July 18, 2006 at 09:41 PM EDT

Mickey Spillane, who died yesterday at 88, never wanted to be tarred as a great prose stylist. He got his wish. To him, “author” was an effete label for effete losers whose effete books didn’t sell. He said he had “customers,” not readers. He had a lot of them. His titles (e.g., The Girl Hunters, The Erection Set) reveled in their pulp shamelessness. His hero, Mike Hammer, was either a cut-the-crap good guy or a vigilante thug, depending on your point of view. Spillane, a red-meat, Red-baiting Cold War conservative and one-time federal agent, didn’t do middle ground.

Strange then, that his Kiss Me Deadly would be made into one of the most subversive film noirs of the 1950s. Director Robert Aldrich supposedly hated the Hammer character (who would become a prototype for Dirty Harry Callahan) and sought to play up his sadism and savagery. Adrich also upped the stakes into the surreal-o-sphere, making the MacGuffin at the center of the mystery a glowing briefcase that symbolized America’s frightening nuclear might. The movie attracted the (negative) attention of Congress, which cited it as a corrupting influence on youth. (It was certainly an influence on Repo Man and Pulp Fiction.)

As a former circus performer, Spillane probably just enjoyed the show. He sold several properties to Hollywood, including The Girl Hunters, where he starred as his hero, Mike Hammer, and the CBS series Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, which introduced us to Stacy Keach and his costar, Mustache.

In short, the man worked for a living, and the work paid well. And if any of you delicate bastards has anything contrary to say, say it below, bearing in mind I can and will break your nose.

 

addCredit(“Mickey Spillane: AP”)

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