Monday, April 14, 2014

KING OF WEEDS



KING OF THE WEEDS
By Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins
Titan Books
267 pages
Available 6 May 2014

Private Eye Mike Hammer’s closest friend is Homicide Detective Pat Chambers.  The two fought together as Marines in the South Pacific and came home to join the police force together.   But Hammer’s general dislike of authority soon had him setting up his own private shingle while Chambers worked his way up through the ranks as one of the most hard-nosed, honest cops to ever serve people of New York City.  Now, with his promotion to Inspector locked up and a decent retirement only a few years away, an early case from the past resurfaces with newly discovered facts that may derail Chambers’ bright future and smear an otherwise untarnished career.  A man then Officer Chambers had collared for a string of Bowery murders now appears to have been innocent all along and wrongly incarcerated for forty years.

At the same Hammer is gunned down by professional assassin on his way to work one morning.  It is only through blind luck that the two .22 slugs intended to shred his heart are stopped short by a recently purchased….  To say any more would spoil one of the most dramatic openings to any Hammer book ever imagined.  Soon, the aging P.I. and his beautiful assistant, Velda, begin to suspect threads from a previous case are getting them targeted for death.  Buried somewhere in the rugged mountains of the Adirondacks is a cavern containing ninety-billion dollars of stolen mob money stashed away by another of Hammer’s old war buddies.  Before being gunned down, this old foxhole pal confided in Hammer the location of the treasure.  Suddenly a whole lot of people, both lawmen and outlaws, suspect Hammer of knowing the location and they are willing to do whatever it takes to make him reveal it.

Two disparate cases with no apparent connections; one forty years old, the other as fresh as Hammer’s healing bullet wounds.  Yet, as Hammer starts digging into both, his well tested instincts begin sending out warnings that these two cases have a common dominator and unless he can find out exactly where they converge, Pat Chambers stellar reputation will be destroyed and a lot more people will die thanks to the diabolical orchestrations of a criminal fiend known as the King of Weeds.

According to co-author, Max Collins, this book represents the last of six substantial manuscripts Spillane left behind, and was intended to be the last in the series, before he started THE GOLIATH BONE in response to 9/11.  It is also the sequel to the last Hammer published in Spillane’s lifetime, BLACK ALLEY (1997) but can be read as a stand alone entry in the series.

This reviewer has been a Spillane fan from the first time he picked up a Mike Hammer paperback as a teenager in the early 60s.  That these unfinished manuscripts should be completed by the writer chosen s specifically by the character’s creator is a truly remarkable literary achievement in the history of mystery fiction and it is all too obvious that Spillane knew what he was doing all along.  Collins, through his never wavering respect for these characters has delivered them to a finish line Spillane would have been proud of.  Known for using that last sentence in his books like a final punch to put away his critics, Spillane wielded sentences like a surgeon’s scalpel with finesse and razor sharp precision.  A skill he taught this Collins kid and when you read the last line in KING OF WEEDS, like me, you’ll have a wicked smile on your face.  I guarantee it.

1 comment:

shawn vogt said...

Yes!!! I'm a life-long Spillane fan, and this makes me extremely happy. Also a fan of Max, so it's great to see him finishing up his friend's works so capably. Love the review.