Mickey Spillane

Frank Morrison Spillane

“Anyone who doesn’t recognize Spillane’s importance is an idiot.”
Max Allan Collins

FRANK MORRISON SPILLANE was a Brooklyn kid, born on March 9, 1918, the only child of Catherine Anne and John Joseph Spillane, an Irish-American bartender who nicknamed him “Mickey.”

He passed away July 17, 2006 at his home in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, leaving behind a wife, a couple of ex-wives, four children, possibly as many as 200 million copies of his books in print and plenty of satisfied customers, as he liked to call them.

The most popular of those books, of course, feature Spillane’s hard-boiled gumshoe/avenger Mike Hammer, the New York eye whose every case turned into a personal vendetta that — following a suitable number of trysts with beautiful and generally willing babes and raw scenes of brutality — inevitably ended with Hammer serving up his own kind of justice, usually out of the smoking barrel of a .45.

The critics may have sneered at Spillane’s sex-and-violence-filled romps (and admittedly, sometimes it was difficult to tell where the sex ended and the violence began), and he may have been denounced in churches and at US Senate hearings, but the public ate up his books.

Spillane became, easily, the best selling private eye writer of his time and Hammer became a multi-media juggernaut, with Mike Hammer appearing on radio and in films, a daily newspaper comic strip and not one but two popular television series, as well as, of course, thirteen best-selling novels, stretching from I, the Jury in 1947 and wrapping up with Black Alley in 1996.

Spillane was something of a media star himself himself, playing the part of Hammer in the 1963 film version of The Girl Hunters and appearing as a spokesman for Miller Lite beer TV ad for almost two decades.

Spillane wrote about other memorable tough-guy characters, including super-spy Tiger Mann in a spate of novels written in the mid-1960s, Dogeron Kelly in The Erection Set (1972) and Mako Hooker, a semi-retired spy in Spillane’s last novel, Something’s Down There, published in 2003, when the author was 85.

But it was Hammer, and Spillane’s take-no-prisoner’s blend of blood and lust and vengeance that captured the imagination of Cold War audiences and influenced countless imitators.

His success also had a major impact on publishing. Although I, the Jury sold a respectable 10,000 or so copies in hardcover, it was the then-unheard sale of over two million copies of the paperback edition that got the industry’s attention. Seemingly overnight, the previously neglected paperback was everywhere, appearing in spinner racks from coast to coast, as publishers rushed to tap into the public’s hunger for inexpensive literary thrills, even launching entire paperback lines such as the legendary Fawcett Gold Medal that published original novels, not reprints.

* * * * *

Spillane grew up in Brooklyn and Elizabeth, New Jersey and graduated from high school in Brooklyn right at the height of the Depression. A natural storyteller, he managed to sell a story or two to various magazines, but mostly he worked odd jobs (including a stint as a lifeguard) before enrolling at Fort Hays State College in Kansas, where he played football and swam competively.

He never graduated, though, and by 1940, he was working part-time in a New York department store during the Christmas rush. There he met another Brooklyn-born youth who introduced Spillane to his brother, Ray Gill, an editor in need of someone to churn out short pieces for his Timely Comics line (including prose in their comics allowed publishers to qualify for cheaper postal rates). Spillane proved up to the task, but left to join the U.S. Army Air Force in the wake of Pearl Harbor.

He served his time as a flight instructor in Mississippi, where he met his first wife, Mary Ann Pearce. After the war, the couple returned to Brooklyn, with dreams of buying a house and some land. Spillane hooked up with the Gill brothers again, this time in a new comic-book freelancing venture. He came up with the idea for new comic, based around a tough, hard-boiled private eye called Mike Danger.

“I wanted to get away from the flying heroes, and I had the prototype cop,” Spillane explained.

Unfortunately, Danger failed to sell. Spillane then tried to sell it as a comic strip. According to Mike Benton in his The Illustrated History of Crime Comics, “In 1947, Spillane wrote a “Mike Danger” comic strip for the newspapers. Drawn by Mike Roy and offered by Jerry Iger’s syndicate, the comic strip appeared briefly in New York area newspapers and disappeared. Spillane decided to leave the world of comics to become a mystery writer.”

