Film Review – CANNON: HE WHO DIGS A GRAVE (TV) (1973)

Cannon (1971)CANNON: HE WHO DIGS A GRAVE (TV) (1973, USA) ***
Action, Crime, Mystery
dist. Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS); pr co. Quinn Martin Productions (QM); d. Richard Donner; w. Stephen Kandel (based on the novel “He Who Digs a Grave” by David Delman); exec pr. Quinn Martin; pr. Adrian Samish; ph. Jack Swain (Colour. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); th m. John Carl Parker; m sup. John Elizalde; ed. Ray Daniels, Jerry Young; ad. Bill Kenney; set d. Frank Lombardo; rel. 12 September 1973 (USA); cert: PG; r/t. 100m.

cast: William Conrad (Frank Cannon), Anne Baxter (Mayor Helen Blyth), Barry Sullivan (Sheriff Jesse Luke), David Janssen (Ian Kirk), Murray Hamilton (Arthur Gibson), Tim O’Connor (Martin Ross), Louise Troy (Louise Gibson), Lee Purcell (Marion Luke), Martine Bartlett (Hanna Freel), Royal Dano (Doctor), Robert Hogan (Deputy Coleman), R.G. Armstrong (Banner), Dabbs Greer (Windom Salter), Jerry Ayres (Deputy Reber), Lenore Kasdorf (Sherry Benson), Cathy Lee Crosby (Irene Kirk), Dennis Rucker (Wade Gibson), Virginia Gregg (Dr. Emma Savonka), Bill Quinn (Ben Salter).

Cannon  (Conrad) travels to the quiet, remote town of Mercer, California to help his friend Ian Kirk (Janssen, in a rare late career guest slot) who is suspected of murdering his rich wife (Crosby) and her paramour Wade Gibson (Rucker). As Cannon tries to prove his friend’s innocence, he gets help from the mayor (Baxter) but is stymied in his efforts by the sheriff (Sullivan)’s office. Several other viable suspects present themselves, people who had reason to hate Wade, including his stepfather (Hamilton) and the sheriff’s daughter (Purcell). This feature-length opener to season three of the popular TV series is a more complex mystery than the standard TV fare, reflecting its literary roots (it was based on a novel by David Delman). There is a great role for Baxter as the small town’s mayor who seems to be the only one in turn willing to give Conrad a fair crack of the whip. The action scenes are well-mounted, and Donner works the script well, but the camera work is largely unimaginative, lacking the hand-held realism of the pilot film. Nevertheless, the strong cast and script make this an enjoyable episode. Shot on location in Grass Valley, northern California.

Film Review – THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO (TV) (1972)

The Streets of San Francisco: The Pilot | Not The Baseball PitcherTHE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO (TV) (1972, USA) ***
Action, Crime, Drama, Mystery
dist. American Broadcasting Company (ABC); pr co. Quinn Martin Productions (QM) / Warner Bros. Television; d. Walter Grauman; w. Edward Hume (based on the novel “Poor, Poor Ophelia” by Carolyn Weston); exec pr. Quinn Martin; pr. Arthur Fellows, Adrian Samish; ass pr. Howard P. Alston; ph. William W. Spencer (Colour. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. Patrick Williams; m sup. John Elizalde; ed. Richard K. Brockway; ad. Richard Y. Haman; set d. Hoyle Barrett; cos. Edward McDermott, Paula Giokaris; m/up. Don Schoenfeld, Annabell Levy; sd. Ray Barons, Bill Phillips (Mono); rel. 16 September 1972 (USA), 19 November 1973 (UK); cert: PG; r/t. 98m.

cast: Karl Malden (Detective Lt. Mike Stone), Robert Wagner (David J. Farr), Michael Douglas (Inspector Steve Keller), Andrew Duggan (Capt. A.R. Malone), Tom Bosley (Saretti), John Rubinstein (Lindy), Carmen Mathews (Sally Caswell), Edward Andrews (Joe Caswell), Lawrence Dobkin (Gregory Praxas), Kim Darby (Holly Jean Berry), Brad David (Del Berry), Mako (Kenji), Naomi Stevens (Mrs. Saretti), Lou Frizzell (Lou), Bill Quinn (Medical Examiner), Richard Brian Harris (Auto Mechanic), William Swan (Larry Pyle), Victor Millan (Tony – Detective), June Vincent (Diana), Robert Mandan (Dockmaster).

