The Erection Set by Mickey Spillane
Signet 5120, Copyright 1972
When I was in the U.S. Navy in the mid-70s, it seemed that wherever you went on the ship this paperback was laying around. Sailors being what they are, most of them were attracted to the paperback for the cover, the title, or both. Even though I read a few Mike Hammer and Tiger Mann novels prior, I was taken back at seeing Spillane’s name on “The Erection Set.” Well, somewhere probably in the Mediterranean Sea, I crawled in my rack and started it, and of course I’m glad I did. It’s was a true awakening.
Mickey Spillane brought this one up a big notch. He throws all into it and leaves little out. The main character, Dogeron Kelly, is possibly the toughest SOB in print. In fact he’s a bastard, but a "good guy" bastard. I have yet to find another character that comes close. It’s a violent story of a man with a secret past, out to make things right. Like the cab driver said looking at Kelly as they leave Kennedy Airport, “Shit, man, you’re loaded for bear.” Kelly has been away from New York City for a while, and returns to blow the town wide open. Bad guys beware! Strictly for the men of course. Was it controversial?-probably, I had no idea what the critics or Spillane fans thought of it at the time. And of course I didn’t care.
Almost like a magnet, I pick up this paperback every few years. Sometimes I read just a few choice pages and other times I’ll read it all. And I always thought it was just to bring back memories from a time when I was younger, careless, or remembering lonely days at sea. But of course I know that is not why, I read it because of one thing-the main character, Dogeron “Dog” Kelly. And thanks to the Mick, we have the original, ultimate, son-of-a-bitch, .45 packer, who do anything for the sake of justice….
“So I broke every finger on Bridey’s hands, too, then stitched him up the side of each cheek, so he’d never be invisible in a crowd again. I opened his belt, pulled his pants and shorts down, and waited the two minutes until he started to wake up, holding the point of the pick right over the two goodie sacs, and just as a groan wheezed through his lips and his eyes opened and rolled toward mine I drove the ice pick through those lumps of tissue into the rubber-tiled floor and the frenzied yell of horror he started never got past the sharp hiss of his sucked-in breath before he fainted.
The next person to go in that bathroom would do more than relieve his bladder or bowels.”
Of course later I had to read Mickey Spillane’s second “dirty little book” published a year later, “The Last Cop Out.” This I thought had the slightly better plot, with a similar type character in ex-cop Gillian “Gill” Burke. In this one Burke is asked to go up against a Mafia family alone. Violent and downright gross at times, but damn good. But Dog Kelly came first and left the impression that is forever etched upstairs.
Could these two novels be Mickey Spillane’s best pieces of work?
I believe so…