Mickey Spillane Biography


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Mickey Spillane was born Frank Morrison Spillane on March 9, 1918, in Brooklyn, New York, the son of an Irish bartender. He grew up, by his own report, in one of the tougher neighborhoods of Elizabeth, New Jersey. Little is known about his early schooling. In the mid-1930’s he attended Kansas State College, hoping eventually to study law. During the summers, he was captain of the lifeguards at Breezy Point, Long Island.

In 1935, when Spillane was seventeen years of age, he began selling stories to the pulps. He was able to pay his college tuition by writing for radio and by writing comic books. (He claimed to have been one of the originators of the Captain Marvel and Captain America comics, which enjoyed enormous popularity in the 1930’s and 1940’s.) During World War II, he served in the United States Army Air Force, training cadets and in time flying fighter missions. After the war, he briefly worked as a trampoline artist for Barnum and Bailey’s circus.

Spillane’s success as a writer really began in 1947, with the publication of what remains his most popular book, I, the Jury. In 1952, after publishing half a dozen additional titles, he was converted to the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Almost a decade passed before the release of The Deep (1961), considered by many to be his finest novel. His last book, Black Alley (1996) concluded a half-century-long career. Though Spillane wrote his books in a matter of...

(The entire section is 557 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Mickey Spillane (spuh-LAYN) is one of the best-selling detective fiction writers in the history of world literature. He was once listed as the author of seven of the ten best-sellers in the United States. He was born Frank Morrison Spillane in Brooklyn, the only child of an Irish Catholic bartender and a Presbyterian mother. His father nicknamed him Mickey. An inveterate reader, Spillane boasted that by age eleven he had read all the works of Alexandre Dumas, père, and Herman Melville. Spillane attended Brooklyn’s Erasmus High School (1935-1939) and briefly studied (1939-1940) at Kansas State Teachers College (now Fort Hays State University).

While working at Gimbel’s Department Store during the 1940 Christmas season, Spillane met Joe Gill, whose brother, Ray, was a comic-book editor. He hired Spillane to be a scriptwriter and assistant editor. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States entered World War II, Spillane enlisted in the Army Air Forces, earned his pilot’s wings, and trained fighter pilots in Florida and Mississippi. He was honorably discharged as a captain in 1945.

In 1945 Spillane married Mary Ann Pearce; the couple would have four children. Back in Brooklyn, he and the Gill brothers started a comic-book factory. For money to build a block house and garage on land he owned outside Newburgh, New York, he wrote I, the Jury, in—he boasted—nine days. He received one thousand dollars as initial payment. Mike Hammer, its brutal private-eye hero, was based on Mike Danger, Spillane’s comic-book creation. The novel, combining sadistic violence and easy sex, became a postwar best-seller, and Spillane’s career was launched. Five more Hammer novels soon followed, ending with Kiss Me, Deadly and interrupted by The Long Wait, Spillane’s first non-Hammer novel. In it, Spillane employed a plot chestnut: amnesia. In these thrillers, as well as in his later fiction, the hero outwits communists; the Mafia; sneaky Asians and Middle Easterners; inept United Nations, Central Intelligence Agency, and Federal...

(The entire section is 856 words.)