|Signet Books, May 1965|
I took a break from the Matt Helm series to (re)read the first Tiger Mann novel, from 1964, by Mickey Spillane. Tiger Mann was a response to the popularity of the James Bond, spy-craze that hit theaters and paperback racks back in the day. I was never really intrigued by the Tiger Mann novels when I started reading Spillane in my teens. I liked the Mike Hammer novels. But I thought Tiger Mann was a ridiculous name for a spy, and wasn't having any of it. By the sixties though, Mike Hammer was practically a spy himself anyway, as his cases started taking on an international villains instead of just homegrown gangsters. Ultimately, anyone who has read the Tiger Mann novels will tell you that Mann is basically Mike Hammer anyway, so entering the spy scene wasn't exactly a big jump for Spillane.
As for Day of the Guns, well you can tell from the paragraph above that Tiger Mann isn't going to play nice and abide by any gentlemanly rules when it comes to taking on the commie bastards who would come and take over America with their insidious ways. Throughout the novel Tiger Mann tells anyone who listens that he's not interested in the rules while the other side gets to come over and laugh in our faces as they have their way with us. Diplomatic Immunity is a joke. No sir! He's going to feed them a belly full of lead first and worry about the consequences later!
So what happens in this novel is one day Tiger Mann is having lunch with a reporter pal, Wally Gibbons, when a gorgeous babe named Edith Caine walks into the restaurant causing every head to turn her way. Gibbons says she's a translator with the U.N. and dares Tiger to make a play for her. But Tiger already knows Edith from the past.
"Her name isn't Edith Caine...it's Rondine Lund. She isn't English, she's Austrian and during the war she was a goddamn Nazi spy. She shot me twice in '45 and left me for dead, and if there is anybody in this world I'd like to kill, it's her. No, buddy, we don't need no introduction."
And there you go. Tiger Mann wastes no time approaching Edith (Rondine Lund) Caine to let her know that he's blown her cover and that he's gonna kill her. But first he's going to find out what her game is and blow it all sky high. He leaves Rondine, pale and quaking with fear, and goes home to his apartment where he waits for a couple of hit men to show up, certain that Rondine will have put the X out on his ticket. And of course they do. But he's tricked them by stuffing his bed with pillows to make it look as though he's sleeping while the hit men blast holes into his sheets and leave. That's kind of how things happen with the gunsels in this caper. These are the worst assassins in the game who are sent to rub out Tiger Mann. This same kind of thing happens through the whole book. Tiger confronts Rondine, tells her he's going to kill her, goes out into the city and dodges flying bullets by inept assassins.
As far as agents go, Tiger Mann isn't exactly subtle. This is no George Smiley. There is no cerebral gamesmanship going on here. This is Bull-in-a-China-shop spying. But neither was James Bond exactly subtle. Tiger Mann works for an unnamed agency on the fringe, run by a guy name Martin Grady. Grady hands out the assignments and his agents do the necessary wet-work. Occasionally Mann will make a cutting remark about his competition, the "striped-pants" boys, who are either liberals or CIA agents. He's also got a boodle of connections and informers who pull strings for him, dropping information on what's happening around the U.N., putting eyes out on the street for him. All of whom tell him that he should "lay off" before things get too heavy. It's a standard theme that runs through Mickey Spillane's novels, whether it's Tiger Mann or Mike Hammer, where everyone around the hero is busy warning him off before things go all to hell. And like Hammer, Tiger Mann is a stud with the broads. He takes them to the Blue Ribbon where he feeds them steak and Pabst and beds them in their apartments later. And you only have to read a few of Spillane's novels to know who the real evil villain is well before Tiger Mann figures it out.
But as silly as it all is, Spillane's books are really fun to read (with the exception of The Delta Factor, which was a real stinker!) and go down like a cold brew on a hot day. There is a reason they were bestsellers. They're a good time. You know the moves, you know the speeches, and you take the ride to see the bad guys get what's coming to them.