I've followed Max Allan Collins' completion of unfinished novels left behind by Mickey Spillane, and Max and I have even discussed/debated our interpretations of Mike Hammer and his character on my blog after a couple of my reviews. Which is why my first thought about Murder Never Knocks, the latest of Max's collaborations with Mickey, was that it was to my mind the best of the novels set after the classic Fifties Hammer milieu. It may not be the best novel, but Mike, Velda, Pat and even Hy Gardner are all drawn as characters who have moved on from some of their tropes, and they have all moved into the mid-Sixties gracefully. It's New York after the close down of many of the great newspapers, after the twist craze has come and gone, and the newsstands now sell Marvel comics with the Fantastic Four, so you can date it pretty well.
And Mike seems totally in place. He's been the target of two hit-men, come after him for reasons he can't figure out, when he's hired to guard the shower for the young bride of a shlocky movie producer who's getting into Broadway theatre; the bride's father is a top producer. And when there's a seeming robbery attempt, which turns out to be another hit, Hammer discovers that he's the target of someone who sees him as the ultimate gunfighter.
The two stories mesh nicely, though I have to confess I had a different ending in mind, one that would've been, to my mind, more classic Hammer. But as I say, we've moved on from those days. In his intro, Max mentions this is another of the shorter manuscripts Mickey left behind, though most of the story, including the ending, was outlined, so it's as Mickey planned. But there's also a bit of humour that I find very much like Max's work, and in the context of Mike Hammer easing into the Swinging Sixties, that humour makes perfect sense.
There are a couple of classic set-pieces, the best of which is an encounter with a mob guy and his bodyguards at the Peppermint Lounge, already in its post-Joey Dee decline and now a tourist trap, and another worth noting is Mike's encounter with the young fiance. It flows well, and if anything the ending smacks of later Spillane.
And I even think I caught an anachronism, where someone refers to the Village Voice as a freesheet. It may be now, but in those days it was a weekly that you paid for. I'll wait to hear from Max about that one. In the meantime, this is one of the best of the Max and Mickey Mike Hammers.
Murder Never Knocks by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
Titan Books £17.99 ISBN 9781783291342
NOTE: This review will appear also at Crime Time (www.crimetime.co.uk)