The Goliath Bone

If THE GOLIATH BONE proves to be the final outing for Mike Hammer (at least chronologically), then at least the iconic private investigator goes out with the proverbial bang. This one — the 14th for Hammer — finds Mickey Spillane’s hero still hard-boiled, even if his body’s going a little soft. He’s thinking about retirement, has an AARP membership, no longer smokes and is about to head to Vegas to finally marry Velda, his longtime “secretary.”

“Mike, you’re not the randy young PI you used to be,” Velda tells him, to which he answers, “No. I’m the randy old PI of today.” Their plans change, naturally, when he witnesses a college-aged couple unknowingly being pursued by a hooded figure who follows them into the subway. Hammer goes to check it out and finds the kids running back up the stairwell, with their predator now brandishing a gun. Hammer shoots the piece out of the guy’s hand, and the sucker trips and falls down the stairs to his death.

Homicide determines the dead man’s a suspected terrorist, and Hammer quickly figures out what a man like that would want from clean-cut kids like these: their bone. Matthew Hurley and Jenna Sheffield are grad students at NYU, and stepsiblings who accompanied their professor parents on a research trip to Israel. While there, Matthew and Jenna — secret lovers, Hammer determines — unearthed a bone in the Valley of Elah that they believed to belong to the behemoth biblical figure Goliath, as in “David and.”

There’s no way to prove it 100 percent, of course, but the Israelites would love to have the relic as confirmation of their beliefs. But the militant Muslims would love to have it, too, if only to destroy it out of spite. They’re willing to kill for it, as Hammer witnessed in the hunting of Matthew and Jenna, so he takes them under his wing while he investigates and tries to figure a way out of this mess.

The idea of a post-9/11 Hammer fighting terrorists is, to be sure, an unusual one — far removed from his usual milieu. But really, it’s just a framework that lets Hammer still be Hammer. After all, who else would slur to a dying opponent of another heritage, “I’m going to make sure they bury you with a pork chop tied around your damn neck.”

Any doubts that time have mellowed Hammer should be dispelled by the time someone requests he kill someone out of revenge, and “make it awful.” Hammer replies, “Count on it.” And then there’s the choice bit where he describes one of the terrorists plummeting to his death, falling “with a cry that might have been ‘Alllahhh!’ or maybe it was just a terrified scream.”

Yes, kids, this is your grandfather’s Mike Hammer! Luckily, he knows no generation gap, even if he acknowledges his trademark fedora is out-of-date. Spillane still makes some concessions to yesteryear, mostly in his dialogue, such as someone who refuses to talk being dubbed “clamsville.”

It’s leisurely, yet exciting, and engrossing enough that you’ll want to finish it in a day. For me, the only drawback was that the big reveal wasn’t one at all, having guessed it long before. No worries, because I still enjoyed seeing the deliverance of the comeuppance, courtesy of the mighty Hammer.

Spillane died before he could finish BONE, so those duties fell to his good friend Max Allan Collins. Spillane’s influence on Collins is no secret, and the pupil has learned well, because I can’t tell where one’s contribution ends and the other’s begins — it’s smooth sailing throughout. Well, not for Hammer, of course, but for you. —Rod Lott

Buy it at Amazon.

bonus xxx-cerpt“She was wearing a T-shirt and no bra and bikini bottoms. At her age, her boobs should have been to her knees, and the last thing she should have able to get away with was a bikini bottom. But her breasts were full and firm, the tips poking at the cotton fabric like the eraser ends of pencils.”

BLACK ALLEY by Mickey Spillane
DEAD STREET by Mickey Spillane
THE DELTA FACTOR by Mickey Spillane
THE KILLING MAN by Mickey Spillane
THE LAST COP OUT by Mickey Spillane
THE LONG WAIT by Mickey Spillane
THE TOUGH GUYS by Mickey Spillane

BLACK HATS by Patrick Culhane
DEADLY BELOVED by Max Allan Collins
DICK TRACY by Max Allan Collins
THE FIRST QUARRY by Max Allan Collins
A KILLING IN COMICS by Max Allan Collins
THE LAST QUARRY by Max Allan Collins
QUARRY’S LIST by Max Allan Collins
RED SKY IN MORNING by Patrick Culhane
ROAD TO PARADISE by Max Allan Collins
TOUGH TENDER by Max Allan Collins

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Comment by David Cranmer
2008-10-06 18:20:40

This is the second positive review of The Goliath Bone I’ve read. I’m glad to see Mike Hammer is going out on a high note.

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Comment by Rod
2008-10-07 18:15:47

Reading this really makes me want to start at the first Hammer and proceed forward. Oh, time …

Comment by Max Allan Collins
2008-10-06 23:46:08

Just for the record, GOLIATH BONE is the last Hammer chronologically…but there are four more substantial Hammer manuscripts entrusted to me by Mickey and his wife Jane, and Harcourt is going to do at least two more.

I finished the second of these, THE BIG BANG, today. It was started by Mickey in 1965 and that’s the time frame of the story.

Thanks, Rod, for the nice review!

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Comment by John A. Karr
2008-10-07 15:38:28

Porkchop around the neck … lol. No Political Correctness for Hammer, thank gawd.

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Comment by Sergio
2008-10-08 08:03:36

I am planning to buy some old Hammer novels in English,
instead of hunting the few bad and abridged Italian translations.
Which are the best? Conversely, are there any obviuos stinkers?
Thank you

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Comment by Bruce
2008-10-08 08:34:43

Well if your getting the English versions you can get the first six in two large collections. Black Alley was the last one before Goliath Bone and its nothing spectacular.

Comment by Sergio
2008-10-08 13:57:43

I didn’t know those collections existed, thank you

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