. If it's a letdown, they won't buy anymore. The first page sells that book. The last page sells your next book.""Now I'm not an author, I'm a writer, that's all I am.""Oh yeah, I was one of the first guys writing comic books, I wrote Captain America, with guys like Stan Lee, who became famous later on with Marvel Comics.""See, heroes never die. John Wayne isn't dead, Elvis isn't dead. Otherwise you don't have a hero. You can't kill a hero. That's why I never let him get older.""Stephen King. Now I'm not crazy about him, but he's a great a writer.""Victor Saville was bad news because he wanted money just to do one big picture.""Where I am they can smell out a hurricane. My house survived Hurricane Hazel, but it didn't get past Hugo."
Born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Spillane was the only child of his Irish bartender father, John Joseph Spillane, and hisScottish mother, Catherine Anne. Spillane attended Erasmus Hall High School, graduating in 1935. He started writing while in high school, briefly attended Fort Hays State College in Kansas and worked a variety of jobs, including summers as a life-guard at Breezy Point, Queens, and a period as a trampoline artist for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
During World War II Spillane enlisted in the Army Air Corps, becoming a fighter pilot and a flight instructor. In 1951, Spillane became a Jehovah's Witness.
Mickey and Mary Ann Spillane had four children (Caroline, Kathy, Michael, Ward), and their marriage ended in 1962. In November 1965, he married his second wife, nightclub singer Sherri Malinou. After that marriage ended in divorce (and a lawsuit) in 1983, Spillane shared his waterfront house in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, with his third wife, Jane Rogers Johnson, whom he married in October 1983. In 1989, Hurricane Hugo ravaged his Murrells Inlet house to such a degree it had to be almost entirely reconstructed. A televisual interview showed Spillane standing in the ruins of his house. He received an Edgar Allan Poe Grand Master Award in 1995. Spillane's novels went out of print, but in 2001, the New American Library began reissuing them.
Spillane died July 17, 2006 at his home in Murrells Inlet, of pancreatic carcinoma. After his death, his friend and literary executor, Max Allan Collins, began the task of editing and completing Spillane's unpublished typescripts, beginning with a Mike Hammer novel, "The Goliath Bone" (2008).
Spillane started as a writer for comic books. While working as a salesman in Gimbels department store basement in 1940, he met tie salesman Joe Gill, who later found a lifetime career in scripting for Charlton Comics. Gill told Spillane to meet his brother, Ray Gill, who wrote for Funnies, Inc., an outfit that packaged comic books for different publishers. Spillane soon began writing an eight-page story every day. He concocted adventures for major 1940s comic book characters, including Captain Marvel, Superman, Batman and Captain America. Two-page text stories, which he wrote in the mid-1940s for Timely Marvel, appeared under his name and were collected in Primal Spillane (Gryphon Books, 2003).
Spillane joined the United States Army Air Forces on December 8, 1941, the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. In the mid-1940s he was stationed as a flight instructor in Greenwood, Mississippi, where he met and married Mary Ann Pearce in 1945. The couple wanted to buy a country house in the Newburgh, New York, 60 miles north of New York City, so Spillane decided to boost his bank account by writing a novel. In 19 days he wrote I, the Jury. At the suggestion of Ray Gill, he sent it to E. P. Dutton.
With the combined total of the 1947 hardcover and the Signet paperback (December 1948), I, the Jury sold six and a half million copies in the United States alone. I, the Jury introduced Spillane's most famous character, hardboiled detective Mike Hammer. Although tame by current standards, his novels featured more sex than competing titles, and the violence was more overt than the usual detective story. An early version of Spillane's Mike Hammer character, called Mike Danger, was submitted in a script for a detective-themed comic book. " 'Mike Hammer originally started out to be a comic book. I was gonna have a Mike Danger comic book,' [Spillane] said in a 1984 interview." Two Mike Danger comic-book stories were published in 1954 without Spillane's knowledge, as well as one featuring Mike Lancer (1942), were published with other material in "Byline: Mickey Spillane," edited by Max Allan Collins and Lynn F. Myers, Jr. (Crippen & Landru publishers, 2004).
