Mickey Spillane

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If you're a singer you lose your voice. A baseball player loses his arm. A writer gets more knowledge, and if he's good, the older he gets, the better he writes.
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 any more. The first page sells that book. The last page sells your next book.

Frank Morrison Spillane (9 March 191817 July 2006), more commonly known as Mickey Spillane, was an American crime novelist, famous for his series of novels featuring his signature detective character, Mike Hammer, among other works.


Those big-shot writers … could never dig the fact that there are more salted peanuts consumed than caviar.
  • Those big-shot writers … could never dig the fact that there are more salted peanuts consumed than caviar.
    • As quoted in The Making of a Bestseller: From Author to Reader (1999) by Arthur T. Vanderbilt, p. 135
  • In there. The words hit me hard. In there was my best friend lying on the floor dead. The body. Now I could call it that. Yesterday it was Jack Williams, the guy that shared the same mud bed with me through two years of warfare in the stinking slime of the jungle. Jack, the guy who said he'd give his right arm for a friend and did when he stopped a bastard of a Jap from slitting me in two. He caught the bayonet in the biceps and they amputated his arm.
  • I threw back the sheet anyway and a curse caught in my throat. Jack was in shorts, his one hand still clutching his belly in agony. The bullet went in clean, but where it came out left a hole big enough to cram a fist into.
  • The cops aren't exactly dumb, you know. We can get our own answers.
    Not like I can. That's why you buzzed me so fast. You can figure things out as quickly as I can, but you haven't got the ways and means of doing the dirty work. That's where I come in. You'll be right behind me every inch of the way, but when the pinch comes I'll get shoved aside and you slap the cuffs on. That is, if you can shove me aside. I don't think you can.
  • Don't worry, I don't underrate the cops. But cops can't break a guy's arm to make him talk, and they can't shove his teeth in with the muzzle of a .45 to remind him that you aren't fooling. I do my own leg work, and there are a lot of guys who will tell me what I want to know because they know what I'll do to them if they don't. My staff is strictly ex officio, but very practical.
  • The roar of the .45 shook the room. Charlotte staggered back a step. Her eyes were a symphony of incredulity, an unbelieving witness to truth. Slowly, she looked down at the ugly swelling in her naked belly where the bullet went in.
    "How c-could you?" she gasped.
    I had only a moment before talking to a corpse, but I got it in.
    "It was easy," I said.
There isn't a coliseum any more, but the city is a bigger bowl, and it seats more people. The razor-sharp claws aren't those of wild animals but man's can be just as sharp and twice as vicious. You have to be quick, and you have to be able, or you become one of the devoured, and if you can kill first, no matter how and no matter who, you can live and return to the comfortable chair and the comfortable fire. But you have to be quick. And able. Or you'll be dead.
  • When you sit at home comfortably folded up in a chair beside a fire, have you ever thought what goes on outside there? Probably not. You pick up a book and read about things and stuff, getting a vicarious kick from people and events that never happened. You're doing it now, getting ready to fill in a normal life with the details of someone else's experiences. Fun, isn't it? You read about life on the outside thinking about how maybe you'd like it to happen to you, or at least how you'd like to watch it. Even the old Romans did it, spiced their life with action when they sat in the Coliseum and watched wild animals rip a bunch of humans apart, reveling in the sight of blood and terror. They screamed for joy and slapped each other on the back when murderous claws tore into the live flesh of slaves and cheered when the kill was made. Oh, it's great to watch, all right. Life through a keyhole. But day after day goes by and nothing like that ever happens to you so you think that it's all in books and not in reality at all and that's that. Still good reading, though. Tomorrow night you'll find another book, forgetting what was in the last and live some more in your imagination. But remember this: there are things happening out there. They go on every day and night making Roman holidays look like school picnics. They go on right under your very nose and you never know about them. Oh yes, you can find them all right. All you have to do is look for them. But I wouldn't if I were you because you won't like what you'll find. Then again, I'm not you and looking for those things is my job. They aren't nice things to see because they show people up for what they are. There isn't a coliseum any more, but the city is a bigger bowl, and it seats more people. The razor-sharp claws aren't those of wild animals but man's can be just as sharp and twice as vicious. You have to be quick, and you have to be able, or you become one of the devoured, and if you can kill first, no matter how and no matter who, you can live and return to the comfortable chair and the comfortable fire. But you have to be quick. And able. Or you'll be dead.
  • She turned again, and this time she was closer. Her head nestled against my shoulder and she moved my hand up her body until I knew there was no marvel of engineering connected to the bra because there was no bra. And the studded belt she wore was the keystone to the whole ensemble, and when it was unsnapped the whole affair came apart in a whisper of black satin that folded back against the sand until all of her reflected the moonlight from above until I eclipsed the pale brilliance, and there was no sound except that of the waves and our breathing. Then soon even the waves were gone, and there was only the warmth of white skin and little muscles that played under my hand and the fragrance that was her mouth. The redhead had been right.
  • The guy was dead as hell. He lay on the floor in his pajamas with his brains scattered all over the rug and my gun was in his hand. I kept rubbing my face to wipe out the fuzz that clouded my mind but the cops wouldn't let me. One would pull my hand away and shout a question at me that made my head ache even worse and another would slap me with a wet rag until I felt like I had been split wide open.
  • I couldn't think. I couldn't remember. I was wound up like a spring and ready to bust. All I could see was the dead guy in the middle of the room and my gun. My gun! Somebody grabbed at my arm and hauled me upright and the questions started again. That was as much as I could take. I gave a hell of a kick and a fat face in a fedora pulled back out of focus and started to groan, all doubled up. Maybe I laughed, I don't know.
  • Rainey, you've forgotten something. You've forgotten that I'm not a guy that takes any crap. Not from anybody. You've forgotten I've been in business because I stayed alive longer than some guys who didn't want me that way. You've forgotten that I've had some punks tougher than you'll ever be on the end of a gun and I pulled the trigger just to watch their expressions change.

