Monday, April 18, 2011

Pulsating Dames on Stilts

Originally published at Absentminded Author, v1.


I came across an old Mike Hammer movie on Netflix the other day*. What a kick. The plot was often corny, and the acting was hammy, but the action was fun, and it was filmed in that classic noir way that makes stairwells menacing, and empty streets fraught with life imperiling danger. Since I had heard the action sequences were top notch, I thought I'd check out the original books to see what they were like, so I borrowed a Mike Hammer ebook from the library.**

If the cover for the book I borrowed had been anything like the two covers I found later, I might have been prepared for what was inside. Instead, I dove in none the wiser.

First, I discovered Hammer's fetish for produce, where gays were fruits and ladies were tomatoes. Then I discovered the true secret to picking up girls was to be the main character of a detective novel. Every woman took a pass at this guy, except the octogenarians, and I'm sure they were just holding back until Hammer was laid up in a hospital with no way to escape.

The story I am reading now is called "I, the Jury" and it is filled with all the tropes of detective pulp fiction. Ladies have gams. Hammer carries a rod (which may or may not have been a double entendre). And the metaphors are piled on thicker than a stack of shag carpets. The chapter on the sports club for the rich & responsibility challenged was a bit tedious until it featured some of the unintentionally funniest prose I have read in a while.

One minute Hammer is giving his fiancé the googley eyes, and the next he's in the bushes with a nymphomaniac. He rejoins his fiancé long enough for her to laugh at his ruffled condition, because you know guys will be guys, before being interrupted by a scream of murder.

What will always stay with me is how loud I laughed when reading the "torrid" sex scene. Mind you, the book was originally written in 1947, so Mike's peckish impulses are tempered with constant references to marriage. He also prides himself on not having sex with prostitutes because he's too smart to get VD, but not, apparently, too smart to have sex with upper class nymphomaniacs who, of course, never get VD. Not classy dames, no, sir! At any rate, the sex was more risqué than raunchy because it was sparse on details, but really it was mostly ridiculous.

"The next second she was in my arms, kissing me. Her breasts were pulsating with passion. I held her as closely as I could."

I'd keep the dame at arms length myself. You can never be too careful around pulsating breasts.

To be honest, I like the story, and I can certainly see how Mike Hammer became an influential character that Hollywood mined for decades, but I severely dislike Hammer's philandering. One chapter he's bouncing in the bushes with a babe, and the next he's talking about how much he loves his fiancé. It doesn't make for a likable character. Or a believable one, either.

Incidentally, he won't do it with his fiancé until they're married, though she begs for it, but he's ready to barnum any clown on a pretty pair of stilts. Ah, but how did he put it? He's only human.

Since family will likely read this entry one day, and future readers, I should state for the record that I had no idea how saucy the Mike Hammer books were. Most of it is titillation only, and very tame compared to books published today, but it is still puerile in the manner it depicts women. I'm not likely to read more in the series, though I may read the book based on the movie I saw because it's included with this volume.

When I'm finished, I plan on writing about the action sequences, which is what I was reading the books for in the first place. In the meantime, I peg Hammer's overly understanding fiancé as the dame with the itch for blowin' holes through vics with a muzzled .45.

But will Hammer care? Man, those gams…

*My Gun is Quick, 1957 - Robert Bray, Whitney Blake
**The Mike Hammer Collection, Vol. 1