The Big Bang–Spillane and Collins return in edgy 1960s “lost” New York story

Review by C.J. Bunce

Who was I kidding?  I didn’t know what the question was–though I was pretty sure it had something to do with why bringing in guns from St. Louis to kill Mike Hammer was a good business move.
For somebody.

How deep could a doctor and hospital get in a big city illegal drug business?  An unpublished Mickey Spillane Mike Hammer novel asked the question in the context of 1960s New York, and thanks to Titan Books and Spillane writing partner Max Allan Collins, that story is back again for Hammer fans–one of the “lost” novels shelved by Spillane and resurrected by Collins.  Originally published in 2010, The Big Bang is back in paperback.

As Mike Hammer’s body count stacks up like (almost) never before, The Big Bang digs into private eye Hammer’s relationship with best pal Pat Chambers, captain of the NYPD, and his commitment to long-time secretary and best girl Velda.  Banter between Hammer and Chambers and Hammer and Velda is authentic as it gets, shifting between Chambers laying into Hammer for his choices one minute, then heading out for a friendly dinner the next, while Velda reflects she’s really the one in charge of the business.  Hammer’s extracurricular activities with Velda only get more fun with each new story, too.

Hammer’s interviews with junkies and others in the city will be familiar with episodes of The Rockford Files with a mix of Sanford and Son.  It’s like a New York predecessor to the Florida backstreets we’d see a few decades later in Burn Notice.

This is a Hammer novel that leans hard on a political stance, here a typical 1960s-1980s anti-drug story.  It plays similar to the Howard Hesseman episode of Dragnet or the famous Green Lantern #86 anti-drug comic of the early 1970s up to the “just say no” message of the 1980s. It’s also Hammer on LSD, which shows how far the character had come from Killing Town, his first novel (reviewed here at borg), which had more old-school, classic noir elements. But Hammer grew over the years, and Spillane’s writing grew with him.

The story is layered, but the mystery behind the crime seems to go nowhere for the bulk of its 300+ pages, taking a backseat to the characterization, which isn’t altogether a bad thing.  Ultimately it works–although we never know how much is thanks to Spillane and how much to Collins, but you can guess Collins would give the bulk of the credit to Spillane based on the foreword.

It’s good, classic Mike Hammer, but a flavor of the character readers will find different from most of the series.  Get The Big Bang, now in paperback from Titan Books available here at Amazon.

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