Mickey Spillane at 81
a report by Graham Barnfield

Mickey Spillane at 81: A Synopsis of The Guardian Interview with Mickey Spillane, July 29 1999, National Film Theatre, London (some quotations are paraphrases)

'Spillane gives me the feeling of hearing a military band in a public park.' - Ayn Rand

'I used to write fast - now my rear end gets tired. I'm not full of vinegar anymore.' - Mickey Spillane

A rare London appearance by Mickey Spillane - the first in 35 years - shed little light on his role back in the 1950s. As Ayn Rand's praises would suggest, his novels fitted in well with the right wing politics of that decade. His creation Mike Hammer murdered dozens of 'problem types', with Reds prominent among the casualties. His later character Tiger Mann was the international superspy who conducted a similar campaign in the 1960s, albeit in a more official Cold War capacity. His books were international bestsellers that were almost universally hated by literary critics and other authors. Cynics might say that attacking these novels as illiterate was a coded way of bashing their mass readership (a common theme in the 1950s mass culture debate); Spillane put it down to jealousy. (He also used this as an opportunity to forgive John D. MacDonald and berate Hemingway over a negative review in _Bluebook_ magazine.)

Numerous movie and TV adaptations of Spillane's work have been made; some of these found their way into the 'canon' of Cold War _noir_, notably Robert Aldrich's 1955 adaptation of _Kiss Me Deadly_ (which was screened later and Spillane claimed to hate.)

Specific points re. the 1950s:

It looks as if Mike Hammer and Tiger Mann were wasting their time after all!

Graham Barnfield
Editor, Culture Matters CMCRC strand


Document URL: http://www.english.upenn.edu/~afilreis/50s/spillane-at-81.html
Last modified: Thursday, 31-May-2007 09:41:40 EDT