Max Allan Collins
December 22, 2006 AT 05:00 AM EST

Max Allan Collins remembers Mickey Spillane

MARCH 9, 1918-JULY 17, 2006

Mickey Spillane was to pulp fiction what Louis Armstrong was to jazz, what Elvis Presley was to rock & roll. Liberal critics despised his detective Mike Hammer’s vigilante ways; conservatives found the sexual content of such best-sellers as The Big Kill and Vengeance Is Mine! evidence of moral decay. Spillane never cared that his rightful place alongside Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler would often be denied him: In 1946, Spillane was a veteran of both the Air Force and comic books who needed $1,000 to build a house in upstate New York. Hammer’s shocking debut, I, the Jury (1947), built the house and opened a Pandora’s box of sex and violence in popular culture. The best-selling author of the 20th century also wrote award-winning children’s books, spoofed himself in Miller Lite commercials, and even played Mike Hammer on screen — disliking Hollywood’s versions, though Robert Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly has fueled Spillane’s enduring fame. (Spillane died of pancreatic cancer in Murrells Inlet, S.C.)

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