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Spillane, Mickey 1918-2006

Spillane, Mickey 1918-2006

(Frank Morrison Spillane)

OBITUARY NOTICE— See index for SATA sketch: Born Frank Morrison, March 9, 1918, in New York, NY; died July 17, 2006, in Murrells Inlet, SC. Author. Spillane was a best-selling, award-winning writer best known for his "Mike Hammer" series of gritty crime novels. His interest in writing dated back to his teenage years, and as soon as he completed high school he was publishing short stories in pulp magazines and mainstream periodicals such as Collier's. He attended Fort Hays State University for three years, but left college before completing a degree. Instead, he moved to New York City and found a job writing for Funnies Inc., a company that published comic books such as Captain Marvel. Spillane proved himself the quickest and most talented writer on the staff. When the United States entered World War II he enlisted in the army, remaining stateside while serving as a flight instructor and rising to the rank of captain. After the war, he tried to return to comic-book writing, but the genre was now experiencing a decline. Looking for a way to earn money, Spillane decided to try his hand at novel writing. The result was I, the Jury (1947), the first "Mike Hammer" book. Originally published in hardback, the book did not gain much attention until it was released as a paperback; within a short time it sold four million copies while also drawing harsh criticism for its violence and sexual themes. Spillane made no apologies for the book's content. Instead, he saw his gruff, crime-fighting hero as a big seller and quickly set about producing more installments in the series. The character also appeared on a radio-show adaptation and in a comic strip Spillane wrote himself. A television series starring Darren McGavin was launched in the 1950s, and later, in the 1980s and 1990s, there would be two more "Mike Hammer" series featuring Stacy Keach. The Hammer character was also a star of such movies as 1955's Kiss Me, Deadly and 1963's The Girl Hunters. The author got into the act himself, often posing for his own book covers, and during the 1970s and 1980s he appeared in numerous Miller Lite beer commercials, spoofing his own tough-guy persona. In reality, Spillane was a softspoken, intelligent family man who was a Jehovah's Witness. He never troubled himself about the violent content of his books, despite the fact that he was attacked by journalists and the clergy, and was also the subject of U.S. Senate hearings, where he was accused of contributing to juvenile delinquency, among other charges. Spillane remained intent on producing good stories that the public would enjoy. Earning millions for his writings, he never flaunted his wealth, living modestly in his South Carolina home. In addition to his "Mike Hammer" books, he also wrote spy novels and children's books, earning a Junior Literary Guild award for his juvenile story The Day the Sea Rolled Back (1979). For his crime-writing achievements, Spillane was recognized in 1995 with a Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America.

OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Chicago Tribune, July 18, 2006, section 2, p. 9.

Los Angeles Times, July 18, 2006, pp. A1, A16.

New York Times, July 18, 2006, p. A23; July 20, 2006, p. A2.

Times (London, England), July 19, 2006, p. 55.

Washington Post, July 18, 2006, p. B6.

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Spillane, Mickey

Mickey Spillane (Frank Morrison Spillane), 1918–2006, American mystery writer, b. Brooklyn, N.Y. After contributing stories to comic books and pulp magazines, Spillane wrote his first novel, I, the Jury (1947), a best seller that introduced the ruthless detective Mike Hammer. A master of violence-filled hard-boiled mystery fiction, Spillane wrote a series of books featuring Hammer that, like the first, were fast-paced and filled with sex and sadism. They include My Gun Is Quick (1950), The Big Kill (1951), Kiss Me Deadly (1952), and The Girl Hunters (1962), and the books spawned several films and television series. Spillane also churned out more than 20 other books, e.g., The Deep (1961), The Last Cop Out (1973), The Killing Man (1989), and Black Alley (1996), wrote two childrens' books and several screen- and teleplays, and was a producer and an actor, specializing in tough-guy detective roles.

See R. L. Gale, ed., A Mickey Spillane Companion (2003); study by M. A. Collins and J. L. Traylor (1984); bibliography by O. Penzler (1999).

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