Mickey Spillane’s Dead Street and Hard Case Crime

Here it is! My first blog post about a book!

I’m currently in New York attending NYU’s Summer Publishing Institute. Last week, Charles Ardai spoke to us about launching a book imprint. Charles launched an imprint of his own in 2006 called Hard Case Crime, and I fell in love with the concept. When Charles and his partner launched the imprint, their goal was to create books that hearkened back to pulpy, hard-boiled detective fiction from the 40s and 50s. This includes everything from republishing classic pulp mystery novels, to publishing new novels written in that good ol’ hard-boiled style. And it isn’t just the stories that get the pulp treatment, but the actual books too!

Dead Street Cover

The cover for Dead Street by Mickey Spillane. Art by Arthur Suydam.

The book covers feature great 40s and 50s style artwork, and the books are printed in mass market formats that really bring back that classic look and feel of hard-boiled detective fiction.

I couldn’t resist, and not just because there is a leggy lady on every cover. I wanted to read a hard-boiled story written by one of the masters, so a few days later I picked up Mickey Spillane’s Dead Street at Barnes & Noble. It was only seven bucks, and easily worth the price of admission. For those who don’t know (I didn’t), Mickey Spillane is the author who created the classic hard-boiled detective, Mike Hammer, and is one of, if not the bestselling author of 20th century. His novels are action-packed, brutal, and gritty.

The main character of Dead Street is retired NYPD cop, Jack Stang. Twenty years before the book begins, Jack was in love, but for reasons unknown his fiancé, Bettie, was abducted by the mob and presumed dead when the abductors’ van  plummeted off a bridge and into, if I remember correctly, the Hudson River. As it turns out, Bettie actually survived the crash. Unfortunately, she lost her memory and eyesight in the process. Her rescuers, upon learning she was a mob target, decided not to let the world know she survived, and took her under their wing to protect her. After twenty years, the beneficent family, thinking Bettie is finally safe, inform Jack that she is alive. Her memory from her previous life with Jack is still gone, but Jack leaves New York to join Bettie who now lives in Florida. But when Jack leaves, old cogs start turning that put both his and Bettie’s lives in danger once again, and it is up to Jack to put an end to it once and for all.

Okay. The story is hokey. But you know what? I don’t care! Stories like this one are what Hard Case Crime is all about. As Jack Stang might say, sublimity and emotional nuance can go suck an egg. However, an unbelievable story does not automatically preclude that Dead Street is poorly written. It is in fact just the opposite. Spillane’s style is raw, rough, and brimming with wry, understated humor that is a pure pleasure to read. Jack’s first-person voice is as unforgiving as his Colt .45, and just as full of bangs and pops when the occasion calls for them. If all the Hard Case Crime books are as fun as this one, I’ll definitely be back for more. I had to put Dead Street down over the course of the few days it took me to read it, but not because I wanted to put it down.

Hard Case Crime does have some big titles coming in the not too distant future, including a new one by Stephen King. Next up for me though is the book, Fifty-to-One by the publisher, Charles Ardai, written to celebrate the publication of Hard Case Crime’s fiftieth book. I probably won’t get to it for a few more weeks as I have tons of new books waiting to be read, but I’ll definitely try to get to it before September.

I’m now working my way through Unholy Night by Seth Grahame-Smith, so I’ll write about it when I finish. My next post will probably be about The Amazing Spider-Man, which I’ll be seeing tomorrow.

Jimmy out.

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  1. Another Plethora of Books « Jimmy's Pop Culture Blog

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