The Signet paperbacks displayed dramatic front cover illustrations. Lou Kimmel did the cover paintings for My Gun Is Quick, Vengeance Is Mine, One Lonely Night and The Long Wait. The cover art for Kiss Me, Deadly was by James Meese.
1947 I, the Jury - Mike Hammer
1950 My Gun Is Quick - Mike Hammer
1950 Vengeance Is Mine! - Mike Hammer
1951 The Big Kill - Mike Hammer
1951 The Long Wait
1951 One Lonely Night - Mike Hammer
1952 Kiss Me, Deadly - Mike Hammer
1961 The Deep
1962 The Girl Hunters - Mike Hammer
1964 Day of the Guns - Tiger Mann
1964 The Snake - Mike Hammer
1965 Bloody Sunrise - Tiger Mann
1965 The Death Dealers - Tiger Mann
1966 The By-Pass Control - Tiger Mann
1966 The Twisted Thing - Mike Hammer
1967 The Body Lovers - Mike Hammer
1967 The Delta Factor
1970 Survival Zero - Mike Hammer
1972 The Erection Set - a Dogeron Kelly novel; in the Jaqueline Susanne mold
1973 The Last Cop Out - written in the third person
1982 The Ship That Never Was - young adult
1989 The Killing Man - Mike Hammer
1996 Black Alley - Mike Hammer
2003 Something Down There - featuring semi-retired spy Mako Hooker
2007 Dead Street
2008 The Goliath Bone - Mike Hammer; completed by Max Allan Collins
Spillane portrayed himself as a detective in Ring of Fear (1954), and rewrote the film without credit for John Wayne's and Robert Fellows' Wayne-Fellows Productions. The film was directed by screenwriter James Edward Grant. Several Hammer novels were made into movies, including Kiss Me Deadly (1955). In The Girl Hunters (1963) filmed in England, Spillane appeared as Hammer, one of the few occasions in film history in which an author of a popular literary hero has portrayed his own character. Spillane was scheduled to film The Snake as a follow up, but the film was never made. In the TV series Columbo Spillane played a writer who is murdered in the 1974 TV movie with Jack Cassidy, 'Publish or Perish'. During the 1980s, he appeared in Miller Lite beer commercials.
In 1969, Spillane formed a production company with Robert Fellows who had produced The Girl Hunters to produce many of his books, but Fellows died soon after and only The Delta Factor was produced.
In the 1990s, Spillane licensed one of his characters to Tekno Comix for use in a science fiction adventure series, Mike Danger. The character is very similar to Hammer. In his introduction to the series, Spillane stated that he had conceived of the character decades earlier but never used him.
When literary critics had a negative reaction to Spillane's writing, citing the high content of sex and violence, Spillane answered with a few terse comments: "Those big-shot writers could never dig the fact that there are more salted peanuts consumed than caviar... If the public likes you, you're good." Russian-American author Ayn Rand publicly praised Spillane's work at a time when critics were almost uniformly hostile. She considered him an underrated if uneven stylist and found congenial the black-and-white morality of the Hammer stories. She later publicly repudiated what she regarded as the amorality of Spillane's Tiger Mann stories. German painter Markus Lüpertz claimed that Spillane's writing influenced his own work, saying that Spillane ranks as one of the major poets of the 20th Century.
"I'm actually a softie. Tough guys get killed too early... I've got a full head of hair and don't wear eyeglasses."
"I'm the most translated writer in the world, behind Lenin, Tolstoy, Gorki and Jules Verne. And they're all dead..."
"I have no fans. You know what I got? Customers. And customers are your friends."
"My work may be garbage, but it's good garbage."
"Now what happened with Ernest Hemingway was that he wrote this nasty piece about me... So I was on a show in Chicago, a live TV show. It was a big theatre and there was a stage audience, and the guy who was interviewing me said, "Did you read that piece that Hemingway wrote about you?" And I said, "Hemingway who?" It brought the house down, but he hated my guts after that."