Mickey Spillane was an American crime novelist whose first novel, I, The Jury, introduced his famous character, Mike Hammer.
My first encounter with Mickey Spillane was in high school. It was in 1983 when I got hold of a paperback copy of I, The Jury. Mike Hammer came in to investigate his best friend’s murder. He saw his best friend dead, shot in the stomach. An angry and vengeful Mike Hammer promised to seek the murderer and kill him the way his best friend had died. The impact was vivid in my memory that I also consider Mickey Spillane as one of my influences.
CHILDHOOD, YOUTH, AND MARRIAGE
Mickey Spillane was born Frank Morrison Spillane on 9 March 1918 in Brooklyn, New York. He grew up in Elizabeth New Jersey as the only child of an Irish bartender father and a Scottish mother. Mickey Spillane began writing in high school. He attended Fort Hays State College in Kansas and worked in various jobs. During World War II, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps, becoming a fighter pilot and a flight instructor.
It was during one of his flights when he flew over Murrells Inlet, South Carolina when he said, “That is where I want to live.” and he did. In 1989, Hurricane Hugo ravaged his Murrells Inlet house to such a degree it had to be almost entirely reconstructed.
Mickey Spillane married thrice. His first wife, Mary Ann Pearce, whom he had four children. His second wife, singer Sherri Malinou, and his third wife, Jane Rogers Johnson.
Spillane started as a writer for comic books while working as a salesman. In fact, Mike Hammer was originally planned as a comic book character.
In the mid-1940s he became a flight instructor in Greenwood, Mississippi. There, he met and married Mary Ann Pearce in 1945. The couple wanted to buy a country house in the town of Newburgh, New York. So Spillane decided to boost his bank account by writing a novel. In 19 days he wrote I, the Jury.
He was also an actor. Several Mike Hammer novels became movies, including The Girl Hunters (1963). In that film, Spillane himself appeared as Mike Hammer. This is one of the few occasions in film history in which an author of a popular literary hero has portrayed his own character.
Although some critics say Spillane’s characters were stereotypes, Spillane had a “flair for fast-action writing”. His prose “is lean and spare” and authentic. His works broke new ground for American crime fiction. American comic book writer Frank Miller mentioned Spillane as his influence for his own hard-boiled style.
Spillane died July 17, 2006 at his home in Murrells Inlet, of pancreatic carcinoma.