Killing Town is the tenth Mike Hammer novel started by Mickey Spillane and completed by Max Allan Collins. In Collins’ Introduction, “Meet Mike Hammer”, Killing Town’s genesis is explained. It’s an early, perhaps the earliest, Mike Hammer story Spillane started—the incomplete manuscript clocked in at 30 typed and single-spaced pages. The story takes place before I, The Jury, making it the first Mike Hammer novel, and a few elements we take for granted when reading a Hammer story are missing. Velda is nowhere in the tale, Manhattan is in Hammer’s rearview mirror, and Pat Chambers is nothing more than a voice on the telephone.
When Hammer arrives in Killington, Rhode Island, undercover and riding the rails as a hobo, he’s greeted with a strip tease and a murder rap. The frame is for the rape and murder of a young woman. The local constabulary, as foul smelling as the city’s fish cannery, is pushing Hammer to the electric chair before he’s even seen a judge. But when an alluring blonde, and the daughter of the fish cannery king, springs him with a false alibi and a marriage proposal he’s left wondering what happened and why.
Killing Town opens, in solid Spillane style, with a flash and a bang and barely wavers from beginning to end. Its trajectory fast and straight as a bullet, rifling Hammer from jailbird and murderer to knight-errant, friend and protector. The mystery is nicely controlled and the reader is as confused about what’s happening, and more importantly why it’s happening, as Hammer. The foul and corrupt setting is as beautifully hardboiled as the prose is stark and lively. An excellent addition to the Hammer canon, and my favorite, of those I’ve read, completed posthumously by Max Allan Collins.