I, the Jury begins with the murder of Mike Hammer's best friend and fellow GI, Jack Williams, who died a slow and painful death with two bullets in the stomach. Mike vows vengeance for the death and announces that he will shoot the killer in the same painful way. So vengeance is the first and overriding theme announced in the novel. That Mike will have to work within, but also outside of, the normal boundaries of police procedure is also celebrated, and although he is cautioned by his other friend who is on the police force, Pat Chambers, to be careful about his vigilante actions, there is little restraint I, the Jury placed upon Mike's subsequent violent behavior.
As the narrative unfolds Mike discovers that Jack, who had himself joined the police force after his discharge, was investigating a drug operation run by a mysterious criminal mastermind. In the course of his own search for the killer, Mike falls in love with a female psychiatrist, Charlotte Manning, whom he eventually plans to marry. This relationship allows Mike to voice his attitudes about the place of professional women — namely that they should give up their jobs when they marry — and to act out a traditional sexual double standard. As he remains celibate with Charlotte, he sleeps with a "nymphomaniac" twin who occupies a marginal place in the rather promiscuous, drug-using set involved with the case. Spillane's depiction of sex exceeded the conventional reticence of the detective traditions and perhaps reflects a direct and realistic (i.e. less literary) approach to sexual relations more in line with the attitudes of the returning soldiers. In any event, sex is treated in the same unsentimental, forceful way that all other human activities are in Spillane's fiction. Both homosexuality and race play a very small role in I, the Jury. Gays are dismissed as a dirty joke, and ethnic groups are hardly present in Mike Hammer's world at all.
The theme of violence is omnipresent. This is partly due to the fact that Hammer lives in a dangerous milieu. He is, after all, combing the underworld for drug...
(The entire section contains 558 words.)
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