Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Tough Guys by Mickey Spillane

The Tough Guys by Mickey Spillane
Signet T4141, Copyright 1969

“The Tough Guys” contain three Spillane short stories that came out in men’s magazines in the early sixties. All are solid Spillane high caliber yarns , with a guy ready to tackle injustice with violence, always with a clip in the gun and a broad by his side. The last two stories, "The Seven Year Kill" and “The Bastard Bannerman" are excellent, but the first "Kick It or Kill" is exceptional.

“You ever kill anybody?”
I slammed the door shut and looked at him. He was completely serious.
Finally I nodded. “Yes. Six people.”
“I didn’t mean in the war, son.”
“I wasn’t talking about the war.”
“How’d you do it?”
“I shot them,” I said and let the clutch out.

The story "Kick It or Kill" starts with a man called Kelly Smith from New York City, arriving in the Adirondack town of Pinewood. Smith is recuperation from an operation and his doctor recommended the mountain air would be good for him. But the off-season quiet town isn’t what it seems to be, and Smith quickly notices some high-level crime punks walking the streets. His outsider appearance becomes known and instead of a chance to relax, he willingly seeks to find out what is going on. He learns that a man named Simpson owns a highly-secured estate near the lake that is a haven for well-known members of organized crime. Local town girls have been known to be invited up there and later return mentally damaged and hooked on drugs. After tough guy Kelly Smith gets into a few altercations with some of the hoods, we find out he is recuperating from a gunshot wound. The wound causes more problems for him and he gets some assistance from the local doctor and a voluptuous hotel manager. Some town people suspect him of being a crook or a drug addict, but we find out he is actually a federal agent. The full-breasted hotel manager ends up caught at Simpson’s private compound and Kelly Smith, realizing he will get no help from the local law, must take quick action to rescue her. Alone, he heads out to the fortified estate with his .45 and enough piss in him to explode Simpson's operation wide open.

As you can tell Kelly Smith is like many of Spillane’s creations, he possesses a .45 and plays the game hard. Written in 1961, there is a Cuba, Russia, and drug connection in the story and we know how Spillane characters feel about commies and drugs. The story is short enough that the pace is swift with plenty of “bullets and broads” action. Marvelous hardboiled dialog from the start, as Kelly Smith steps off the train with an altitude; And possibly my favorite ending in a Spillane short story, with Kelly and his .45 inside Simpson’s compound.

I always said if you need to read something where the bastards “get theirs”, no one does it better than the Mick.
Top-notched stuff from the Master.
If you are looking for three fast and lean Mickey Spillane short stories in one book, this one has them.


Scott D. Parker said...

I have never read Mike Hammer. But I, The Jury is on my Forgotten Books Friday list. And I'm going to read the Spillane short story published in the August issue of Ellery Queen. Thanks for the tip.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

The story in Ellery Queen, as completed by Max Allen Collins is brilliant. But then I love Spillane. He may not have had Chandler's turn of phrase but his books always rock.