Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Big Bang, or: Welcome Back, Old Friend

Is everybody talking about the new Mike Hammer or what????

There’s something about this Spillane/Collins novel that’s like comfort food. It’s like your favorite chair or jeans or pair of shoes. The world around you may be turning upside down, you may be going through some of the worst crap ever, but here’s Mike Hammer, Velda (before we learned her unlikely last name), Pat Chambers, and, of course, the .45, to make all the bad stuff go away.

I like The Big Bang. From the opening pages you know you’re in familiar territory. I don’t know why Spillane didn’t finish this book the first time around, but part of me is glad we have it to savor now. The last Hammer novels Spillane wrote (The Killing Man, Black Alley), were like watching an old friend get old. They didn’t have the punch the young tiger had. He was starting to slow down, and you hated to see him decline after so many great battles. The Goliath Bone was terrific, but you knew from page one that it was the end of the road. There would be nowhere to go after Hammer solved that particular mystery, and you almost didn’t want him to. You wanted it to go forever, because this time “the end” meant good-bye, and the subtle sadness that accompanied the last line was almost too much for you.

But now we have The Big Bang and it’s a throwback to the days when your hero was young and ready to tear the head off of any punk who crossed his path and you’re happy to remember him this way because this is how he should have always been.

You read it carefully. You know that every character, every line of dialogue, every seemingly innocent event actually means something in the story’s grand scheme, and you can’t wait to see how the tiger puts this one together. You can predict the surprises, and that’s part of the fun, but there’s always a twist that catches you off guard (you’re never quite as smart as the tiger.) The formula is there, it works, and you breathe a sigh of relief because this is like Mom’s meatloaf and mashed potatoes with a cold beer on the side. It never fails, and you never get tired of it.

The Big Bang is a double treat because Max Allan Collins is riding shotgun, and there’s great fun in trying and guess where Spillane ends and Collins begins and where they mix together. Sometimes you think you know, because sometimes Hammer comes off sounding like Nate Heller, but just sometimes. And you don’t care. Nobody but Collins could complete Spillane’s work, and only a fool would try. And who knows? One likes to think that, because of their relationship, some of Collins rubbed off on Spillane, because Spillane doesn’t strike you as somebody who ever stopped trying to learn something new and The Big Bang is the result.

So get out and get The Big Bang. Race along with Mike Hammer as to cracks another case with Velda and Pat Chambers providing back-up. The book is short and you’ll be sorry it’s short but your old friend is back. For a little while, the tiger is alive and kicking, just how you remembered; for a little while, you can forget about good-bye.

1 comment:

  1. Love Spillane, Collins, and Mike. Great review and I will pick it up today.