Mike Hammer

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For other similarly named individuals, see Michael Hammer.
Mickey Spillane, Ed Robbins and Joe Gill's From the Files of... Mike Hammer (January 31, 1954).

Michael "Mike" Hammer is a fictional character created by the American author Mickey Spillane in the 1947 book I, the Jury (made into a movie in 1953 and 1982).

Description[edit]

Several movies and radio and television series have been based on the books in the Hammer series. The actor most closely identified with the character in recent years has been Stacy Keach, who portrayed Hammer in a CBS television series, Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer, which ran from 1984–1987 and had a syndicated revival in 1997–1998. (An earlier syndicated version, originally aired in 1957–1958, starred Darren McGavin as Hammer.) Spillane himself played Hammer in a 1963 motion picture adaptation of The Girl Hunters. Spillane himself favoured ex-Marine and former Newburgh, New York police officer Jack Stang, on whom he based the character, to play him. Stang appeared with Spillane in the 1954 film Ring of Fear and in the film adaptation of I, the Jury.

Creation[edit]

Prior to World War II, Mickey Spillane was a writer of many well known comic books. After World War II he used what would be the plot of I, the Jury for a comic book character called Mike Danger. When converting the comic book to a novel originally in hardcover, Spillane wrote the work in nine days in some accounts, nineteen in other accounts.[1]

Character[edit]

While pulp detectives such as Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe are hard-boiled and cynical, Hammer is in many ways the archetypal "hard man": brutally violent, and fueled by a genuine rage against violent crime that never afflicts Raymond Chandler's or Dashiell Hammett's heroes. In The Big Kill Hammer describes himself to a bargirl as a misanthrope. Hammer is also loosely based on the real-life hard-boiled Texas Ranger and gunfighter Frank Hamer, who was most famous for tracking down and killing Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker in 1934.

While other hardboiled heroes bend and manipulate the law, Hammer often views it as an impediment to justice, the one virtue he holds in absolute esteem. Hammer nevertheless has a strong respect for the majority of police, realizing they have a difficult job and their hands are frequently tied by the law when trying to stop criminals.

Mike Hammer is a no-holds-barred private investigator who carries a .45 Colt M1911A1 in a shoulder harness under his left arm. His love for his secretary Velda is outweighed only by his willingness to kill a killer. Hammer's best friend is Pat Chambers, Captain of Homicide NYPD. Hammer was a WWII army veteran who spent two years fighting jungle warfare in the Pacific theatre against Japan. Hammer is also patriotic and anti-communist. The novels are peppered with remarks by Hammer supporting American troops in Korea, and in Survival...Zero Vietnam. In One Lonely Night, where Hammer attends a communist meeting in a park, his reaction to the speaker's propaganda is a sarcastic "Yeah."

So far as violence is concerned, the Hammer novels leave little to the imagination. Written in the first person, Hammer describes his violent encounters with relish. In all but a few novels, Hammer's victims are often left vomiting after a blow to the stomach or groin.

The Washington Times obituary of Spillane said of Hammer, "In a manner similar to Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry, Hammer was a cynical loner contemptuous of the 'tedious process' of the legal system, choosing instead to enforce the law on his own terms."[2]

Novels[edit]

Audio[edit]

Radio Series - A December 1952 to October 1954 Mutual Broadcasting System radio series titled That Hammer Guy starred Larry Haines then George Petrie and Ted DeCorsia as Mike Hammer and Jan Miner as Hammer's secretary Velda and the voice of other female characters on the show. It was written by Ed Adamson and was directed by Richard Lewis.

Audiobooks - An array of Spillane's novels have been produced as audiobooks. Several of these are performed by Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer veteran Stacy Keach. Examples include Black Alley (Penguin Audio, 1996), The Big Kill (Simon & Schuster, 2010) and The Killing Man (Simon & Schuster, 2010).

Blackstone Audio Productions - In 2008, Stacy Keach reprised the role of Mike Hammer in the first of a series of radio-style dramas entitled The New Adventures of Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer. Keach refers to the production style, that is somewhere between an audiobook and radio drama, as a "radio novel."[3] The Audie-nominated inaugural production features the episodes, Dangerous Days and Oil and Water. Both were written exclusively for audio by M.J. Elliott and produced with a full cast, music and sound effects in radio drama style by Carl Amari of Falcon Picture Group, who personally selected Elliott to script the Audie Award-nominated dramas. Volume 2 of the series was released in 2009, featuring a 2.5 hour story entitled The Little Death. The story was written exclusively for audio by Max Allan Collins from a story by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins. Volume 3, Encore for Murder, was released in March 2011. All three volumes have been released by Blackstone Audio and star Keach in the title role. Keach also arranges and performs the music featured in the productions[4] and his wife, Malgosia Tomassi, portrays yoga instructor Maya Ricci.

Television[edit]

There have been several television shows based on the exploits of Mike Hammer.

Movies[edit]

DVD cover of The Girl Hunters
Filmed in 3-D starring Biff Elliot as Mike Hammer.
Robert Aldrich was the director, Ralph Meeker was cast as Hammer, while Maxine Cooper portrayed Hammer's sexy secretary/companion Velda.
Robert Bray was cast as Hammer, with more of the violence originated from the villain rather than the detective.
The film grossed $308,000 with a total of $602 overseas.
Mickey Spillane was given the rare opportunity to portray his own creation in this film. This is one of the few occasions in film history in which the creator of a literary character was later hired to portray that character in a film. Producer Robert Fellows and Spillane planned to follow the film with The Snake but it never materialised.
  • Margin For Murder (TV movie, 1981)
Kevin Dobson plays Hammer in this made for TV movie.
Armand Assante plays Hammer in this version.
Stacy Keach played Hammer in this TV pilot for the TV Series that ran in the 1980s. This update featured a traitor to the U.S. and a daughter Hammer does not know he has.
Keach reprises his role of Hammer co-starring Lynda Carter, Michelle Phillips and the pre-stardom Jim Carrey . He is asked by a Las Vegas entertainer named Johnny Roman (Edward Winter) to come to Vegas. Mike refuses, he is then knocked out and dropped literally into Las Vegas.
  • Come Die With Me (Fox, 1994)
Rob Estes plays Hammer in this TV movie. Pamela Anderson plays his secretary Velda.

Comics[edit]

A short-lived comic strip starring Mike Hammer was distributed by Phoenix Features Syndicate from 1953 to 1954. It was entitled From the Files of... Mike Hammer and written by Spillane, Ed Robbins and Joe Gill, with art by Ed Robbins. Collections of the strip were published in the 1980s.[6]

In 2013 Hermes Press reprinted the complete "Mike Hammer" comic strip, with a special introduction by Max Collins. [7]

In other media[edit]

Quotes[edit]

See, heroes never die. John Wayne isn't dead, Elvis isn't dead. Otherwise you don't have a hero. You can't kill a hero. That's why I never let him get older. - Mickey Spillane

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ p.142 Gale, Robert L. A Mickey Spillane Companion Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003
  2. ^ Washington Times - Mystery novelist Spillane dies
  3. ^ http://blog.blackstoneaudio.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Keach_Interview_Edited_330113.mp3
  4. ^ http://blog.blackstoneaudio.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Keach_Interview_Edited_330113.mp3
  5. ^ Walker, Peter, et al. (Undated). "Mike Hammer". ThrillingDetective.com. Retrieved July 7, 2013. 
  6. ^ Walker, ThrillingDetective.com, "Comic Strip"
  7. ^ "Hermes Press opens THE FILES OF MIKE HAMMER". Comiclist.com. Retrieved 11 September 2013. 

External links[edit]