Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Tough Guys - Mickey Spillane

"A good nympho can get a lot of guys killed."

Published in 1969 Mickey Spillane’s The Tough Guys is a collection of 3 magazine stories from the early 1960s. All of them are proof that the short novel format is where Spillane shines. I’ve read a number of his novels and have almost always finished them thinking that they could have used some tightening up. Especially the ones featuring Tiger Mann, or the awful The Delta Factor, which was just plain boring.

Signet Books
These three stories rocked. This is the Spillane that kicks the teeth in, especially in “Kick it or Kill!” and “The Seven Year Kill” with their torn and frayed heroes, psychotic goons and curvalicious babes. The third story “The Bastard Bannerman” is no slouch, but compared to the other stories here it goes maybe 10 or 20 pages too long. It’s still a good yarn, but it’s up against some stiff competition in this trio.

In “Kick it or Kill!” Kelly Smith takes a trip to the country for some much needed R&R and time to heal from a leaking gunshot wound earned in the line of duty as a cop. The first day in he’s pegged for trouble by the local fuzz who try sticking their noses into his business. Then later that evening he watches two punks pushing their weight around a small diner. Kelly Smith waits maybe two minutes while they smack a local kid around before stomping their guts out in front of the other diners. He soon discovers that the pair of goons report to the local wealthy recluse, known as Mr. Simpson, who lives above town in the mansion on the hill. Not much is known about Simpson, other than he nets talent from the local girls to hire out as entertainment for his “out of town” bigshot friends. A few of these girls return from their gigs fucked up and damaged. A couple of them hooked on the funny powder. Some just go missing permanently. Kelly gets wind of some heavy syndicate guys showing up in town and floating around Simpson’s estate. Then he has some more run-ins with the goons, and saves a broken and damaged chick before making it his business to bust Simpson’s little orgies for good. Helping Kelly out is Dari Dahl the sexy owner of the motel where Kelly is staying. Dari’s kid sister, Flori Dahl, was one of Simpson’s former hired girls, cast aside only to take a swan dive off a tenement in New York. Dari’s brilliant plan involves hiring herself out as entertainment for one of Simpson’s sick ‘n twisted soirees. What follows involves kinky hi-jinks, flying teeth, broken bones and spattered brains. 

I stepped between the window and the draperies, entirely concealed, then held the folds of the heavy velvet back. It was a small theater in the round. There was a person shrouded in black tapping drums and that was all the music they had. Two more in black tights with masked faces were circling about a table. They each had long thin whips, and whenever the drummer raised the tempo they snapped them, and sometimes they simply brought them against the floor so that the metal tips made a sharp popping sound.

She was there in the middle, tied to the table. She was robed in a great swath of silk.

In “The Seven Year Kill”, Mike Hammer…I mean Phil Rocca, is recovering from a nasty hangover in a flophouse when a desperate little twist pursued by a pair of goons chooses his pad to hide out in. The goons bust in on Phil Rocca as he’s waking from a long drunk and slap him around for a couple minutes before buying his story that he has no idea about any screwy dame hiding out in his pad. The goons believe him and split. A few minutes later our lamb on the run reveals herself to Rocca with a story of returning to New York to find her father, who has contacted her by letter to come to the city and reunite. The trouble for Rocca is that the dame’s pop, Rhino Massley, is the same mobster that put the fix in on Rocca sending him into a couple year stretch in the slammer on false charges. Rocca was once a redhot journalist chasing down a story on Massley, before he got framed on a bum rap and left to swing by his editors. Will Rocca agree to help our girl find dear old dad? You bet your ass he will, just for the pleasure giving Rhino Massley a terminal case of lead poisoning. The only problem is that Rhino Massley is supposedly dead, having succumbed to TB out in Arizona while Rocca was in the pen. Not only is Rocca interested in finding Massley, but so are the syndicate boys, since Massley has hidden away all kinds of damaging records on their business. Word that he’s still alive has the rats on the loose. Lots of blood, fury and broken teeth in this one too.

The final story in the trio is “The Bastard Bannerman”. In this one Mike Hammer…there I go again…is Cat Bannerman, the bastard child of wealthy, and long deceased, Max Bannerman. Max Bannerman died when Cat was in his early teens, leaving Cat to the mercy of his uncle, Miles Bannerman and his two asshole sons, Rudy and Ted Bannerman. Cat returns to the old estate after splitting the place when he was all of 14 years old. In the meantime, Miles Bannerman and his two sons have pretty much done nothing with their wealth except use it to abuse everyone else in the town around them. Rudy in particular has built up a solid rep as a jerkoff wannabe playboy and punk. Cat returns to the manor just in time to see his favorite cousin Anita Bannerman engaged to a sketchy fop named Vance Colby. Vance Colby has ingratiated himself into the Bannerman tribe under the pretext of helping them clear up a looming scandal. He acts as mouthpiece and advocate for the family after Rudy has gotten himself tangled up in a murder of a local nightclub promoter over the promoter’s round-heeled wife. Also in the scene are a couple of syndicate muscles pushing their weight around the Bannerman estate with Vance’s blessing. It all reeks of a squeeze play in the works, with Vance standing to gain from the misery while winning the girl’s hand. Cat could care less what happens to Rudy, Ted and Uncle Miles, but decides that he owes it to Anita to help extricate her from the Bannerman web of misery. Lots of ass-kicking, slapping, slugging, and gunplay also keep this yarn popping.

If you need your dose of tough guys doing some bad shit, then look no further than this tight collection. Easy to find. 

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