In Spillane: King of Pulp (Mysterious, Feb.), Collins and Traylor deliver the first comprehensive biography of Mike Hammer creator Mickey Spillane.
Max, why does Spillane deserve a full biography now?
Collins: Spillane was a publishing phenomenon whose Mike Hammer thrillers in the late 1940s and early ’50s led to an explosion of paperback originals seeking to feed the market Mickey uncovered. The vigilante nature of Hammer informed James Bond, John Shaft, and virtually every tough pop culture antihero who followed. And Mickey himself was a multimedia star in movies and TV, including his 18-year run of Lite Beer commercials. His compulsively readable storytelling was often dismissed by critics, which may have discouraged any full-scale biography of this larger-than-life, distinctly American life.
James, what insights into Spillane as a person did you get from interviewing him?
Traylor: Mickey loved the classics. I remember well Mickey telling me about writing the Classics Illustrated Comic of The Count of Monte Cristo. His comic book version even reads like a Mike Hammer adventure. I had no idea that as a youth he read Alexander Dumas. Mickey loved words and the craft of writing.
How did Mickey react when he learned the MWA had selected him as a Grand Master in 1995?
Collins: He was of course pleased, as many in the organization had lobbied against him over the years, right up to when he received the Grand Master Edgar. The rumor was that he’d been turned down for membership by the organization, but he claimed never to have applied. I think his appearance at the 1981 Bouchercon in Milwaukee was a new beginning for him, where he realized he had a lot of fans among knowledgeable mystery buffs and that a lot of professionals admired him and had been inspired by him.
What accounted for the eight-year gap in Mike Hammer novels after 1953’s Kiss Me Deadly?
Traylor: Spillane’s contract with film producer Victor Saville included a right to option future books. Once Spillane processed this fact, he froze out Saville, whom he’d come to despise, from any additional income by simply not writing about Hammer until the contract expired.