Saturday, August 10, 2013

Encore for Murder (audio book) by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins, starring Stacy Keach with a full cast

Encore for Murder is a noir thriller that is, from my understanding, based on Mickey Spillane's notes for an unwritten novel. I had never read/listened to anything by Mickey Spillane before, but the audio sample sounded interesting, so I gave it a shot. A warning: this post contains spoilers.

The story: Mike Hammer is hired to act as Rita Vance's bodyguard. Rita, a old flame of Hammer's, is making an acting comeback and has been receiving death threats. Hammer sticks close by her, but Rita doesn't seem to be taking the situation seriously. Then things get a little more complicated, Rita disappears, and Hammer has to find and rescue her.

This did not turn out to be a good pick for me. The best thing I can say is that the story was sort of interesting and I enjoyed the full-cast, radio drama feel of it. Otherwise, though, I kind of hated Mike Hammer.

I don't think I've read a lot of noir fiction at all, nor watched many noir movies. It may just be that the genre isn't for me. Although some attempts were made to update this story (mentions of cell phones, the sex offender registry, and the reluctance of restaurants to serve meat cooked rare), it still felt pretty old school. Nearly every woman Hammer encountered was an enormous flirt – the only exception was maybe Velda, Hammer's secretary and partner, but even she had moments when she acted liked Hammer's girlfriend-in-waiting.

I might just have rolled my eyes at Hammer's very male gaze when it came to women, until I got to the torture scene. Rita was tied naked to a chair and was being threatened with a blow torch. I was a little uncomfortable with some of the almost sexual phrasing used in this scene, such as the description of the blowtorch as “a terrible flame ready to lick her flesh.” Also, post-torture, there was this from Hammer: “I've had a better time with a naked woman.” His lover had been stripped naked, beaten, and almost burned, and his first thought after rescuing her was about sex? Eww. Just eww. Other than feeling a little shaky, Rita barely seemed affected her own kidnapping and torture, which bothered me, too.

Prior to listening to this, I checked out a few reviews and noticed at least one mention of Hammer killing a lot of people. I read and listen to a lot of things with violence in them, so I just noted this and moved on. He really does kill a lot of people, though, and sometimes he kills them very violently. If I remember correctly, at one point he almost decapitated a guy with a car trunk door. I think it was his reaction, or non-reaction, to killing people that bothered me the most. At least one of the other characters even commented on the amount of killing he did, and he just brushed them off.

It was short and most of the acting was okay, but if this is what Mike Hammer stories are generally like, they are very much not for me. It's funny, I can root for and even kind of like characters like Jeff Lindsay's Dexter, and yet Mike Hammer just made me feel kind of icky. Maybe it's because Dexter makes it very clear that he is a sociopath, while Hammer seems to have zero recognition of the fact that some of the things he does are not okay?

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