SFPD Detective Lieutenant Michael Stone (Malden) is partnered with a young college-educated Inspector, Steven Keller (Douglas), as they investigate a girl found dead in the water with a lawyer (Wagner) she knew as the primary suspect. Introductory film for the TV series that ran for five seasons from 1972-7. The film benefits from extensive location work and the instant chemistry between leads Malden and Douglas. The mystery is adapted from a novel by Carolyn Weston, which featured different lead characters. Wagner is the chief suspect as the slimy lawyer who became involved with the dead girl (played in flashback by Darby). Dobkin also gives a notable performance as an eccentric former movie star. The material is handled a little flatly by Graumann but is tightly edited and contains a memorable theme from composer Williams. Followed twenty years later by BACK TO THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO (1992).

Film Review – CANNON (TV) (1971)

Cannon: Season One, Volume One : DVD Talk Review of the DVD VideoCANNON (TV) (1971, USA) ***
Action, Crime, Mystery, Drama
dist. Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS); pr co. Quinn Martin Productions / Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS); d. George McCowan; w. Edward Hume; exec pr. Quinn Martin; pr. Arthur Fellows, Adrian Samish; ass pr. Howard P. Alston; ph. John A. Alonzo (Colour. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. John Carl Parker; ed. Jerry Young; ad. Philip Barber; set d. Ray Molyneaux; cos. Dorothy H. Rodgers, Eric Seelig; m/up. Richard Cobos, Gloria Montemayor; sd. Robert J. Miller (Mono (Westrex Recording System)); rel. 26 March 1971 (USA), 21 October 1972 (UK); cert: PG; r/t. 98m.

cast: William Conrad (Frank Cannon), J.D. Cannon (Lt. Kelly Redfield), Lynda Day George (Christie Redfield), Murray Hamilton (Virgil Holley), Earl Holliman (Magruder), Vera Miles (Diana Langston), Barry Sullivan (Calhoun), Keenan Wynn (Eddie), Lynne Marta (Trudy Hewett), Norman Alden (Mitchell), Ellen Corby (Teacher), John Fiedler (Jake), Lawrence Pressman (Herb Mayer), Ross Hagen (Red Dunleavy), Robert Sorrells (Tough in Blue Moon bar), Pamela Dunlap (Laverne Holley), Jimmy Lydon (Betting Clerk), William Joyce (Ken Langston), Wayne McLaren (Jackie / T.J.).

William Conrad stars as portly private detective Frank Cannon who investigates the murder of his ex-girlfriend (Miles)’s husband and gets entangled in small-town corruption. This is the pilot for the long-running series, which ran for five seasons from 1972-76. The story may be a standard mystery, but Conrad’s colourful performance and a strong guest cast make it an enjoyable movie. McCowan directs with some flair and adds a gritty realism through his frequent use of hand-held camera. A reunion movie THE RETURN OF FRANK CANNON (1980) appeared later.

TV Review – STRIKE: LETHAL WHITE (2020)

What is Strike: Lethal White on BBC One tonight and how many episodes are  there?STRIKE: LETHAL WHITE (2020, UK) ***½
Crime, Drama. Mystery
net. British Broadcasting Corportation (BBC); pr co. Bronte Film and TV; d. Susan Tully; w. Tom Edge (based on the novel by J.K. Rowling (as Robert Galbraith)); exec pr. Neil Blair, Tommy Bulfin, Tom Edge, Ruth Kenley-Letts, J.K. Rowling; pr. Jackie Larkin; ph. Tomasz Naumiuk (Colour. 1.78:1); m. Adrian Johnston; m sup. Phil Canning; ed. Steve Singleton; pd. Alison Riva; ad. Abbie Bellwood; set d. Sophia Millar; cos. Henrietta Nieper; m/up. Caroline Greenough, Karen Scott; sd. John Rodda (Dolby Digital); st. Crispin Layfield; tr. 30 August – 13 September 2020; r/t. 4 x 60m.