He retooled Danger, re-named him Mike Hammer and supposedly cranked out I, the Jury in three weeks (or nine days–accounts vary). With the help of Ray Gill, he sold it to E. P. Dutton & Co, whose editors apparently weren’t all that impressed with Spillane’s writing, but nonetheless thought there might be a market for it. So they gave it a shot.

The rest is history. Always a fast–if not particularly prolific–writer, he cranked out six more novels, all bestsellers, in the next five years, including My Gun is Quick, One Lonely Night and Vengeance is Mine.

Despite his staggering success, in his private life Spillane lived simply. He became a Jehovah’s Witness in the early 1950s and moved his family (by then he and Mary Ann had four kids) to Murrells Inlet, a quiet beach community in South Carolina, where he continued to pound away on a manual typewriter.

Unfortunately, the marriage ended in divorce. In 1964, he married an actress, Sherri Malinou, who posed nude on the cover of The Erection Set, but that marriage also ended. In 1983, Spillane married Jane Rodgers Johnson, and they remained married until Spillane’s death in 2006.

* * * * *

Spillane never took himself too seriously, at least publicly, spurning the moniker of “author,” insisting he wrote simply for the money, and cheerfully admitting he represented “the chewing gum of American literature.”

Certainly, Spillane was no great stylist–his prose was unapologetically blunt, direct and workmanlike, just like Hammer. But it was occasionally so overboiled as to approach parody.

As in “her breasts were laughing things”? And I’m still trying to figure out what “he took off like a herd of turtles,” from I, the Jury, actually means.

He was also something of a rarity in publishing–he was unapologetically conservative, an “unconditional believer in good and evil” who seemed to delight in rattling cages in his fiction, slamming Communists and liberals and anyone else he took exception to. He wasn’t above dishing out often crude (even for the era) caricatures of independent women, homosexuals and various racial and ethnic groups (in the early novels, for example, the depiction of blacks–almost all of whom are domestics or criminals–still manages to make one cringe–mostly because it seems simply so gratuitous and mean-spirited). And the virgin/whore complex Hammer had towards women and particularly in regards to his peculiar relationship with Velda, his long-suffering secretary, was nothing short of just plain twisted.

And yet, for all his ham-handed excess and unapologetic worldview that even then raised eyebrows, the best of Spillane’s books, and particularly the Hammer novels, possess a fierce, driving energy and white-hot passion that cannot be denied; one that drags the reader along in its wake and keeps them turning pages.

You step into Hammer’s world at your own risk, but by the end of the book, you’ll know you’ve read something, damn it.


  • “Those big-shot writers could never dig the fact that there are more salted peanuts consumed than caviar.”
    Mickey Spillane
  • “The first page sells that book. The last page sells your next book.”
    Mickey Spillane
  • “I don’t give a hoot about reading reviews. What I want to read is the royalty checks.”
    Mickey Spillane
  • “I’m actually a softie. Tough guys get killed too early… I’ve got a full head of hair and don’t wear eye glasses… And I’ve kept the smoke coming out of the chimney for a very long time.”
    Mickey Spillane (2004)


  • “Spillane broke down the barriers, where sex and violence were concerned, and this pissed people off. Also, he was perceived as right-wing. The vigilante approach Hammer used turned the stomachs of many liberals… (Spillane) is number three, after Hammett and Chandler (in a list of the 10 most important detective novelists of the 20th century). Anyone who doesn’t recognize Spillane’s importance is an idiot. There are paperback originals because Gold Medal Books was created to fill the public’s demand for Spillane-type fare. Disliking Spillane’s writing is one thing — ignoring history is another. ”
    Max Allan Collins, The January Magazine Interview
  • “Spillane is like eating takeout fried chicken: so much fun to consume, but you can feel those lowlife grease-induced zits rising before you’ve finished the first drumstick.”
    Sally Eckhoff, The Village Voice