One Lonely Night (1951)

  • Nobody ever walked across the bridge, not on a night like this. The rain was misty enough to be almost fog-like, a cold gray curtain that separated me from the pale ovals of white that were faces locked behind the steamed-up windows of the cars that hissed by. Even the brilliance that was Manhattan by night was reduced to a few sleepy, yellow lights off in the distance.
    Some place over there I had left my car and started walking, burying my head in the collar of my raincoat, with the night pulled in around me like a blanket. I walked and I smoked and I flipped the spent butts ahead of me and watched them arch to the pavement and fizzle out with one last wink. If there was life behind the windows of the buildings on either side of me, I didn't notice it. The street was mine, all mine. They gave it to me gladly and wondered why I wanted it so nice and all alone.
    There were others like me, sharing the dark and the solitude, but they were huddled in the recessions of the doorways not wanting to share the wet and the cold. I could feel their eyes follow me briefly before they turned inward to their thoughts again.
    So I followed the hard concrete footpaths of the city through the towering canyons of the buildings and never noticed when the sheer cliffs of brick and masonry diminished and disappeared altogether, and the footpath led into a ramp then on to the spidery steel skeleton that was the bridge linking two states.
    I climbed to the hump in the middle and stood there leaning on the handrail with a butt in my fingers, watching the red and green lights of the boats in the river below. They winked at me and called in low, throaty notes before disappearing into the night.
    Like eyes and faces. And voices.
    I buried my face in my hands until everything straightened itself out again, wondering what the judge would say if he could see me now. Maybe he'd laugh because I was supposed to be so damn tough, and here I was with hands that wouldn't stand still and an empty feeling inside my chest.
  • I used to be able to look at myself and grin without giving a damn about how ugly it made me look. Now I was looking at myself the same way those people did back there. I was looking at a big guy with an ugly reputation, a guy who had no earthly reason for existing in a decent, normal society. That's what the judge had said.
    I was sweating and cold at the same time. Maybe it did happen to me over there. Maybe I did have a taste for death. Maybe I liked it too much to taste anything else. Maybe I was twisted and rotted inside. Maybe I would be washed down the sewer with the rest of all the rottenness sometime. What was stopping it from happening now? Why was I me with some kind of lucky charm around my neck that kept me going when I was better off dead?

