I, the Jury
|Publisher||E. P. Dutton (h/b)
Signet Books (p/b)
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|Followed by||My Gun Is Quick|
Dr. Charlotte Manning — young, beautiful, blonde, and well-to-do — cannot get enough. In order to increase her profit, she gets involved with a group of criminals — a "syndicate" — specialising in both prostitution and drug-trafficking. The brains of the "outfit" is Hal Kines, who has had plastic surgery, making him look much younger than he really is, and this is precisely how he gets hold of the young women whom he then turns into prostitutes. Manning herself has a rich and "ritzy" clientele — people who would not want their addiction to become public knowledge. But instead of weaning them off drugs in her private and exclusive clinic, Manning makes them even more dependent on both the drug — heroin in most cases — and on herself by procuring the stuff herself. On the surface, Charlotte Manning keeps up appearances and leads a respectable life as a renowned psychiatrist.
When Jack Williams, a former New York cop who has lost an arm in World War II saving his friend Mike Hammer's life, falls in love with Myrna Devlin, a young heroin addict whom he stops from jumping off a bridge to commit suicide, he asks Manning to admit her to her clinic for psychotherapy. After Myrna has become clean, she and Williams become engaged, and the couple keep up a casual friendship with Charlotte Manning. This is how Williams's growing suspicions about Manning's business lead him to privately and secretly investigate even further into the matter. When he realizes that Hal Kines, one of Manning's college students who has spent some time at her clinic and who has become one of her casual acquaintances, is in fact a criminal, he wants to talk to her about it and tells her so. When, at a party given by Williams in his apartment, Charlotte Manning sees some old college yearbooks whose contents (and photos), if made public, would expose Kines's double life, she has to act fast. After the party, she goes home but on the same night, undetected by Kathy, her maid, goes back to Williams's apartment (Myrna, his fiancée, does not live there) and shoots him in the stomach using a silencer. She does so in a particularly sadistic way, watching him die slowly. Then she takes the college yearbooks and leaves.
On a Saturday morning, Hammer picks up Myrna Devlin and gives her a lift. They drive to the Bellemy twins' estate in the country for a gigantic all-day party there. Charlotte Manning says she has some business to attend to and will be there in time for a tennis game due to take place that evening. After an unsuccessful attempt at playing tennis himself, Hammer gets rid of his sleep deficit by spending all day in his room, fast asleep, with "old junior" — his gun — close to him. He is woken up just in time for dinner, during which Harmon Wilder, the Bellemys' lawyer, and Charles Sherman, Wilder's assistant, are pointed out to him. This is a fine — and the final — distractor in the novel: Wilder and Sherman are suddenly missing from the party after Myrna Devlin has been found shot. In fact they had illicit drugs on them and did not want to be found out. During the tennis game, Mary Bellemy asks Charlotte if she can "borrow" Hammer. Then she leads him into the woods where they have sex. They return to the party just as a maid discovers Myrna's body in an upstairs room, in front of a large mirror. Both Pat Chambers and the police are called in, and the alibis of each guest is checked. Again Charlotte can convince everyone that she could not have done anything.
Back home, Hammer retreats into his apartment to think. Finally, he knows the identity of the killer. This is when he goes to Charlotte's place, recapitulates the whole crime and finally shoots her dead, despite her efforts to pull the trigger on him.
By the time the book was adapted into a film in 1953, it had sold 3 500 000 copies.
The first film version of I, the Jury was shot in 1953 and was released through United Artists. After a four-picture contract was signed with Spillane, the movie was filmed, in 3-D, featuring Biff Elliot as Mike Hammer, Preston Foster and Peggie Castle. The plot from the novel was toned down for the film version. It grossed $1,299,000. The cinematographer was John Alton.
References in Popular Culture
The novel's reputation for raciness and violence has outlasted the popularity of the book itself.
- The book was featured in "Dino Checks Out," an episode of the Nickelodeon cartoon Hey Arnold! The book was given to Arnold within a box of personal mementos; however, Arnold's grandfather takes it, saying "I'll just hold on to this until you're 10."
- In "All The Way," the first episode of the television sitcom Happy Days (set in the 1950s), Potsie gives Richie a copy of the book to study before his date with a girl with "a reputation."
- In M*A*S*H episode #208, Season 9, "Operation Friendship", a wounded Klinger ask Charles to read him the novel.
- In Stephen King's It, Derry policeman Aloysius Nell is reading the novel as he rides in the ambulance with Eddie Kaspbrak.
- Edward Piercy: "I, the Jury by Mickey Spillane"
- 1953 version of I, the Jury at the Internet Movie Database
- 1982 version of I, the Jury at the Internet Movie Database