Skin by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins

“Somebody had a seriously screwed-up upbringing.”

Last year I read and throughly enjoyed the hard-boiled crime novel, Kiss Her Goodbye, from authors Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins. Mickey Spillane is best remembered for his iconic bad-ass anti-hero, Mike Hammer (I, the Jury, My Gun is Quick), and when Spillane died in 2006, he left several unfinished manuscripts along with the instructions that they should go to his long-time friend, Max Allan Collins (The Road to Perdition). The good news for Hammer fans is that Max Allan Collins, Spillane’s natural successor, has put those manuscripts to good use, and as a result new work is surfacing: Kiss Her Goodbye, The Goliath Bone, Dead Street, The Consummata are all Spillane/Collins collaborations. Skin, a short story is the latest work to appear. Mickey Spillane apparently began the story in 2005, and chronologically it places Hammer in one of his last cases before retirement. It’s a slight work in comparison to the other, weighty novels in which violent action slams down hard on the heels of more violent action. Still for fans, Skin, which runs at round 41 pages, brings back Hammer, and I for one am always glad to see this character. Yes, he’s labeled with a lot of very PC-unfriendly words, but for this reader, he’s also a breath of fresh air.

The story begins with Hammer and Pat Chamber, captain of Homicide staring at a mangled pile of flesh that looks like “roadkill” located just off the side of the road. This is Hammer’s grisly find, and it’s an incident which underscores the idea that Hammer is a trouble-magnet.  Along with the unidentifiable flesh is one intact hand, and that hand belongs to missing Broadway producer, Victor King.

Hammer meets King’s wife who also happens to be the prime suspect in her husband’s disappearance. She’s not exactly ruffled by her husband’s disappearance:

The next morning around ten, I was sitting in the lavish living room of Victor King’s penthouse apartment on upper Fifth Avenue, with a view on Central Park. The furnishings were vintage art deco and what wasn’t white was black, and what wasn’t blond wood was chrome, and everything had curves. Including Mrs. King, who was also blond. As expected, she was a very lovely twenty-five or so; the stark red of her silk pajamas matched her finger-and toenails, jumping out at me  like the devil against the white of the couch, her legs crossed, a hand caressing a knee. Her mouth was similarly red, but her eyes were baby blue with blue eye shadow and a sleepy look, like a cheerleader on her third  beer after the big game.

I couldn’t imagine any man wanting to sleep with her, unless he was heterosexual and had a pulse.

So the grieving widow puts Hammer on retainer and he takes the case….

Since this is a short story, and an action-packed one at that, there isn’t much down time and the scenes seem to spin through at warped speed. Soon Hammer has a good idea of what kind of monster he’s hunting, and he delivers his own special Hammer-style justice which has very little to do with judges and courtrooms.

The gristly, hyper-violent Skin places Hammer close to retirement, and in this story, he clearly knows his physical limitations. He hasn’t changed, but he has aged, and so the story’s title has several meanings. Hammer still feels strong sexual attraction to women, but now he’s at the point that he’s not going to take the bait. Instead it’s all business, and Hammer doesn’t believe in leaving loose strings behind.

Review copy from the publisher.


Filed under Collins, Max Allan, Fiction, Spillane Mickey

17 responses to “Skin by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins

  1. I have never read Mickey Spillane but I think that I may want to. I find that when “Genre Fiction” is very well done it is not only appealing, but sometimes says something important about the world. I suppose that this book, finalized after Spillane’s death, is probably not the best place to start, however.

    • I don’t think this short story is the best place to start. Perhaps start with vintage Spillane–although I have to say that Kiss Her Goodbye was terrific. It probably depends on just where you want to pick up Hammer’s career, I suppose.

      • Wanted to add that I think Max Allan Collins has done a marvellous job with his ‘inheritance’ from Spillane. Goliath Bone is available (at least it was yesterday) for 1.24 for the kindle version. The Max Allan Collins/Spillane collaborative works are interesting as they show a man with a 40s/50s sensibility operating in the 21st century

  2. leroyhunter

    I’ve never read any Spillane either, not sure why that’s the case. Kiss Me Deadly is one of my favourite noirs.

    • Speaking of Kiss Me Deadly, have you ever read about the death of Albert Dekker–coroner’s ruling= “accidental” death due to autoerotic asphyxiation. Yeah right.

      • leroyhunter

        I hadn’t…but I did after seeing your comment. Lurid, and hints that all was not above board, but no reason (that I could find in my quick skim) given as to what lurks beneath. Any ideas Guy?

        • H was found naked, on his knees in the bathtub, a noose wrapped around his neck and looped around the shower’s curtain rod, handcuffed and blind-folded with a ball gag in his mouth. Various straps around his body and two hypodermic needles stuck from his arms. He had needle punctures on his bottom and the word ‘whip’ was written there. he had sun rays drawn around his nipples, “make me suck” on his thorax, and “slave” and “cocksucker” were written on his chest. All in red lipstick. There was also a drawing of a vagina on his body.

          The coroner didn’t think the noose was tight enough to be the cause of death so it was ruled as accidental death due to auto-eroticism. Oh yes, the bathroom door was locked. And his fiancee claimed that about 70,000 was missing…

          • leroyhunter

            I’d read that, albeit not in quite so much detail. So I guess he was murdered and it was ignored or covered up…my question being, why?

            • From the details, I’d hazard a guess at a sexually-related hate crime with robbery since Dekker’s G’friend said he didn’t have a bank account and had 70,000 floating around in his apt with which to buy a house. The money was never found.

              • One of the points that James Ellroy makes in his excellent book My Dark Places is that when people have a secret sex life they open themselves up to a dangerous world as their families don’t know where they go or who they see.

  3. I’ve never read anything by Mike Spillane either, though one of my friends raves non stop about this Hammer character. I’m a huge fan of noir, so i guess I’m going to have to give this a try. thank you!

  4. I’d like to give this one a try, especially since it’s a short story. I usually don’t mind this type of machismo but in the light of my Onetti reading it would be interesting to compare why I had a problem with his misogyni while I might very well think of this just, as you say, a beath of fresh air.
    Come to think of it, Marlowe isn’t a macho charcater or is he? Not all noir heroes are?

    • I don’t think Marlowe is macho IMO and not all noir males are. It’s a male dominated genre and that’s why you get females writing under male pen names. Vin Packer, now there’s a great example.

  5. I eventually have some time to read your reviews.
    I’ve never read Spillane either, I should give it a try.
    It’s been a while since my last crime fiction book, I wonder why.

  6. Pingback: Skin Game « Friends/Family/Fans of Max Allan Collins

  7. I started with an omnibus edition of early Spillane (the first three Hammer tales – I the Jury, My Gun is Quick, Vengeance is Mine!). I haven’t read more yet, but shall. Those are rip roaring stuff, high octane and fast moving.

    The Hammer stuff is macho, the Marlowe books or for that matter MacDonald’s Archer books aren’t. Most hardboiled fiction isn’t really that macho, it tends to be too weary for that. Hammer though shoots people in the face and laughs as he does so (literally on one occasion). He’s also a bit homophobic, despite which he runs into a lot of gay men. At one point I remember wondering if he was protesting too much, which I suspect wasn’t Spillane’s intent.

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