Vol. 2: The Little Death
by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
performed by a full cast starring Stacy Keach
Ⓟ 2009, Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Mike Hammer is the old school private investigator living in 21st century New York City, still willing and able to deliver black-and-white justice in a technicolor world. In “The Little Death,” Helen Venn, the girlfriend and bookkeeper of the late Marty Wellman, gambling kingpin, seeks protection from Marty’s rival, Carmen Rich. At stake is the ten million dollars everyone believes Helen has, not to mention Helen’s life. Helen needs protection and Mike Hammer’s chivalry is aroused as well as his libido.
For those who fondly remember the Mike Hammer franchise from the 1940s and 1950 and/or the TV shows starring Stacy Keach in the 1980s, The New Adventures provide a touchstone to a character of a known quantity: a man of unwavering loyalty, ideals and, a gun named Betsy to back it all up. For those unfamiliar with Mike Hammer, The New Adventures offers an action hero who metes out lethal justice straight-forwardly and without equivocation. Mike Hammer is an unapologetic throwback to wrong versus right conflict, which some may love for simplicity’s sake; but others may decry for lack of traction in the gray areas of life.
The title, “The Little Death” is a double entendre, referring not only to a homicide of little importance, but to an orgasm. This is spelled out in the narrative right away, but in case you miss it, listeners should be forewarned that this is not family fare. There is nothing subtle in any of the sexual innuendoes and in fact the references are often crude and artless. There are even sound effects at one point, of a couple having sex, including the squeaky bedsprings.
Mickey Spillane purportedly said:
See, heroes never die. John Wayne isn’t dead, Elvis isn’t dead. Otherwise you don’t have a hero. You can’t kill a hero. That’s why I never let him get older.
This may be true in an abstract way; but the reality is that both John Wayne and Elvis aged and died and, some listeners may not be able to help themselves from doing the math where Mike Hammer is concerned too. In the Mike Hammer canon, he was a WWII vet. In the best case scenario, having him fight in the Battle of Guadacanal at the age of twenty, that would make Mike Hammer a nonogenarian. There is nothing in “The Little Death” that adjusts the time line forward, so what we have is a really old man running around acting like a twenty-something-year old! Plus, Velda, who has been his secretary and unrequited love interest all these years, is running around in pink lace lingerie. The mind boggles!
Stacy Keach, who played Mike Hammer in the 1980 television series, reprises his role as the had-boiled detective in The New Adventures. He has become the quintessential Mike Hammer, with his gruff tones and Mid-Century sensibilities. Any other actor in the role has become virtually impossible to imagine. Interestingly, Stacy Keach seems to be very involved in The New Adventures: He wrote and played the saxophone musical score and his wife, Malgosia Tomassi plays a recurring role in all three volumes of the audio dramas.
The production team applies a voice enhancement, reverb to Stacy Keach’s voice when he speaks from the narrative point of view, which is the audio equivalent of warping the picture with wavy lines in a T.V. show to indicate a segue into a flashback or dream sequence. Not very artful; but it does the trick in delineating narrative from scenes with dialogue.
The writing overall is better than the first volume of The New Adventures; but one wonders if, despite the updates into the twenty-first century; Mike Hammer might be better left consigned to the place in history where he and his ideals best fit in, Post-War America. What do you think? Do you think that the hard-boiled noir detectives of the fifties have a place in 21st century culture, other than as a throwback or nostalgia trip? Can you think of any other candidates for an updated appearance?
The New Adventures of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer (audiobook review of the first volume)
Other Stuff: The New Adventures of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, Vol. 2: The Little Death (by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins; performed by a full cast starring Stacy Keach) qualifies for:
- The 2012 Audio Book Challenge hosted by @teresasreading at Teresa’s Reading Corner:
I received a MP3-CD copy of The New Adventures of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, Vol. 2: The Little Death (by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins; performed by a full cast starring Stacy Keach) from Blackstone Audio, Inc. under reviewer auspices.I had no involvement in the production of this title. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and.or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.