  • “Fresh Meat for a Raider” (Winter 1941, Sub-Mariner Comics #4; 2004, Primal Spillane)
  • “Clams Make the Man” (1942, Joker #2; 2004, Primal Spillane)
  • “The Sea of Grassy Death” (February 1942, Marvel Mystery Comics #28; 2004, Primal Spillane)
  • “The Ship In the Desert” (March 1942, Marvel Mystery Comics #29; 2004, Primal Spillane)
  • “Jinx Heap” (March 1942, Blue Bolt, Vol. 2, #10; 2004, Primal Spillane)
  • “Lumps of Death” (April 1942, Marvel Mystery Comics #30; 2004, Primal Spillane)
  • “Killer’s Return” (May 1942, Marvel Mystery Comics #31; 2004, Primal Spillane)
  • “Terror in the Grass” (May 1942, Blue BoIt Vol. 2, #12; 2004, Primal Spillane)
  • “Creature of the Deep” (May 1942, Target Comics, #27; 2004, Primal Spillane)
  • “Trouble – Come and Get It” (Spring 1942, 4 Most Comics #2; 2004, Primal Spillane)
  • “Tight Spot” (Spring 1942, Sub-Mariner Comics #5; 2004, Primal Spillane)
  • “Devil Cat” (Spring 1942, Human Torch #7; 2004, Primal Spillane)
  • “A Case of Poison Ivy” (June 1942, Blue Bolt, Vol. 3 #1; 2004, Primal Spillane)
  • “Last Ride” (June 1942, Marvel Mystery Comics #32; 2004, Primal Spillane)
  • “Jap Trap” (July 1942, Marvel Mystery Comics #33; 2004, Primal Spillane)
  • “The Curse of Tut Ken Amen” (August 1942, Marvel Mystery Comics #34; 2004, Primal Spillane)
  • “‘Woodsman’s Test” (Summer 1942, 4 Most Comics #3; 2004, Primal Spillane)
  • “The Woim Toins” (Summer 1942, All Winners Comics #5; 2004, Primal Spillane)
  • “The Sea Serpent” (Summer 1942, Sub-Mariner Comics #6; 2004, Primal Spillane)
  • “Flight Over Tokyo” (Summer 1942, Human Torch #8; 2004, Primal Spillane)
  • “A Shot in the Dark” (August 1942, Blue Bolt, Vol. #3, #3; 2004, Primal Spillane)
  • “Undersea Champion” (August 1942, Target Comics #30; 2004, Primal Spillane)
  • “Satan Himself!” (September 1942, Marvel Mystery Comics #35; 2004, Primal Spillane)
  • “Man in the Moon” (Fall 1942, All Winners #6; 2004, Primal Spillane)
  • “Woe Is Me!” (October 1942, Marvel Mystery Comics #36; 2004, Primal Spillane)
  • “Scram, Bugs!” (November 1942, Marvel Mystery Comics #37; 2004, Primal Spillane)
  • “Spook Ship” (November 1942, Target Comics #33; 2004, Primal Spillane)
  • “Sky Busters” (December 1942, Target Comics #34; 2004, Primal Spillane)
  • “The Veiled Woman” (November/December1952, Fantastic; sci-fi)
    Allegedly ghost-written by Howard Browne, from an outline by Spillane.
  • “Together We Kill” (January 1953, Cavalier; also 2001, Together We Kill)
  • “Everybody’s Watching Me” (January-April 1953, Manhunt; serialized in four issues; 2001, Pulp Masters)
  • “The Girl Behind the Hedge” (October 1953, Manhunt; aka “The Lady Says Die!”)
  • “The Night I Died” (1953; Mike Hammer)
    Unproduced radio play, tidied up & presented as a short story by Max Allan Collins in Private Eyes (1998), edited by Spillane and Collins)
  • “The Pickpocket” (December 1954, Manhunt; 1984, Tomorrow I Die)
  • “Tonight My Love” (1954, released as 33 1/3 and 45 rpm records Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer Story; later released in 2022 in Kill Me If You Can; Mike Hammer)
  • “The Screen Test of Mike Hammer” (July 1955, Male)
  • “Tomorrow I Die, (February 1956, Cavalier)
  • “Stand Up and Die!” (June 1958, Cavalier)
  • “Me, Hood!” (July 1959, Cavalier)
  • “I’ll Die Tomorrow” (March 1960, Cavalier)
  • “The Seven Year Kill” (July 1960, Cavalier)
  • “Kick It or Kill” (July 1961, Cavalier; aka “The Girl Hunters”)
  • “The Affair with the Dragon Lady” (March 1962, Cavalier)
  • “Hot Cat” (April 1964, Saga)
  • “The Bastard Bannerman” (June 1964, Saga)
  • “The Flier (1964, The Flier; aka “Hot Cat”)
  • “Return of the Hood” (1964, Return of the Hood; 1969, Me, Hood!)
  • “The Seven Year Kill” (1964, The Flier)
  • “The Big Bang” (January 1965, Saga; aka “Return of the Hood)
  • “Death of the Too-Cute Prostitute” (October 1965, Man’s Magazine; aka “Man Alone”)
  • “The Gold Fever Tapes” (1973, Stag Annual #15; 1984, Tomorrow I Die)
  • “The Dread Chinatown Man” (August 1975, True)
  • “Toys for the Man-Child” (August 1975, True)
  • “Sex Is My Vengeance” (1984, Tomorrow I Die)
  • “Trouble… Come and Get It” (1984, Tomorrow I Die)
  • “The Killing Man” (December 1989, Playboy; Mike Hammer)
  • “A Bullet for Satisfaction” (2018, The Last Stand)
    Co-written with Max Allan Collins
  • “There’s a Killer Loose!” (August 2008, EQMM; aka “A Killer is Loose!”)
  • “Grave Matter” (2010, Crimes By Moonlight; Mike Hammer)Buy this bookKindle it!
  • “So Long, Chief” (February-May 2013, The Strand Magazine; Mike Hammer).
  • “Fallout” (November 2014-February 2015, The Strand Magazine; Mike Hammer)
  • “A Dangerous Cat” (February-May 2016, The Strand Magazine; Mike Hammer)
  • “Tonight My Love” (October 2018-January 2019, The Strand Magazine; co-written by Max Allan Collins; Mike Hammer)
  • “The Big Run” (2022, Kill Me If you Can)
    Adapted by Max Allan Collins from a TV script by Spillane, intended for Suspense. It was never produced.
  • “Killer’s Alley” (2022, Kill Me If You Can)
    Adapted by Max Allan Collins from a 1953 screenplay by Spillane, intended to showcase the acting skills of his friend Jack Stang.
  • “The Punk” (2022, Kill Me If You Can; Mike Hammer)