The Big Kill (1951)

  • It was one of those nights when the sky came down and wrapped itself around the world. The rain clawed at the windows of the bar like an angry cat and tried to sneak in every time some drunk lurched in the door. The place reeked of stale beer and soggy men with enough cheap perfume thrown in to make you sick.
    Two drunks with a nickel between them were arguing over what to play on the juke box until a tomato in a dress that was too tight a year ago pushed the key that started off something noisy and hot. One of the drunks wanted to dance and she gave him a shove. So he danced with the other drunk.
    She saw me sitting there with my stool tipped back against the cigarette machine and change of a fin on the bar, decided I could afford a wet evening for two and walked over with her hips waving hello.
  • I was thinking too damn much to be careful. When I stabbed my key in the lock and turned it there was a momentary catch in the tumblers before it went all the way around and I swore out loud as I rammed the door with my shoulder and hit the floor.Something swished through the air over my head and I caught an arm and pulled a squirming, fighting bundle of muscle down on top of me.
    If I could have reached my rod I would have blown his guts out. His breath was in my face and I brought my knee up, but he jerked out of the way bringing his hand down again and my shoulder went numb after a split second of blinding pain. He tried again with one hand going for my throat, but I got one foot loose and kicked out and up and felt my toe smash onto his groin. The cramp of the pain doubled him over on top of me, his breath sucking in like a leaky tire.
    Then I got cocky. I thought I had him. I went to get up and he moved. Just once.That thing in his hand smashed against the side of my head and I started to crumple up piece by piece until there wasn't anything left except the sense to see and hear enough to know that he had crawled out of the room and was falling down the stairs outside. Then I thought about the lock on my door and how I had a guy fix it so that I could tell if it had been jimmied open so I wouldn't step into any blind alleys without a gun in my hand, but because of a dame who lay naked and smiling on a bed I wouldn't share, I had forgotten all about it.
  • All I saw was the dame standing there in the glare of the headlights waving her arms like a huge puppet and the curse I spit out filled the car and my own ears. I wrenched the wheel over, felt the rear end start to slide, brought it out with a splash of power and almost ran up the side of a cliff as the car fishtailed. The brakes bit in, gouging a furrow in the shoulder, then jumped to the pavement and held.
    Somehow I had managed a sweeping curve around the babe. For a few seconds she had been living on stolen time because instead of getting out of the way she had tried to stay in the beam of the headlights. I sat there and let myself shake. The butt that had fallen out of my mouth had burned a hole in the leg of my pants and I flipped it out the window. The stink of burned rubber and brake lining hung in the air like smoke and I was thinking of every damn thing I ever wanted to say to a hairbrained woman so I could have it ready when I got my hands on her.
    That was as far as I got. She was there in the car beside me, the door slammed shut and she said, "Thanks, mister."
  • She begged me to say something, but I let her squeeze it out herself. " The police came again, but Berga wouldn't tell them anything." The tongue moistened the lips again. The scarlet was starting to wash away and I could see the natural tones of of wet flesh. " The other men came... they were different from the police. Federal men, I think. They took her away. Before she came back...Those men came."
    She put something into the last three words that wasn't in the others, some breathless, nameless fear. Her hands were tight balls with the nails biting into the palms. A glassiness had passed over her eyes while she thought about it, then vanished as if afraid it had been seen.
  • They found me in the gutter. The night was the only thing I had left and not much of it at that. I heard the car stop, the doors open and shut and two voices talking. A pair of arms jerked me to my feet and held me there.
    "Drunk," the cop said.
    The other one turned me around into the light. "He don't smell bad. That cut on his head didn't come from a fall either."
    I didn't give a damn which way they called it. They were both wrong anyhow. Two hours ago I was drunk. Not now. Two hours ago I was a roaring lion. Then the bottle sailed across the room. No lion left now.
    Now was a time when I wasn't anything. Nothing was left inside except the feeling a ship must have when it's torpedoed, sinks and hits bottom.
  • I sat there as if I were paralyzed; for a second totally immobilized, a suddenly frozen mind and body that had solidified into one great silent scream at the mention of a name I had long ago consigned to a grave somewhere. Then the terrible cold was drenched with an even more terrible wash of heat and I sat there with my hands bunched into fists to keep them from shaking.

