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Max Allan Collins and Mickey Spillane

January 20, 2010

As the author of the Eliot Ness and the Nathan Heller series of novels, Max Allan Collins has a deserved reputation as being one of the most creative and prolific of contemporary American artists. There is a strange irony to this as Collins has spent a large part of his career defending the work of one of the most commercially successful and critically reviled writers of the twentieth century, Mickey Spillane. Collins co-authored the first (and to my knowledge only) scholarly monograph on Spillane, One Lonely Knight: Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer (1984). He directed the award-winning documentary Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane (1998). He gave Spillane acting roles in the films Mommy (1995) and Mommy’s Day (1997). Collins was good friends with Spillane, and when Spillane was close to dying he handed over to Collins unfinished manuscripts, which Collins completed and prepared for publication, Dead Street (2007), and the final Mike Hammer novel, The Goliath Bone (2008).

Collins has definitely helped improve Spillane’s reputation. Yet even now, defending Mickey Spillane can be a dangerous business. In Collins’ introduction to The Mike Hammer Omnibus: Volume One (2006), he stated:

For over four decades now, I have found myself in the unlikely position of being perhaps the chief defender of one of the most popular writers of all time. Because of my boldly expressed high opinion of Mickey Spillane, I have been involved in screaming matches; I have nearly been in several fistfights; and I have been dissed and dismissed because of the taint of Spillane on my own work. As beloved as Spillane is – and no other mystery writer has touched readers in so deeply personal a manner – so in some quarters is he so roundly despised.

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