Spillane, Mickey 1918-2006

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Spillane, Mickey 1918-2006

(Frank Morrison Spillane)


See index for CA sketch: Born March 9, 1918, in New York, NY; original given name, Frank Morrison; 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 and found a job writing for Funnies Inc., a company that created comic books such as Captain Marvel. Spillane proved himself the quickest and most talented writer on the staff. Then, when America entered World War II, he enlisted in the army. Remaining stateside, he was a flight instructor and rose to the rank of captain. After the war, he tried to return to comic-book writing, but the genre was experiencing a decline at the time. Looking for a way to earn money, Spillane decided to try his hand at a novel. 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 after that, it had sold four million copies, while also drawing harsh criticism for its violence and sexual themes. Spillane, however, made no apologies for the book's content. He saw his gruff, crime-fighting hero as a big seller, and he quickly produced more installments in the series. The character also appeared on a radio show adaptation and in a comic strip that 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 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 soft-spoken, 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, the clergy, and even in U.S. Senate hearings, and accused of contributing to juvenile delinquency, among other charges. Spillane, however, was just out to produce good stories that the public would enjoy. Earning millions for his writings, he never flaunted his wealth, living modestly in his South Carolina home and trying to avoid the trappings of fame. In addition to his Mike Hammer books, he also wrote spy novels and children's books. He was even presented with 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.



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.