Book Review: "Complex 90" by M. Spillane and M.A. Collins
- by Señor Editor, 23 May 2013
Mike Hammer, Mickey Spillane’s classic detective, returns in “Complex 90” – a lost novel from the ‘60s, based on Spillane’s manuscript, and finished by the late writer’s friend and literary executor, Max Allan Collins. Set in the Cold War, the new novel takes Hammer from New York to Moscow and back, putting him smack dab in the middle of a deadly intrigue. Over 60 years after his debut, does Hammer still have what it takes to keep the readers turning pages?
Where I’m from, not a lot of Spillane novels were published. A quick search reveals one published over 40 years ago, and one a few years back – not a lot, compared to the character’s rich life in print media in the US and other countries. So I’m not as familiar with the many Mike Hammer books as I’d like to. I’m a newcomer.
“Complex 90” quickly gets me up to speed, though. Mike Hammer is a badass. He’s a private investigator, he’s violent, cynical and takes no nonsense. You could say the same thing about quite a lot of crime fiction heroes, but (in addition to being one of the first of his kind) Spillane’s character has enough personality to never feel like a set of clichés, and he’s definitely his own man.
“Complex 90” is fast-paced, action-filled and unbelievably fun. Seeing the 1960s New York (and Moscow) through the eyes of Hammer is a blast and his narration and humor keep the reader immersed and entertained. There’s some steamy sex scenes and a lot of bloody violence, that leaves little to the imagination, but it’s not overdone and fits well with the tough style of the novel. The plot itself isn’t overly complex (no terrible pun intended), but is engaging and has a good few surprises that I didn’t really predict. It ties with a previous Hammer novel that I never read, but there’s enough exposition here to give you everything you need to know.
If there’s one thing that kind of bugged me, it’s that Hammer’s travel through the Soviet Union countries, killing the 45 men before landing in an American base and traveling home from there is only mentioned to us briefly, we don’t get to witness it in a flashback, like we did the stuff in Moscow. That would certainly be interesting to read about, but I realize it would probably make the book twice as long and it’s not really instrumental to the main plot. On the plus side, I’m sure Hammer gets to kill plenty of other bad dudes in other books, so that’s a whole world of violence and tough guy wisecracks for me to explore.
Spillane died in 2006, and so this book was completed by prolific author Max Allan Collins. I have no clue which parts are written by Collins, what was added, what was fleshed out etc. And that’s great. There’s no noticeable changes in style, no feeling that something wasn’t finished properly, nothing. I don’t know how complete was the manuscript Collins was working with, but bravo for doing such a great job with it. I really enjoy Collins as an author and when you consider his work in helping keep other writers’ legacy alive (not just Spillane’s – Collins was also instrumental in unearthing James M. Cain’s brilliant “Cocktail Waitress”) it’s hard not to appreciate the man.
“Complex 90” is a great read. If you’re a fan of the authors or a fan of Hammer’s then you definitely will enjoy this one. As somebody new to Mike Hammer I can say I’m hooked and would really like to read more with the character. Titan Books has been doing a great job with their many crime books lately and this is another one that’s worth buying. Don’t miss out.
Are you a Mike Hammer fan? Read "Complex 90" yet? Let your voice be heard in the comments section below!