The Snake (1964)

  • You walk down the street at night. It's raining out. The only sound is that of your own feet. There are city sounds too, but these you don't hear because at the end of the street is the woman you've been waiting for for seven long years and each muffled tread of your footsteps takes you closer and closer and the sound of them marks off seconds and days and months of waiting.
    Then, suddenly, you're there, outside a dark-faced building, a brownstone anachronism that stares back dully with the defiant expression of the moronic and you have an impending sense of being challenged.
  • The woman inside was important now. Perhaps the most important in the world. What she knew would help destroy an enemy when she told it. My hands in my pockets balled into hard knots to keep from shaking and for a moment the throbbing ache of the welts and cuts that laced my skin stopped.
  • Even in that pale light I could see that she was more beautiful than ever, the black shadow of her hair framing a face I had seen every night in the misery of sleep for so long. Those deep brown eyes still had that hungry look when they watched mine and the lush fullness of her mouth glistened with a damp warmth of invitation.
  • We brought a man back who should have died long ago. The present can't stand a man like that anymore. Now they want indecision and compromise and reluctance and fear.
  • His eyes had death in them, his and mine. His belly was bloated and I could smell the stench of a festering wound, the sickening odor of old blood impregnated into cloth. There was a wildness in his face and his mouth was a tight slash that showed all his teeth. Marv Kania was young, but right there he was as old as death itself.

The Twisted Thing (1966)

  • The little guy's face was a bloody mess. Between the puffballs of blue-black flesh that used to be eyelids, the dull gleam of shock-deadened pupils watched Dilwick uncomprehendingly. His lips were swollen things of lacerated skin, with slow trickles of blood making crooked paths from the corners of his mouth through the stubble of a beard to his chin, dripping onto a stained shirt.
    Dilwick stood just outside the glare of the lamp, dangling like the Sword of Damocles over the guy's head. He was sweating too. His shirt clung to the meaty expanse of his huge neck. He pushed his beefy hand further into the leather glove and swung. The solid smack of his open hand on the little guy's jaw was nasty. His chair went over backward and his head cracked against the concrete floor of the room like a ripe melon. Dilwick put his hands on his hips and glared down at the caricature that once was human.
  • The two cops dragging the little guy out stopped dead still. The other one washing the bloodstains from the seat quit swishing the brush over the wicker and held his breath. Nobody ever spoke that way to Dilwick. Nobody from the biggest politician in the state to the hardest apple that ever stepped out of a pen. Nobody ever did because Dilwick would cut them up into fine pieces with his bare hands and enjoy it. That was Dilwick, the dirtiest, roughest cop who ever walked a beat or swung a nightstick over a skull. Crude, he was. Crude, hard and dirty and afraid of nothing. He'd sooner draw blood from a face than eat and everybody knew it. That's why nobody ever spoke to him that way. That is, nobody except me.
    Because I'm the same way myself.
  • I heard the screams through the thin mist of night and kicked the car to a stop at the curb. It wasn't that screams were new to the city, but they were out of place in this part of New York that was being gutted to make room for a new skyline. There was nothing but almost totally disemboweled buildings and piles of rubble for three blocks, every scrap of value long since carted away and only the junk wanted by nobody left remaining.
    And there was a quality to the screams that was out of place too. There was total hysteria that only complete terror can induce and it was made by a child.
  • They had dropped the body behind a pile of cement blocks from a partly shattered wall, pulling a broken section of sheetrock over to hide it from casual view. But there's nothing casual about a little kid who liked to play in junk and found himself stumbling over the mutilated body of what had been a redheaded woman. At one time she would have been beautiful, but death had erased all that.
  • He stood with his back angled to the wall. To an indifferent observer he was simply in idle conversation, but it wasn't like that at all. This was an instinctive gesture of survival, being in constant readiness for an attack. His head didn't turn and his eyes didn't seem to move, but I knew he saw us. I could feel the hackles on the back of my neck stiffening and I knew he felt the same way.
    Dog was meeting dog. Nobody knew it but the dogs and they weren't telling.
    He was bigger than I thought. The suggestion of power I had seen in his photographs was for real. When he moved it was with the ponderous grace of some jungle animal, dangerously deceptive, because he could move a lot faster if he had to.
    When we were ten feet away he pretended to see us for the first time and a wave of charm washed the cautious expression from his face and he stepped out to greet Dulcie with outstretched hand.
    But it wasn't her he was seeing. It was me he was watching. I was one of his own kind. I couldn't be faked out and wasn't leashed by the proprieties of society. I could lash out and kill as fast as he could and of all the people in the room, I was the potential threat. I knew what he felt because I felt the same way myself.