  • Me, Hood! (1963)
  • Return of the Hood
  • Killer Mine (1968)
  • The Flier (1964)
  • The Tough Guys (1969)
  • Tomorrow I Die (1984)
  • Together We Kill: The Uncollected Stories of Mickey Spillane (2001)
    Collection of “lost” stories, edited by Lynn Myers and Max Allan Collins
  • The Mike Hammer Collection Volume 1 (2001; Mike Hammer)Buy this book
    Handsome paperback omnibus collection of first three Mike Hammer novels, with a new introduction by Max Allan Collins.
  • The Mike Hammer Collection Volume 2 (2001; Mike Hammer) | Buy this book
    Second trade paperback omnibus collects “One Lonely Night,” “The Big Kill” and “Kiss Me, Deadly”, plus an introduction by Lawrence Block.
  • Primal Spillane: The Early Stories 1941-42 (2004; revised 2018) Buy this book | Kindle it!
    Another collection of pulp stories, featuring hard-boiled, crime, WWII, suspense, thrillers, monster stories & even a couple of SF stories, mostly pulled from comic books. Edited by Lynn Myers and Max Allan Collins. A new, expanded edition was released in 2018 from Bold Venture Press.
  • Byline: Mickey Spillane! (2004)Buy this book
    Edited by Max Allan Collins and Lynn Myers. Final collection of Spillane odds and sods, including work from non-fiction articles about race cars and scuba diving from mens’ magazines, plus a Mike Hammer comedy/fantasy short story circa the late 1950’s entitled “The Duke Alexander.” Also included is a script for “Tonight, My Love!” from the LP Spillane did in 1954. From Crippen & Landru.
  • The Mike Hammer Collection Volume 3 (2010; Mike Hammer)Buy this book
    Third big collection rounds up “The Girl Hunters,” “The Snake” and “The Twisted Thing.”
  • A Long Time Dead (2016; with Max Allan Collins; Mike Hammer)Buy this book | Kindle it!
    The first-ever collection of Hammer stories.
  • The Mike Hammer Collection Volume 4 (2018; Mike Hammer) | Kindle it!
    The fourth collection presents The Body Lovers, Survival… Zero, The Killing Man and Black Alley.
  • Stand Up and Die!: A Crime Fiction Collection (2022) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
    Ten hard-to-find tales, including a Mike Hammer story. With an intro by Max Allan Collins (of course).