cast: Tom Burke (Cormoran Strike), Holliday Grainger (Robin Ellacott), Kerr Logan (Matthew Cunliffe), Nick Blood (Jimmy Knight), Robert Glenister (Jasper Chiswell), Joseph Quinn (Billy Knight), Sophie Winkleman (Kinvara Chiswell), Christina Cole (Izzy Chiswell), Adam Long (Raff Chiswell), Natalie Gumede (Lorelei Bevan), Saffron Coomber (Flick Purdue), Danny Ashok (Aamir Malik), Robert Pugh (Geraint Ifon Winn), Jack Greenlees (Sam Barclay), Natasha O’Keeffe (Charlotte Campbell), Ann Akin (Vanessa Ekwensi), Anna Cannings (Della Winn), Robyn Holdaway (Hayley), Kathleen Cranham (Shanice), Bronagh Waugh (Dawn Clancy), Silas Carson (Henry Drummond), Sophie Colquhoun (Sarah Shadlock), Suzanne Burden (Linda Ellacott), Paul Butterworth (Michael Ellacott), Joe Johnsey (Martin Ellacott), Nicholas Agnew (Tom Turvey), Judi Kenley (Robin’s Aunt), Suzanne Toase (Denise), James Mellish (Freddie), Jamie Ankrah (Alfie), Joel Gillman (Digby), Ruth Lass (Dr. Elspeth Curtis-Lacey), Jacqueline Boatswain (Claire Morbury), Julie Morgan Price (Georgina).

Cormoran Strike (Burke) and Robin Ellacott (Grainger) are back, and at odds following Robin’s wedding to Matthew (Logan). But there is no time to mull on the new distance within their professional relationship, as a frightening visit from a potential client puts a new case on the table – and Robin and Strike set to work looking into reports of a strangled child. With the detective agency thriving, the duo is also recruited to investigate the blackmail of a Government Minister (Glenister) and Robin is tasked with going undercover in the House of Commons. Rowling’s fourth hefty Cormoran Strike novel (written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith) is faithfully adapted in this long and complex mystery. Technical credits are top class and the performances of the cast are uniformly excellent. Burke and Grainger have established a great rapport as the lead detectives. This is ultimately a well-written and traditional mystery thriller with continuing personal arcs from earlier stories, which casual viewers may find difficult to follow. However, fans of the books and demanding mysteries will not be disappointed.

Book Review – WRONG LIGHT (2018) by Matt Coyle

WRONG LIGHT (2018) ***½
by Matt Coyle
This paperback edition published by Oceanview Publishing, 2018, 338pp
© Matt Coyle, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-60809-329-8

Blurb: Naomi Hendrix’s sexy voice hovering over the radio waves isn’t the only thing haunting the Southern California nights. A demented soul is stalking Naomi, hiding in the shadows of the night, waiting for the right moment to snatch her and fulfill a twisted fantasy. When Naomi’s radio station hires PI Rick Cahill to protect Naomi and track down the stalker, he discovers that Naomi is hiding secrets about her past that could help unmask the man. However, before Rick can extract the truth from Naomi, he is thrust into a missing person’s case–an abduction he may have unwittingly caused. The investigating detective questions Rick’s motives for getting involved and pressures him to stop meddling. While Rick pursues Naomi’s stalker and battles the police, evil ricochets from his own past and embroils Rick in a race to find the truth about an old nemesis. Is settling the score worth losing everything?

