Sunday, 31 May 2015

Mickey Spillane: The UK Corgi editions

Ipcress (AKA Leonard), a letterboxd friend has recently been on a big Mike Hammer kick and we've had a few small conversations about the artwork, especially on the UK Corgi editions. Years back I had a site with a whole section dedicated to Spillane paperbacks, but even the Wayback Machine can't seem to bring back the cover images I stored there. Sadly, over the years, I've lost a lot of my collection (including some gorgeous 1950's editions) but as some of the covers are so beautiful I thought I'd join Ipcress in his appreciation of them and list the ones I have on this here blog starting with the earliest, and in my opinion, best.

The sad thing is that the cover artist was never acknowledged in the publishing details, so if anyone knows who he or she was please let me know.

Kiss Me, Deadly

This is a 1963 Corgi edition with a great cover. After some research I've discovered the cover artist may be Renato Fratini.

"My name is Mike Hammer. I must tell you about this dame - the dame who almost fell under my car; who wasn't wearing a stitch under her coat. Well, she died in the most horrible way you can imagine. I saw it - and heard it.

The cops reckoned they'd pin the rap on me, but I had other ideas, like who were the real killers; and why.

M-A-F-I-A. Heard of them? Five letters which spell terror and death whichever way you look at them.

But I was going to put the skids under the big guys, and when they fell, I was going to be around. To make sure they fell hard - and dead."

I, the Jury

Another 1963 Corgi edition. After some research I've discovered the cover artist may be Renato Fratini.

"The name's Hammer. I'm a private investigator; I expect you've met me. You've never met my friend. He was once my buddy, but now he's dead, murdered callously by a killer who stood by and laughed.

Now when this kind of thing happens, it makes me want to hit out; watch the killer crawl, hear him beg for mercy as my finger tightens on the trigger.

But there are problems. Whenever I chase a lead, a beautiful dame turns up. You can never trust a dame.

Pat Chambers of Homicide is after the killer too. If he gets him, he'll only stick him in front of a jury. But when I catch up with him, I'll be the Jury, and the judge, and the executioner."

The Girl Hunters

1963 Corgi edition

"Mike Hammer is back!

Mike is found in the gutter - an alcoholic on the verge of losing his mind. It has taken him seven years to reach this point: seven years of guilt for believing he caused the death of Velda, the girl he loved.
Then he hears: Velda may still be alive, but before he can be sure, he must find and destroy a master killer called the Dragon.

Make Hammer Versus the Dragon - care to take odds on the result?"

My Gun is Quick

1965 Corgi edition. This is a big of an anomaly as Corgi ditch the fantastically painted covers for dull photographed ones. Lucky the 1967 saw the painted covers make a comeback.

"My name's Mike Hammer.

I'm a private eye, or detective (it depends which way you look at things). I don't operate in what is generally known as the better places, and I carry a gun.

This day I'm talking about, the redhead said Hallo. When redheads come and introduce themselves to me, it usually means one thing - but not, brother, this one. All she wanted was a square meal and somebody to talk to... It ended up in me beating the skin off some louse who interfered in the lady's business - not many hours later she was lying in the gutter, dead. I liked that redhead, and I didn't like murder, which my instincts told me it was, not an accident. I don't make a steady habit of rescuing dames on the loose, but if she's pretty it makes it worth the trouble, and if she's dead that makes me sore.

That's the best excuse I know for proving that my gun is quick."

One Lonely Night

A 1967 Corgi edition that some idiot has drawn in in biro. The '67 edition covers were not quite as beautiful as the '63s but still very nice.

"I'm a murderer - that entitles me to the chair. The judge said so. But they can't touch me - because my name's Mike Hammer. I'm a private investigator - with a licence to kill...

It all started when I found the girl on the bridge that night. She threw herself over the side before I could stop her... but she did leave her card behind, a small green one. The hood who had been following her didn't live long enough to give any explanations... he had a green card too. Pretty odd.