    (AKA The Mickey Spillane Mysteries)
    (1953, Mutual)
    30-minute episodes
    Based on characters created by Mickey Spillane
    Starring Larry Haines as MIKE HAMMER
    (also Ted De Corsia).


    (1953, United Artists)
    Screenplay by Harry Essex
    Directed by Harry Essex
    Starring Biff Elliot as MIKE HAMMER
  • KISS ME, DEADLY | Buy this DVD | .Buy this video
    (1954, United Artists)
    Screenplay by A.I. Bezzerides
    Directed by Robert Aldrich
    Starring Ralph Meeker as MIKE HAMMER
    (1954, United Artists)
    (1957, United Artists)
    Written by Richard Collins and Richard Powell
    Screenplay by Richard Powell
    Directed by George A. White and Phil Victor
    Starring Robert Bray as MIKE HAMMER
  • THE GIRL HUNTERS | Buy this video | Buy this DVD
    (1963, Colorama)
    Screenplay by Mickey Spillane, with Robert Fellows & Roy Rowland
    Directed by Roy Rowland
    Starring Mickey Spillane as MIKE HAMMER
    (1970, Spillane-Fellows)
    Based on the novel by Mickey Spillane
    Written by Tay Garnett and Raoul Walsh
    Directed by Tay Garnett
    Starring Christopher George and Yvette Mimieux
    Also starring Yvonne De Carlo, Ted de Corsia, Diane McBain, Rhodes Reason, Joseph Sirola, Sherri Spillane
  • I, THE JURY | Buy this video
    (1982, American Cinema)
    Screenplay by Larry Cohen
    Directed by Richard T. Heffron
    Written by Larry Cohen
    Directed by Richard Heffron
    Starring Armand Assante as MIKE HAMMER


    Unsuccessful pilot
    Based on characters created by Mickey Spillane
    Written and directed by Blake Edwards
    Starring Brian Keith as MIKE HAMMER
    Curious? You can actually watch this on Max Allan Collins’ The Black Box: Shades of Neo-Noir DVD collection.
    (1958-1960, US Syndicated series)
    Based upon charactors created by Mickey Spillane
    78 episodes
    Starring Darrin McGavin as MIKE HAMMER
    (1981, CBS)
    2-hour made-for-television movie
    Based upon charactors created by Mickey Spillane
    Written by Calvin Clements, Jr.
    Story by Alex Lucas
    Directed by Daniel Haller
    Starring Kevin Dobson as MIKE HAMMER
    (1983, CBS TVM)
    2-hour made-for-television movie/pilot
    Based upon charactors created by Mickey Spillane
    Story by Bill Stratton
    Teleplay by Bill Stratton and Stephen Downing
    Directed by Gary Nelson
    Starring Stacy Keach as MIKE HAMMER
    (1983, CBS)
    2-hour made-for-television movie
    Based upon charactors created by Mickey Spillane
    Written by Bill Stratton
    Directed by Gary Nelson
    Starring Stacy Keach as MIKE HAMMER
    (1984-1985, CBS series)
    22 60-minute episodes
    Based upon charactors created by Mickey Spillane
    Starring Stacy Keach as MIKE HAMMER
    A continuation of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, under a new title
    (1986-1987, CBS series)
    22 60-minute episodes
    Based upon charactors created by Mickey Spillane
    Writers: Herman Miller, Fred Freiberger, Duke Sandefur, B. W. Sandefur, Arthur Ginsberg, Howard Berk, Ray Danton,
    Starring Stacy Keach as MIKE HAMMER
    (1994, AKA “Deader Than Ever”)
    Written by John Lau
    Starring Rob Estes as MIKE HAMMER
    and Pamela Anderson as Velda
    Was this dreadful? Did it ever air?
    Written by John Lau
    Starring Rob Estes as MIKE HAMMER
    and Pamela Anderson as Velda
    Possibley a second pilot for a potential series.
    (1997, syndicated series)
    26 60-minute episodes
    Starring Stacy Keach as MIKE HAMMER


