“Lady Godiva herself,” I said.
“More like lady go die,” Velda said, in hushed horror.
Lady, Go Die! is an epic noir collaboration between two amazing authors from different eras. I was delighted that Max Allan Collins’ style blended so seamlessly with Mickey Spillane’s, and gave us another chapter in the Mike Hammer mythos. Rescued from a wealth of unpublished material after Spillane’s death, the “brittle, yellow single-spaced pages” of Lady, Go Die! were quite the find, and beg the question “What else does the deceased master have in store for us?” Max relates,
A week before his death, Mickey Spillane told his wife Jane, “When I’m gone, there’s going to be a treasure hunt around here. Take everything you find and give it to Max–he’ll know what do do.” Lady, Go Die! constituted perhaps the most exciting find. As I read the manuscript, I realized this was something quite special…”
To those who take issue with Mickey “passing the torch” in this manner I say: If Mickey trusts Max, I trust Max. I’m glad I did. The teaser:
Mike Hammer needs a vacation. With buxom secretary in tow, a promise to lay off the sauce, and a hope for relaxation he leaves the bustle of Manhattan and arrives in the sedated, beach-side village of Sidon. Before long, he stumbles upon a scene of police brutality and uncovers a chain of corruption that stretches all the way back to the big city. When a sexy husband-killing widow is found murdered, astride a horse statue naked in the center of town, the Private Eye’s instincts kick in, leading him on the hunt of a two-fold mystery: A serial murderer who preys on beautiful women and an illegal gambling racket where every town official is on the take.
“You know me, Louie. I’m not much of a gambler.”
A grave expression took over the jovial face. “You are the great gambler, Mike. You gamble your life.”
1) The Seedy Underworld
A beach front retreat before summer bloats is the back drop for this caper. Oceanside mansions, quaint hotels, and local diners- populated by the small-town salt of the earth.
2) The Anti- Hero
Mike Hammer is a bastion of masculinity. He’s as smart as he is violent, and understands that some folks just need killing. Prone to dabble in alcoholism and dames, he’s an anti-hero that skirts the line between Sam Spade and Parker.
I couldn’t stay a cop. All those rules and regulations drove me bugs. I had a more direct method for dealing with the bastards that preyed upon society–I just killed their damn asses.
3) The Femme Fatale
In Lady, Go Die! the dames are all femme fatales; my only question was which one would get Mike killed first.
Her mouth found mine and she trembled under me as our mouths surrendered to each other.
When I held her away from me, she was gasping, “That was the first time you ever did that, Mike.”
“I’ve wanted to for a long time,” I told her roughly.
Mike himself isn’t very misogynistic, but the overall tone of the novel is. The women in the story are completely male defined, and even the strongest of them (Velda) isn’t strong enough avoid becoming a victim…
Redemption doesn’t appear to be a central theme beyond the intellectual redemption that comes from unraveling a mystery. From time to time Mike experiences fits of vengeance, but I wouldn’t call these redemptive in any way to his character. He seems more motivated by pride than anything.
Lady, Go Die! has a satisfyingly erotic tilt to it. Some of the best scenes in the book involve the attempted seduction of Mike Hammer, and the relentless tension between he and Velda. For the wary: this isn’t a romance novel, and the details are spared any graphics. In a word, titillation.
Before she could finish that thought, I reached up and gripped her dressing gown at the neck, then gave it a vicious yank. The light material of the wrapper ripped like paper. I tossed it away like a used tissue and had a look at my handiwork.
7) Loss of Innocence
The loss of innocence is a central theme in this noir crime fiction, and is expected because of the serial killing angle. Lovely, pure, and innocent women are found strung up and nude, posed in the most degrading of fashions by a sadistic fiend. How can innocence exist in such a clime? As you read, remember that everyone is a suspect, no one above suspicion.
8 ) Smoke
The smoke curls from the end of a gun just as frequently as it curls from the end of a cigarette in this novel.
Mike doesn’t fear emasculation because it isn’t an option. He knows that even if he were to lose, the winner wouldn’t escape his punishment. Mr. Hammer never doubts himself, doesn’t allow others to take advantage of him or those he cares about, and never crumbles under the pressure. In this way he arrives as an escapee from a time-capsule of early noir; a vision of man as he should be.
“Ain’t you the one that–”
Velda stopped him again. “Shot down those two hoods in Times Square? That’s him. Showed a couple hundred people in a nightclub what a crook had for dinner, using a steak knife? One and the same. Got in Dutch with the police for making a perfectly good suspect unrecognizable? That’s him.”
Lady, Go Die! is a great gritty read and if you haven’t experienced Mike Hammer yet, here’s the place to start.