There's something inside me which makes it my business when two bodies turn up the same calling card. My friend Pat from the Squad had some very interesting information. One of the most vicious rackets in America was operating right under our noses - and now I knew, the smell wasn't very nice.

I'm a murderer, I'm scum, the judge said so. But when something dirty sticks its head right in front of my gun sights, I pull the trigger... I don't bother about consequences. It's my job to enforce the law, and I do it the quickest, cleanest way I know how."

The Big Kill

Corgi 1967 edition.

"My name's Mike Hammer. You've probably met me before. I'm a private investigator and I take any job that arouses my interest - or my anger at this crummy world we live in. This time they've made me angry - they meaning I don't know who. But I'm sure going to find out, however long it takes me.

It's funny how fate turns the switches. That tawny-haired angel who happened in on the case was just too good to be true. Orphans, murder, and then dames: trouble in three easy stages.

Still, that's my job."

The Twisted Thing

Corgi 1967 edition.

"My name's Mike Hammer. I guess you've heard of me. I'm a private eye - and I get pretty mad when someone beats up an old friend - especially when the one doing the beating up is a cop.

It all started when the boy was kidnapped. No ordinary boy either. This boy, Ruston, was a genius. His father wasn't so clever, though. He called in the cops.

Dilwick was in charge of the case. The dirtiest, roughest cop who ever walked a beat.

So I had to find the kid first; it was as simple as that."

The Snake

Corgi 1969 edition. The shitty photographed covers are back and even worse than before!

"It took Mike Hammer seven years to find out that Velda, the girl he loved, was still alive. They came together again in passion, but it wasn't long before Mike discovered that being with Velda still meant danger.

Velda had offered protection to a girl who was convinced she was to be killed. And the girl was wanted badly enough for Make and Velda to be in bad trouble.

Make Hammer had to fight or shoot his way out of many desperate situations before he was able to solve the mystery of why the girl was wanted, and why she kept talking about someone she could only identify as...The Snake."

The Body Lovers

Corgi 1971 edition. The painted covers are back again, but this time with a very 70's vibe.

"Let me introduce myself. Mike Hammer - private detective.

I wouldn't say I look for trouble but it certainly has a way of finding me. Now take the other night; there I was, driving along, minding my own business, when I heard a kid screaming. So, I stopped the car, grabbed a flashlight, and ran.

I found the kid. I also found what he was screaming about. He'd stumbled across the body of what was once a beautiful red-head - but now the body was a mess, and something had put an expression of stark terror into the face."

Survival... Zero!

Corgi 1971 edition. Even more seventies looking!

"Who would want to kill a nobody like Lippy Sullivan, and why?

Before Mike Hammer finds out the answers, he is running interference for the CIA, and he learns more than is good for him about germ warfare, the TV industry, and a certain blonde with eyelashes painted round her navel."

Vengeance is Mine

Corgi 1973 edition. The worst Spillane cover ever; just nasty! Cover may be by Michael Codd.

"The D.A. had really been after my gun licence for a long time. Now it really looked as if he had me cold - at least it looked that way to him. My name's Mike Hammer, I'm a - well, let's say a private eye working here in N.Y. - and my friend Chester Wheeler is in his hotel room, stone dead, with my gun in his hand.

It looked like a straight forward suicide case to everyone, except me - and when I discovered what kind of women Chester had been associating with recently, and when some thugs tried to persuade me to get disinterested, I realised that I'd tumbled on something pretty corrupt, and I would have to get to the bottom of it fast, before any more nice people like Chester found themselves booked for eternity - in six feet of earth."

Missing are my copies of The Girl Hunters (1970's edition), Vengeance is Mine (1950's), One Lonely Night (1950's), Return of the Hood, Killer Mine (several editions), The Erection Set, The Killing Man hardback amongst others. I also have a old 60s hardback of The Deep without a dust-jacket.