The Snake is the 8th Mike Hammer novel, coming right after The Girl Hunters. Out of the Hammer novels I've read it’s easily the most problematic. Not that The Girl Hunters was much better, but at least that one had a certain momentum that managed to make it to the “socko” ending. The Snake picks up almost directly after the events of The Girl Hunters, as Mike Hammer finally meets Velda after seven long years for reasons all covered in The Girl Hunters. Mike Hammer now is armed with a shady federal status in the form of a badge that he’s quick to wave under the noses of all the pesky officials and thugs that get in his way. His friend Pat Chambers is also back on the scene as well. Why they've remained friends, especially after their big blowout in the previous novel, is a bigger mystery than anything else. It was established that they’re both nuts in love with Velda, who could do loads better than either of them. And Velda really comes off badly in this novel. She is often described as a big lady with a sexual force that is part woman, part tigress, and ultimately, all idiot. This exchange between Velda and Mike pretty much sums up what I mean:
“There’s more to it than that, baby. Let me do it my way, okay?”
“Sure. It’s always your way, isn’t it?”
“Is that why I love you?”
“And you love me because I think that way?”
“I’m home, Mike.”
I touched her knee and felt her leg harden. “You never were away, kid.”
I guess if patter like that doesn't work for Hammer he could always belt her one. In fact, Velda lets Hammer know in the first chapter, after their seven year separation, that she’s saved her virginity for him the whole time. Then she proceeds to spend the rest of the book throwing it at him while he dodges it like it’s the plague. His reason? That they have to do it right, with a judge and a license, the whole bit.
|Signet Books, November 1964|
Mike and Velda have their reunion, get worked up like a couple school kids, then get busted in on by a couple gun-toting goons who manage to get blasted all to hell by each other. One manages to get away with a bullet in his gut, thanks to Hammer, but the other two are left dead at his feet.
On to the mystery then. Velda’s been harboring a girl, Suzie Torrence, who is in fear for her life. Suzie insists that her mother was murdered a couple decades before by "The Snake" and now this Snake is after her. Who the hell is The Snake and why is he trying to kill Suzie Torrence? Well, first thing is that Suzie insists that it's really her father who wants her dead. Suzie is the daughter of a political riser, Sim Torrence, who takes all of one meeting to see that he’s pretty much a prick. But Hammer can’t see any reason for wanting his daughter killed. Torrence then hires Hammer to bring Suzie home and find out just who is after her. It’s kind of fuzzy, because Velda’s still got Hammer foggy with her feminine juju, and Pat is still pissed off at him and Suzie is…oh well.
Things proceed that eventually involve a 30-year-old heist that Sim Torrence prosecuted during his days as a DA. Then there is an old show-girl, and old ex-con and a missing three million clams that could be the big financial source for some new syndicate shenanigans hitting the city.
This is the first Hammer novel I've read where he doesn't kick the hell out of someone in it. In fact the few times his life is really threatened, some wild, completely implausible turn of events save his ass. But worst of all, whenever a villain has the drop on Hammer, they proceed to get diarrhea of the mouth, and flap their yap at him, instead of just pulling the trigger. Sort of like Hammer’s fear of pulling the trigger with Velda.
Finally, the mystery is solved. We discover who The Snake is about forty pages past caring and Mike Hammer finally seems ready to man up and give Velda what she’s been so torque up for all these years.
This snake bit its own ass. And the reason I’m hard on it here is because Spillane normally writes a good fun read.
Will I read more Spillane?