Wednesday, February 14, 2007

"The Night I Died" by Mickey Spillane

From: Private Eyes ed. Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins. Signet, 1998.

This Mike Hammer story opens with Hammer having tracked down femme fatale Helen Venn:

"Hello, Helen."

A long pause. "Hello, Mike. Do I get it here?"

"That's right. Here, Helen. Just like I said it would be. The next time I ever saw you, wherever it was...and now it's here."

The story flashes back to Hammer's meeting Helen, who had been linked to Marty Wellman, a man with ties to the Syndicate, rumored to have $2 million stashed away. Helen had feared for her life ever since Marty turned up dead. Hammer looked into who killed Marty in an attempt to take the heat off Helen, and discovered she had been manipulating men to ascend the Syndicate ranks herself. She originally escaped Hammer by shooting him and leaving him for dead.

I've owned this anthology for close to ten years, and I remember liking this story when I first read it. Upon refreshing my memory, however, I found it filled with cliched tough-guy talk including needless posturing before shootouts. Spillane also switches between an awkward second-person voice ("The only sound you hear is the shot.") and classic first person, making it a harder read.

Confused as to when the story takes place, I skimmed through Max Allan Collins's introduction and learned that this was a previously unpublished story from 1953. It was originally conceived as a radio play, and Spillane allowed it to be set in short-story form for this anthology.

There are several better stories in Private Eyes, and I may review them in the future. "The Night I Died" remains interesting because it seems the hard-bitten Hammer really did fall in love with Helen.

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