    (1947, Jerry Iger’s syndicate)
    Appeared in New York area papers (allegedly)
    Written by Mickey Spillane
    Art by Mike Roy
    Mike Danger was essentially a dry run for Mike Hammer, but whether this strip ever ran is highly questionable.


    (1942-47, Harvey Comics)
    33 issues
    One story, featuring Hammer prototype Mike Lancer.

    • Mike Lancer and the Syndicate of Death” (#10, December 1942)
      Written by Mickey Spillane
      Art by Harry Sahle
    (1954, Timor Publications)
    5 issues
    Written by Mickey Spillane
    Art by Mike Roy
    Two stories featuring Hammer protoype Mike Danger

    • Meet Mike Danger, Private Detective!” (May 1954, #3)
      Written by Mickey Spillane
      Art by Sam Burlockoff
      Cover art by Bernard Bailey
    • “Murder at the Burlesque” (July 1954, #4)
      Written by Mickey Spillane
      Cover art by Mort Drucker
    (1995, Tekno)
    10 issues
    Created by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
    Written by Max Allan Collins
    Artists: Eduardo Barreto, Steven Leialoha, Jose Delbo.


  • The Sudden Trap and Other Stories (1982, Mike Hammer)Buy this book
    The first collection of the 1953-54 newspaper strips, with an intro by (who else?) Max Allan Collins
  • The Dark City and Other Stories (1982, Mike Hammer)Buy this book
    Volume two of the newspaper strips, with another intro by Collins.
  • Mickey Spillane’s From the Files of… Mike Hammer (2012, Mike Hammer)Buy this book
    Hammer returns to his roots in this handsome hardcover collection, the first to collect all the dailies and Sunday strips from 1953-54.


  • Collins, Max Allan, and James L. Traylor.
    One Lonely Knight: Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer | Buy this book
    Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1984.
    The first–and still one of the few–books that champion Spillane and his greatest creation, by two of his biggest fans and long-time supporters.
    (1998 documentary)
    Written and directed by Max Allan Collins
    This documentary, written and directed by Spillane champion and pal Max Allan Collins made its debut at Noir in Festival in Courmayeur, Italy in 1998 and is currectly available on DVD as part of his Black Box: Shades of Noir collection.
  • Collins, Max Allan, and James L. Traylor.
    Mickey Spillane on Screen | Buy this book
    Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2012.
    Just like it says, this is a “Complete Study of the Television and Film Adaptations,” lovingly put together by long-time Spillane champions Collins and Traylor, who first made their case for the Mick way back in 1984, with their pivotal One Lonely Knight: Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer. This time out, the boys are ambitiously tracking down and delivering all the dope on all the various big and small screen adaptations. But there’s oh, so much more — the asides and trivia flow copiously, like blood from a gut wound. Spillane fans will love it!
  • Collins, Max Allan Collins, & James L. Traylor.
    Spillane: King of Pulp Fiction Buy this book Kindle it!
    Mysterious Press, 2022.
    Collins and Traylor return at last, with the long-awaited  follow-up to their 1984 classic, One Lonely Knight, this time offering the first-ever biography of arguably the most popular and most influential pulp writer of all time.


Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Thanks to Max Allan Collins, Lynn Myers and James F. for their help. Mickey Spillane illustration courtesy of cartoonist Terry Beatty.

Leave a Reply