July 17, 2006
Novelist Mickey Spillane dies at 88
MIAMI (Reuters) - Mystery writer Mickey Spillane, who
created the tough-guy private eye Mike Hammer, died on Monday
at his South Carolina home at age 88, a funeral home official
The cause of death was not immediately announced.
"Mr. Spillane died this morning at his home here. His
family was with him," said Brian Edgerton, funeral director at
the Goldfinch Funeral Home in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina.
Born Frank Morrison Spillane on March 9, 1918, in Brooklyn,
New York, Spillane grew up in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and began
his career as a magazine and comic writer. The first
incarnation of his Mike Hammer was a comic book character named
Spillane wrote more than two dozen books, including 13 in
the Hammer series. His books sold more than 140 million copies
around the world, according to a fiction writers Web site.
The first book, introducing Hammer, was "I, the Jury,"
which he reportedly wrote in nine days and was published in
1947. Spillane's Hammer books also included "My Gun Is Quick,"
"Vengeance Is Mine," "Kiss Me Deadly" and "The Big Kill."
"There's a kind of power about Mickey Spillane that no
other writer can imitate," The New York Times once said of his
Spillane, a Jehovah's Witness who taught Bible class,
occasionally acted in movies and played Hammer in the 1963 film
of "The Girl Hunters," as well as parodying his gritty image in
television commercials for Miller Lite beer.
Spillane had no pretensions about his writing, going about
it with the philosophy that "If the public likes you, you're
He was known for blunt writing and blunt talk and had no
trouble admitting that money was a prime motivator for his
In 1995, when he was named a grandmaster of his craft by
the Mystery Writers of America, he recalled the days when he
didn't write mysteries.
"I used to write true confessions stories like 'I was a
pregnant teen-ager' and 'My boyfriend said we stopped in
time,"' he said. "I write when I feel the urgent need for
Spillane was immune to critics who thought his style was
uncivil, and once said, "Those big-shot writers could never dig
the fact that there are more salted peanuts consumed than
Spillane's fans did not always include fellow authors.
Raymond Chandler, creator of another rugged detective, Philip
Marlowe, described Spillane's work as "nothing but a mixture of
violence and outright pornography." Ernest Hemingway boycotted
a Florida restaurant after the owner put up a picture of
"He thought I was a lousy writer and didn't like the idea
that I outsold him," Spillane said in the December 2003 issue
of Vanity Fair when he was promoting a new Mike Hammer book,
"Something's Down There."
Spillane had lived in Murrells Inlet, which he discovered
when he was an Army flight instructor during World War Two,
since the 1950s.
Spillane was married to his third wife, Jane Rodgers
Johnson. His first wife was Mary Ann Pierce, with whom he
remained on speaking terms. His second was Sherri Malinou, a
Los Angeles publicist from whom he split bitterly in 1983.
He had four children from his marriages.