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THE BIG BANG is the latest Mike Hammer novel to be completed by Max Allan Collins. The first was THE GOLIATH BONE. It’s set in the mid-sixties and Collins explains the circumstances in a note. Spillane was in the middle of this one when a deadline approached. He put the manuscript aside and substituted a Hammer completed years before, THE TWISTED THING, and never returned to it. The two had extensive talks about the book, as well as others in various stages, and there were plenty of notes about what Spillane intended for Collins to work from while completing the novel.

I became a fan of Spillane like most males of my generation, and likely more than a few females, with the novel I, THE JURY and have loved his work ever since. It seems fashionable these days for some people to crack on Spillane’s writing and I just don’t get it. And I also make no apologies for my love of his books. If you are already a fan, you’ll love this one, if not, you probably won’t. Collins has seamlessly integrated his own writing here such that, unlearned as I admittedly am, I can’t tell where Spillane leaves off and he starts.

Mike Hammer, just back in New York, is leaving from a meeting with a client when he stumbles into the middle of a mugging. Three men are attacking a young bike messenger and he automatically takes a hand. The result, three dead men and one in a hospital(the getaway driver crashes his car trying to leave).

Hammer suddenly has an eager beaver assistant D.A. hovering as he begins poking around. The kid being attacked is innocent enough, a clean kid, and just as he figures it’s a coincidence, nothing for him to involve himself further, he stops a mugger from sticking a knife in his back. Only the mugger is dressed a little well for such an occupation and Hammer leaves him unconscious in the streets. The next day he’s found knifed with his own weapon in the same spot, his wallet gone, and our intrepid detective’s curiosity is aroused even more.

As his investigation begins to uncover connections between the mugger, the three men he’d stopped, and even the kid, he knows something more is going on here. If you know Hammer, he’s never been one to let such things lie. The Big Bang of the title, rumors say, is a major shipment of heroin awaiting entry into the country while a new undetectable method of smuggling is fine tuned.

The body count continues as Hammer starts to unravel things in his own inimitable manner.

I liked this one and look forward to the next. From what Collins reports, there was one more major, uncompleted manuscript and three additional in various stages. Keep them coming.

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