Comment:  This is the fifth book in Matt Coyle’s Rick Cahill series, but it is the first that I have read. It is a dark noir-ish novel which gives Private detective Cahill two unconnected cases to juggle – an unusual, but not unique, approach in a first-person PI novel. Coyle actually juggles the two stories pretty well, blending the action and key characters without confusing the reader. The primary case, concerning a female DJ being stalked is the more traditional, whilst the secondary case – involving the Russian Mafia and a hold they have over Cahill – refers back to events from previous books and readers would perhaps benefit in approaching this series from the beginning. That said, there is enough background provided to ensure you can also approach the book as a standalone. Cahill is a flawed hero and his manipulation of the few friends he has leaves him as something of a loner. The novel moves at a cracking pace and remains engaging throughout with many twists and turns – some that can be foreseen others that shock. As such the book challenges the reader at every turn. This can be both a positive and a negative in that it feels at times that Coyle is trying to be too clever and by doing so the reader can occasionally anticipate his next twist because they know not to take things at face value. The two plots run at different paces. The stalker plot line is almost text book mystery right up until its shocking conclusion. The Russian Mafia subsidiary plot line mixes the mystery element of the nature of the Russian Mob’s operation, in which they embroil Cahill, with action thriller elements of many a big screen crime thriller. Taken separately both would make for a very readable book. Blended together they at times make for an overly frenetic narrative that stretches credulity – not in the nature of the situations but in the way in which the police and FBI deal with them and Cahill seemingly can operate for days without much sleep. All said and done, I really enjoyed the book despite its over-ambition and look forward to seeing where Coyle takes Cahill next.

Film Review – THE MAN FROM HONG KONG (1975)

THE MAN FROM HONG KONG British Quad poster George LazenbyTHE MAN FROM HONG KONG (Australia/Hong Kong, 1975) **½
      Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox (USA) / Rank Film Distributors (UK); Production Company: Golden Harvest Company / The Movie Company Pty. Ltd.; Release Date: 31 July 1975 (Hong Kong), August 1975 (USA), October 1975 (UK); Filming Dates: began October 1974; Running Time: 111m; Colour: Eastmancolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: 18.
      Director: Brian Trenchard-Smith; Writer: Brian Trenchard-Smith; Executive Producer: David Hannay, Andre Morgan; Producer: Raymond Chow, John Fraser; Associate Producer: Michael Falloon; Director of Photography: Russell Boyd; Music Composer: Noel Quinlan; Film Editor: Peter Cheung, Ron Williams; Production Designer: David Copping; Art Director: David Copping, Chin Sam; Costumes: Sheng-Hsi Chu, Bruce Finlayson; Make-up: Rina Hofmanis, Yung-Hui Tu; Sound: Shao-Lung Chou, Julian Ellingworth, Peter Fenton, Tomash Pokorry; Special Effects: Dan Tyler, Gary Walker, Li Wing; Visual Effects: Roger Cowland; Stunt Co-ordinator: Peter Armstrong; Martial Arts Choreographer: Sammo Kam-Bo Hung.
      Cast: Jimmy Wang Yu (Inspector Fang Sing Leng), George Lazenby (Jack Wilton), Hugh Keays-Byrne (Morrie Grosse), Roger Ward (Bob Taylor), Rosalind Speirs (Caroline Thorne), Grant Page (Assassin), Rebecca Gilling (Angelica), Frank Thring (Willard), Sammo Kam-Bo Hung (Win Chan (as Hung Kam Po)), Deryck Barnes (Veterinarian), Bill Hunter (Peterson), Ian Jamieson (The Drug Courier), Elaine Wong (Chinese Girl), John Orcsik (Charles), Geoffrey Brown (Thug (as Geoff Brown)), Kevin Broadribb (Thug), Brian Trenchard-Smith (Thug), Peter Armstrong (Bodyguard), Rangi Nikora (Bodyguard), Bob Hicks (Bodyguard).
      Synopsis: Hong Kong cop and martial artist Wang Yu travels to Sydney to extradite a drug dealer, but when the hood is assassinated on his way to court, everyone suspects Lazenby, an untouchable crime lord.
      Comment: In this martial arts action thriller, Wang Yu is a Hong Kong inspector working with the Australian police to bring down local drug lord Lazenby. Plenty of neatly choreographed cartoon-like kung fu action with fantastic stunts and some interesting camerawork liven up the this otherwise thinly plotted and poorly acted tale. Good use of Hong Kong, Ayres Rock and Sydney locations. Theme song “Sky High” became a hit for Jigsaw. Wang Yu was dubbed by Roy Chiao. Originally intended as a vehicle for Bruce Lee. US title: THE DRAGON FLIES.

