Review by C.J. Bunce
For Mike Hammer fans, every new story is worth the wait. Kiss Her Goodbye finds Hammer pal Captain Pat Chambers calling the old gumshoe out of his retirement in Florida to investigate whether a common friend really committed suicide. We meet Old Man Mike Hammer, not fully recovered from getting caught in the crossfire in his last big show. He’s ragged around the edges, but refuses to let a shelf full of pills and his loss of girth prevent him from pushing anyone out of his way. No matter how many guns they have drawn.
Max Allan Collins is back, taking notes left by Mickey Spillane and drawing them together into one of the most fun, and most down-to-earth, adventures of Hammer in New York City. This time he’s left to work his way through a Studio 54-inspired club, as he trips over dead bodies to learn the truth. But can Hammer really be Hammer without the lovable Velda? Originally published in 2011 in hardcover, Kiss Her Goodbye is now out in paperback, and with an all-new ending.
“I shot Leisure Suit in the left eye, which got a surprised expression out of the right one…”
Hammer and Chambers are at it again. Hammer is a full-fledged celebrity, getting himself a free pass into all the secret spaces as well as an audience with all the players in this mystery, from a smoking (literally and figuratively) assistant district attorney, to an up-and-coming pop star named Chrome (Collins or Spillane deserve an award for just coming up with that character name).
Originally published with a different ending, Collins was able to insert his original closing chapter into this edition. The climax is over-the-top and exactly what you want from Mike Hammer. It’s somehow even more believable because he seems like he has nothing left to lose when he faces off against a mob boss related to someone he recently offed.
Collins’ insight into the streets and hotels and restaurants and private eye offices of New York of the past elevate the mystique of the city beyond what 21st century readers and audiences have seen in NYC fiction. If you’re tired of another New York story, this one is worth your time.
This is a Hammer novel closer to the Hammer of Killing Town (reviewed here)–my favorite from the writing duo, despite an even more crotchety fellow later in his career. It’s far more compelling than The Big Bang (reviewed here), without all the political side story that may have bogged that story down. This is all grit, all action, very hard-boiled Hammer at his best. As much as I miss Velda, so great a character in past works like Murder, My Love (reviewed here), it’s refreshing to see Hammer almost sadly flying without a net. The women here make up for it, almost making the reader feel as guilty as Hammer. If you missed it, check out my review of Masquerade for Murder here, too.
The only quirk of this edition is in the printing–somebody must have goofed at the printers, as several pages have typos that look like this book was scanned but not entirely edited. As someone usually annoyed by typos, this would normally have stalled me out, but fortunately Collins’ writing quickly sailed me past the errors.