Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Spillane's friend hammers out author's novel

Spillane's friend hammers out the rest of author's novel
By Carol Memmott, USA TODAY

Just before his death two years ago, crime writer Mickey Spillane called friend and author Max Allan Collins and asked him to finish a Mike Hammer novel he did not have the strength to complete.

The Goliath Bone (Harcourt, $23), based on Spillane's rough draft, goes on sale Monday, 61 years after Hammer, the iconic hard-boiled private eye, solved his first case in I, the Jury. It will be the 14th Hammer novel.

"It's hard to imagine what popular culture would be like right now without Mike Hammer," says Collins, 60, who began writing fan letters to Spillane when he was 13.

"You would have no James Bond without Mike Hammer. You wouldn't have Dirty Harry or Jack Bauer or any of the tough detectives who use the bad guys' methods."

Spillane, who was 88 when he died, is the 20th century's best-selling American mystery writer, with sales topping 225 million.

The Brooklyn-born Spillane was so moved by the events of 9/11 that he stopped working on King of the Weeds, another Hammer novel, to write The Goliath Bone.

The indomitable Hammer is now in his 60s and reeling from the terrorist attacks. He's hired by a couple who are on an archaeological dig in Israel and find what they believe is the thighbone of the famous giant killed in a battle between the Israelites and the Philistines.

Hammer must protect the bone from the terrorists and government officials who will do anything to get it.

"The Goliath Bone is a collaboration but very much Mickey," says Collins (Road to Perdition).

Spillane left rough drafts of 10 of the book's 12 chapters. (Spillane and Collins co-edited four crime anthologies and collaborated on the 1990s Mike Danger comic-book series.)

Collins has just completed another Hammer novel, The Big Bang, based on a story Spillane began in 1965. Spillane bequeathed him incomplete manuscripts for three more Hammer novels, including King of the Weeds, which Collins plans to finish.

Carrying on the Hammer legacy is a thrill for Collins.

"I suppose I should say I'm intimidated, but I took Mickey Spillane books as vitamins when I was a kid. I was born to do this, and Mickey trusted me."

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