Book Review: THE LAST STAND by Mickey Spillane (Hard Case Crime 2018)

2018 is the centennial anniversary of Mickey Spillane’s birth! Spillane got his start in comic books, then caused a sensation with his 1947 novel I, THE JURY, introducing the world to that hardest of hardboiled PI’s, Mike Hammer. Hard Case Crime, an imprint every pulp fiction fan should know about, celebrates Spillane’s birth by releasing THE LAST STAND, The Mick’s last completed novel, with a bonus unpublished novella from the early 1950’s.

Spillane with friend/literary executor Max Allan Collins

Mickey’s literary executor and friend Max Allan Collins writes the introduction. Collins is no stranger to the hardboiled genre himself, having been Chester Gould’s replacement on the long-running comic strip Dick Tracy from 1977-92, author of the graphic novel ROAD TO PERDITION, and the Quarry series of books (made into a Showtime series in 2016). Since Spillane’s death in 2006, Collins has been editing and completing the writer’s (“I’m not an author, I’m a writer”, he once said in an interview) unfinished works.

The unpublished 50’s novella “A Bullet for Satisfaction” is up first, and fans of Spillane will rejoice – it’s truly Vintage Spillane, a brutal tale of corruption, gangsters, violence, and femme fatales! Ex-cop Rod Dexter (how’s that for a macho name!) wades through this sordid tale filled to the brim with murder, sadism, and plenty of sex. You can tell where Collins did some editing and rewriting here, because good as he is, nobody captures Spillane’s voice quite like Spillane; multitudes have tried, but The Mick is unique! Take this example from Page 42:

“Three days ago I was a cop. Now the cop was gone. What was left? Nothing but a thirst for booze, quenched by a bender, and vengeance, which I’d quench a whole other way. And when you’re playing a game like this, there’s only one way to play it, and that’s a hell of a lot rougher than they do.

They were going to die. Every last one of them would feel pain and I would receive satisfaction by watching their expressions as I pulled the trigger“.

Or this gem found on Page 116:

“A blast from the open door took her head off and splattered it against the far wall, where dripping blood and chunks of bone and gobs of gore and one lonely eyeball stuck there like the work of some cut-rate Picasso. Then a body getting no signals from an obliterated brain toppled on its back with a rattling thud, and the headless body lay limply on the floor”.

See what I mean? Vintage Mickey Spillane!

The writer (don’t call him author!) in his twilight years

Next is “The Last Stand”, Mickey’s final novel published for the first time anywhere. This one finds a – dare I say it? – much more mellow Spillane, now 88 years old but still writing in his signature voice. The sex and violence are toned down, but that terse style is still there, only with a touch more humor that comes with reflective old age. More of an adventure than hardboiled crime, it follows ex-serviceman Joe Gillian (named after Mickey’s friend, longtime Charlton Comics writer Joe Gill) as he’s forced to land his vintage plane in a Southwestern desert. There he encounters Sequoia Pete, a young Indian whose horse has thrown him, and the unlikely pair banter their way through a desert trek, where Joe discovers the joys of eating rattlesnake, and an ancient arrowhead loaded with radioactivity.

Returning to Pete’s village on the rez, Joe will meet his new friend’s gorgeous sister Running Fox, whose jealous would-be beau Big Arms sets out to kill his white rival. The plot involves hidden treasure, gangsters, FBI agents, and a threat to national security. With “The Last Stand”, Spillane shows us he’s still a master storyteller, older and knocking on Jehovah’s door but still managing to entertain his audience. Fans of Mickey Spillane will definitely love THE LAST STAND, and for the uninitiated the book gives you a chance to read him in both his early, hardboiled phase and his last, more seasoned work. I’m a huge fan, so don’t just take my word for it: go out and buy a copy, and prepare to be thrilled!

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There’s A New Kid in Town: RETRO FAN Magazine


I frequent a place called Newsbreak, which has virtually every type of magazine you could ever ask for, from your tried-and-true legacy mags (TIME, PEOPLE, READER’S DIGEST) to the more esoteric (dedicated to things like raising chickens, bluegrass music, and mysticism). There are a few I pick up on a regular basis, mainly dealing with old movies: FILMS OF THE GOLDEN AGE, SHOCK CINEMA, and PHANTOM OF THE MOVIES’ VIDEOSCOPE, (along with my monthly fix of REASON, the magazine of libertarian thought). While browsing last week, I came across something new – the 1st issue of RETRO FAN, published by TwoMorrows, who are also responsible for publications like ALTER EGO (covering the Golden Age of Comics and edited by Roy Thomas), BACK ISSUE ( Bronze Age Comics), and JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR (’nuff said!).

The animated crew of The Enterprise

RETRO FAN is for people interested in pop culture past, and if you’re a reader of this blog, you’ll love it! The first issue is chock full of great articles. There’s an interview with Lou “The Incredible Hulk” Ferrigno, a piece about The Phantom on the Silver Screen by comic and TV writer Martin Pasko, a look back at STAR TREK: THE ANIMATED SERIES, Emmy-winning SPFX artist Ernest Farino’s childhood encounter with Lon Chaney Jr., and a trip to Mayberry (actually Mt. Airy, NC) complete with an interview with Betty Lynn (Thelma Lou). There are articles on collectible comics and toys as well, the whole gamut of retro nostalgia packed into 80 slick, colorful pages.

Editor/author Michael Eury

Editor Michael Eury has assembled a terrific new mag for fans who are into “The Creepy Cool Culture We Grew Up With”, including Yours Truly. Upcoming issues will feature horror hosts Zacherle and Elvira, Saturday mornings with Aquaman and The Groovy Goolies, an interview with SUPERMAN director Richard Donner, The Green Hornet, Ray Harryhausen, Thunderbirds, and a whole lot more. RETRO FAN is for the retro geek in all us, and has made my list of quarterly mags to purchase. If you’re into this sort of thing like me, you’ll want to pick up a copy, or go to TwoMorrows’ website and subscribe. And if you’re not… well, you’re missing out on some cool stuff, bunkie!