Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Another one gone

Today I heard that Mickey Spillane had died.

When I was little, we lived in a big house, but we had no money. And it got cold in the winter, since we didn't have central heating. We didn't have a phone, either, or any of the things we consider normal today, only a television, because my grandfather had bought it for the Coronation.

So my mother bought books to fill the huge bookcases. Books by the yard, by the job lot. It worked, it made the house a lot warmer!

I read them. Everything. I read Enid Blyton, Charles Dickens and Leslie Charteris, and loved them all. I had no idea what was considered a classic and what was perceived as trash. It all went down the same way. Some books were standouts for me, including "Nicholas Nickleby" and Alan Garner's "The Moon of Gomrath." Others remain with me, like the early Saint books, where Simon Templar was above and beyond the law, a modern Robin Hood, with morals all his own.

Then my mother caught me reading Mickey Spillane's "No Orchids For Miss Blandish." A cheery tale of a brutal kidnapper and the rich girl he kidnaps and rapes. And how she falls in love with him. I have since discovered that the book was a sensation in its day, condemned for all kinds of sins. But it sold a bucketload of copies, including the copy that fell into my innocent hands.

My mother took the book away and then went through the books in my room. No more Simon Templar or James Bond. Dickens only got through by the skin of his teeth. But I always retained a soft spot for Spillane.

Not at all today's style, with evil, sexy baddies outclassing the boring goodies, or the brutal secret agent walking all over the women to get his villain. Spillane knew what he was doing, the sharp style complimenting the violent stories.

And he sold 150 million books in his lifetime. Dayum! That made me stop and think, I can tell you!