Review by C.J. Bunce
Fans of any character or universe love their fandom and often can’t get enough of it. It’s why writers keep writing new versions of Frankenstein 201 years later and new stories featuring James Bond 66 years later and Sherlock Holmes 132 years later. Fans of writer Mickey Spillane′s Mike Hammer novels (or the Darren McGavin or Stacy Keach television series) have not just the 13 novels Spillane wrote beginning 72 years ago, but now a full two dozen thanks to Spillane’s co-conspirator of hard-boiled crime and his successor, Max Allan Collins. In last year’s centenary of Spillane’s birth, that meant the release of the unpublished first Mike Hammer novel Killing Town (reviewed here at borg). Using the combined talents of Spillane and Collins, it’s a crime story as good as they get. With the latest team-up of Spillane and Collins, Murder, My Love, Collins proves he has mastered the voice of the famous cop-turned-private eye. This book is 100% end-to-end Collins, as the writer says he worked from Spillane’s notes but all of the prose is new material. And that’s fabulous, because this book is all Mike Hammer at his best.
As with Killing Town, Collins’ Murder, My Love is a shorter Hammer novel and a quick read. Personally at 200 pages I find it the ideal length–all pulp novels, classic paperback mysteries, true crime novels, etc. should be able to be gobbled up in a single trip (like on a Greyhound bus from Detroit to Cincinnati or a train from Omaha to Denver). I soaked up Murder, My Love in two sittings, and it was an entirely satisfying read, complete with Hammer and his assistant/also cop-turned P.I., Velda, who Collins writes cleverly here first person in a few pages of “off-camera” playback that is some of the best material in the book.
It’s a story set later in Hammer’s career, with Collins establishing a perfect picture of New York City from a few decades ago as he takes a U.S. senator on as a client, a senator with White House ambitions. Unfortunately he and his wife have a history of extramarital affairs and now someone else knows, resulting in blackmail. Hammer and Velda embark on the detective work, interviewing the subjects of the senator’s liaisons. Once they find the schemer behind the blackmail, that’s when the body count begins. One-by-one the possible suspects end up dead, and Hammer isn’t exempt from getting in the line of fire.
Sex, lies, brawls, corruption, murder–there’s a bit of everything here.
Collins’ eye for detail is superb. His descriptions of the famous NYC skyscraper The Flatiron will have you feeling like you’ve actually been there.
If you love a good mystery and classic edgy noir with a tough guy protagonist who is smart–but never smart enough–this is a great place to jump into the series. Highly recommended for fans of Titan’s Hard Case Crime imprint, Murder, My Love is available now for the first time, published by Titan Books and available in a hardcover edition. Get a copy now here at Amazon.