Survival...Zero! (1970)

  • They had left him for dead in the middle of a pool of blood in his own bedroom, his belly slit open like gaping barn doors, the hilt of the knife wedged against his sternum. But the only trouble was that he had stayed alive somehow, his life pumping out, managing to knock the telephone off the little table and dial me. Now he was looking up at me with seconds left and all he could do was force out the words, "Mike ...there was no reason."
  • The two young men turned and they didn't smile because they were Woody Ballinger's two boys, Carl and Sammy, and for one brief instant, there was something in their faces that didn't belong in that atmosphere of joviality and the little move they instinctively made that shielded them behind the others in back of them was involuntary enough to stretch a tight-lipped grin across my face that told them I could know.
    From away back out of the years I got that feeling across my shoulders and up my spine that said things were starting to smell right and if you kept pushing the walls would go down and you could charge in and take them all apart until there was nothing left but the dirt they were made of.

Writers on Writing interview (1986)

W.O.W. : Writers on Writing (1986) by Jon Winokur
  • I have no fans. You know what I got? Customers. And customers are your friends.
  • If the public likes you, you're good. Shakespeare was a common, down-to-earth writer in his day.
  • If you're a singer you lose your voice. A baseball player loses his arm. A writer gets more knowledge, and if he's good, the older he gets, the better he writes.
  • I'm a commercial writer, not an author. Margaret Mitchell was an author. She wrote one book.
  • 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.

The Killing Man (1989)

  • Some days hang over Manhattan like a huge pair of unseen pincers, slowly squeezing the city until you can hardly breathe. A low growl of thunder echoed up the cavern of Fifth Avenue and I looked up to where the sky started at the seventy-first floor of the Empire State Building. I could smell the rain. It was the kind that hung above the orderly piles of concrete until it was soaked with dust and debris and when it came down it wasn't rain at all but the sweat of the city.
  • On an ordinary day the corridor would have been filled with the early lunch crowd, but now the emptiness gave the place an eerie feeling, as though I were a trespasser and hidden eyes were watching me. Except that I was the only one there and the single sign of life was the light behind my office door.
    I turned the knob, pushed it open and just stood there a second because something was wrong, sure as hell wrong, and the total silence was as loud as a wild scream. I had the .45 in my hand, crouched and edged to one side, listening, waiting, watching.

