I, The Jury – Mickey Spillane

IMG_1388Mike Hammer’s friend from the police force and his time in the army, Jack Williams, is found dead in his home. With a bullet in the belly, he did not have an easy death but Jack did not go down easy. He tries to crawl to his gun but the murderer pulls it away from him, taunting him till he bleeds out. Mike Hammer is not going to let this sit easy. Jack had saved Mike in the jungles of the Pacific Theatre, costing him an arm. Now private detective and a law onto himself, he wants on finding the man who killed his friend and put a slug into his belly, and maybe kick his teeth in while he bleeds.

Hunting Jack’s murderer as well is Captain Pat Chambers, Homicide. A good friend of Mike, while they have teamed up together for this case, there are no secrets between them. Pat knows if Mike gets to the murderer before he does, he won’t need the cuffs, he’ll a body bag and probably not just the one. Chambers knows if he does not solve the case first, Mike Hammer will take on the role of judge, jury and executioner, something he wants to avoid.

On the surface, I, The Jury appears to be a dime-a-dozen pulp novel about murder and revenge but quickly you see the depth in Spillane’s characters and narrative as you explore deeper into his world. Quickly the case becomes more than an act of violence when Mike discovers Jack was investigating a cruel prostitution ring, trapping innocent female college students in the cruelest way possible, and his fiance’s checkered past left questions that Jack never got answers. You feel like you’ve been dropped into a Tarantino movie with its sharp, cutting dialogue, Wild West morals and unforgettable characters; you’re in for one hell of a show.

Mike Hammer is everything you’d expect in a grizzled private eye, right down from the hat on his head and the scuff marks on his shoes. He has the cold honest morals of a character in a Western with a sense of honour you’d only find amongst knights but he’s no white knight. He’s not afraid to put the squeeze on someone, smack ’em around if it gets results.

While he is no Sherlock Holmes, Mike Hammer is no gorilla when it comes to this case as he begins pulling apart the threads to a sickening prostitution ring and comes closer finding Jack’s murderer. He is smart and cunning and is ready to play every angle and card he has to avenge his friend.

Narrated by Mike Dennis, I cannot think of a better man for the role. As Mike Hammer, he spits hardboiled patter through gritted teeth and a murderous heart as he talks about avenging his friend. On the surface, Hammer is as cold as stone but when talking about Jack and his murder, you begin to see bitter cracks through Dennis’ fantastic performance.

He breathes fresh new life to Spillane’s work, carefully and masterfully controlling the pace of the narrative for the enjoyment of its listeners. Needless to say, Dennis is a popular choice of narrator for other crime novels and has narrated the work of Lawrence Block and James. M Cain. Though, to me, he will always be Mike Hammer.

Needless to say, he is a popular choice of narrator for other crime novels and has narrated the work of Lawrence Block and James. M Cain. Though, to me, Mike Dennis will always be Mike Hammer.

I, The Jury, Mickey Spillane breakthrough novel, not just breakthrough but tore its way through hardboiled crime, leaving a distinct trail of carnage, sex, and violence that shook up the genre. When it was first published, Spillane received both positive and negative responses from critics and other detective authors who saw his work as lurid and violent. Not that he cared because the reading public loved him and his stories.

As a novel, I, The Jury, is a wonderful read but as an audiobook, it’s an utterly fantastic experience that cannot be missed and I couldn’t believe I nearly missed it.

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