Mickey Spillane, author, Died at 88


Frank Morrison Spillane died on July 17, 2006 at the age of 88, popularly known as Mickey Spillane, was an American author of crime novels, many featuring his signature detective character, Mike Hammer.

Born in Brooklyn, New York City on March 9, 1918, and raised in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Spillane was the only child of his Irish bartender father, John Joseph Spillane, and his Scottish mother, Catherine Anne.

Spillane attended Erasmus Hall High School, graduating in 1935.

He was an active Jehovah’s Witness. Mickey and Mary Ann Spillane had four children (Caroline, Kathy, Michael, Ward), and their marriage ended in 1962.

In November 1965, he married his second wife, nightclub singer Sherri Malinou.

After that marriage ended in divorce (and a lawsuit) in 1983, Spillane shared his waterfront house in Murrells Inlet with his third wife, Jane Rogers Johnson, whom he married in October 1983, and her two daughters (Jennifer and Margaret Johnson).

Spillane started as a writer for comic books. While working as a salesman in Gimbels department store basement in 1940, he met tie salesman Joe Gill, who later found a lifetime career in scripting for Charlton Comics.

Gill told Spillane to meet his brother, Ray Gill, who wrote for Funnies Inc., an outfit that packaged comic books for different publishers.

Spillane soon began writing an eight-page story every day. He concocted adventures for major 1940s comic book characters, including Captain Marvel, Superman, Batman and Captain America.

Two-page text stories, which he wrote in the mid-1940s for timely, appeared under his name and were collected in Primal Spillane (Gryphon Books, 2003).

Spillane wrote about other memorable tough-guy characters, including super-spy Tiger Mann in a spate of novels written in the mid-1960s, Dogeron Kelly in The Erection Set (1972) and Mako Hooker, a semi-retired spy in Spillane’s last novel, Something’s Down There, published in 2003, when the author was 85.

His success also had a major impact on publishing. Although I, the Jury sold respectable 10,000 or so copies in hardcover, it was the then-unheard sale of over two million copies of the paperback edition that got the industry’s attention.

Seemingly overnight, the previously neglected paperback was everywhere, appearing in spinner racks from coast to coast, as publishers rushed to tap into the public’s hunger for inexpensive literary thrills, even launching entire paper backlines such as the legendary Fawcett Gold Medal that published original novels, not reprints.

“Spillane broke down the barriers, where sex and violence were concerned, and this pissed people off.

Also, he was perceived as right-wing. The vigilante approach Hammer used turned the stomachs of many liberals… (Spillane) is number three, after Hammett and Chandler (in a list of the 10 most important detective novelists of the 20th century).

Anyone who doesn’t recognize Spillane’s importance is an idiot.