Black Alley (1996)

  • The phone rang.
    It was a thing that had been sitting here, black and quiet like a holstered gun, unlisted, unknown to anybody, used only for local outgoing calls, and when it was triggered it had the soft, muted sound of a silenced automatic. The first ring was a warning sound. The second time would be death calling.
  • The temperature was six below zero and it kept me dying on the spot because the blood coagulated and clotted in ugly smears of cloth and skin and the pain hadn't started yet, so when the little fat guy who saw my eyes open and still bright pulled me away from the carnage he was almost in the shock I was going into. Nobody would listen to him. He was a drunk. I was nearly dead.
    Sometimes the body responds to a stimulus that can't be explained. He got me upright. I walked woodenly, dyingly. I was sat in an old car. The fat man rolled down the windows. The blood stayed frozen. My hands were numb and I couldn't feel my feet. Idly, I wondered what frostbite was like. Breathing was a thing that was happening, but at a pace that said it could slow, then stop at any time. A dull, squeezing sensation of pain was beginning to gnaw on my insides and I knew that eventually, and very soon, it would grow into a terrible, devastating animal with an awful hunger and I would be eaten alive by it.
    I wanted to scream but nothing would come out.

Crime Time interview (2001)

I'm actually a softie. Tough guys get killed too early ... I've got a full head of hair and don't wear eyeglasses.
Interviewed by Michael Carlson
  • I'm not an author, I'm a writer, that's all I am. Authors want their names down in history; I want to keep the smoke coming out of the chimney.
  • I knew a couple of things... during the war years they came out with reprints of all the Dumas novels, Moby Dick, for the servicemen, and I saw this and believe me I'm a very sharp merchandiser, and I say this is the new marketplace for writing: original paperback books.
  • I was the first one probably in writing to use a nickname, Mickey, and it stuck.
  • I'm 82 years old, wherever I go everybody knows me, but here's why... I'm a merchandiser, I'm not just a writer, I stay in every avenue you can think of.
  • I don't care what the editor likes or dislikes, I care what the people like.
  • I was one of the first guys writing comic books, I wrote Captain America, with guys like Stan Lee, who became famous later on with Marvel Comics. Stan could write on three typewriters at once! I wrote the Human Torch, Submariner. I worked my way down. 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. I went downhill class-wise, but I went uphill, money-wise! I was making more money in the comics. I wrote the original Mike Hammer as a comic, Mike Danger.
  • I know an awful lot of Hollywood people, who are so self-important, I can't understand it. My father was a good Irish saloon-keeper, my mother always said to him, 'Jack, how come you know everybody here' and he'd say, 'because I say hello'. I'm just like that, I've always been that way.
  • 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.
  • Hemingway hated me. I outsell him and he was steamed. One day he wrote a story for Bluebook berating me. So I'm going on a big TV show in Chicago and I don't get it, that's sour grapes... I mean if you can't say something nice about someone why say anything at all?
  • I don't research anything. If I need something, I'll invent it.
  • See, heroes never die. John Wayne isn't dead, Elvis isn't dead. Otherwise you don't have a hero. You can't kill a hero. That's why I never let him get older.
  • I've gotta keep writing. But where's the next step, where do you go? But at my age, you start to get tired. You're not full of piss and vinegar. The vinegar's all gone.
  • I always wanted to have Mike Mazurki play Hammer... too bad he couldn't act.
  • I'm a country boy. I hate New York. But that's where things happen, so I use it as a base for stories, I know enough about it. But I have to keep going back there.
  • I'm actually a softie. Tough guys get killed too early... I've got a full head of hair and don't wear eyeglasses.
  • When I started the paperback market, there were only a few good writers, now the market's loaded... you don't know which one to take.

Quotes about Spillane

  • I learned a lot about transitions from reading Mickey Spillane. In the early Mike Hammer books, he hardly ever explained how Hammer got from one place to another, or wasted time setting up scenes elaborately. There were no slow dissolves in those books. They were all fast cuts, with each scene beginning right on the heels of the one before it. Since the books had enormous appeal to a generally unsophisticated audience, I would assume few readers had trouble following the action line, for all the abruptness of the transition.
    • Lawrence Block, Writing the Novel: From Plot to Print, 1979, Writer's Digest Books, p. 153
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