Mickey Spillane (1918-2006) was the author of I, the Jury, the smash-hit novel that introduced the world to private eye Mike Hammer, and forever changed pop culture. A veteran of the Army Air Force, Spillane’s early career was marked with Funnies, Inc., writing flash-fiction prose stories (collected in Primal Spillane from Bold Venture Press), and Timely Comics (which would eventually become Marvel Comics).
"I started off at the high level, in the slick magazines, but they didn't use my name, they used house names. Anyway, then I went downhill to the pulps, then downhill further to the comics."
He wrote short comic stories for The Human Torch, the Sub-mariner, Jap Buster Johnson and several other characters.
"Oh yeah, I was one of the first guys writing comic books," Spillane recalled. "I wrote Captain America, with guys like Stan Lee, who became famous later on with Marvel Comics."
In 1947, Spillane refurbished his “Mike Danger” character into Mike Hammer, featuring his revamped character in I, the Jury, which is now considered a classic in the mystery genre. Spillane was a best-selling novelist for the rest of his life, but he had his share of detractors.
"Hemingway hated me. I sold 200 million books, and he didn't. Of course most of mine sold for 25 cents, but still... you look at all this stuff with a grain of salt."
I, the Jury was published in 1947, and became a motion picture (starring Biff Elliot as Mike Hammer) three years later. By the novel's 10th anniversary, Hammer was the subject of three motion pictures, and in 1958 became the subject of a television series starring Darren McGavin.
Spillane's novels brimmed with violence and sex, and the public loved it. One of his secrets, he revealed on The Larry King Show, was crafting a plot with the climax planned out ahead of schedule.
"Nobody reads a mystery to get to the middle. They read it to get to the end. If it's a letdown, they won't buy anymore. The first page sells that book. The last page sells your next book."