Book Review – THE TWISTED THING (1966) by Mickey Spillane

THE TWISTED THING (1966) ****
by Mickey Spillane
This paperback edition published in The Mike Hammer Collection: Volume 3 by Obsidian, 2010, 178pp (524pp) with The Girl Hunters (1962) and The Snake (1964)
Introduction by Max Allan Collins
First published in hardcover by E.P. Dutton, 1962
ISBN: 978-0-451-23124-6
      Blurb: This is some household. The kid is a genius, the father a scientist of international repute. Money is a problem. Not a shortage of money, but the opposite: too much. The sort of money that brings the envious and the scheming clustering like flies around offal: nieces, nephews, cousins … a family of mean minds and gross appetites. The staff has its peculiarities, too: the chauffeur is an ex-con; the governess formerly a featured act in strip clubs from New York to Miami; and the secretary has a well-developed taste in other women. Yes, it’s some household – and not all that welcoming of PI Mike Hammer, not when the kid has been kidnapped and everyone’s a suspect.
      Comment: This ninth Mike Hammer novel from the pen of Mickey Spillane seems to hark back to the noir mystery thrillers of the 40s and 50s. There’s a reason for that. This was in fact the second Mike Hammer book Spillane wrote (after I, the Jury – published in 1947). It had initially been rejected by Spillane’s publisher who was looking for something tougher, more violent, sexy and vengeance-driven after the success of the first book. So, Spillane obliged with My Gun is Quick and shelved The Twisted Thing for 18 years.  It’s easy to see why the book was initially passed as it tends to blend into the more traditional field that surrounded it at the time. That said the book is not without its moments of violence and sex. The main difference is Hammer is less driven by vengeance and his two-fisted ways of obtaining his leads and works more as a detective in the Chandler or MacDonald mode. Indeed a softer side to his character is shown in his attachment to the kidnapped boy. As such, the book is refreshing with its complex kidnap/murder plot built around a large dysfunctional family and has distinct echoes of some of the classics of the genre. Excepting one or two fanciful advancements of the plot, Spillane keeps the reader engaged throughout and his writing is often impressive as Spillane sticks with the tried and tested first-person narrative until its twist ending. The setting is mostly a small town in New York state, so the change of environment also serves to freshen up the formula. One of the best of the later published Mike Hammer novels, this is worth seeking out.

Book Review – THE SNAKE (1964) by Mickey Spillane

THE SNAKE (1964) ***
by Mickey Spillane
This paperback edition published in The Mike Hammer Collection: Volume 3 by Obsidian, 2010, 158pp (524pp) with The Girl Hunters (1962) and The Twisted Thing (1966)
Introduction by Max Allan Collins
First published in hardcover by E.P. Dutton, 1962
ISBN: 978-0-451-23124-6
      Blurb: New York PI Mike Hammer has traced his lost love and secretary, Velda, who went missing seven years ago. In a race against time, Mike has to move her to another location, but she is sheltering a young woman who fears for her life. Finally safe once again, Hammer devotes his time to helping the young woman, who is being threatened by her stepfather. But as Hammer investigates some leads on the seedier side of town, he finds himself caught up in a three-decades-old mystery involving a great deal of money that’s gone missing. And just who is The Snake? Mike is going to have to figure that one out, or three lives – his, Velda’s and the girl’s – are in danger.
      Comment: Mickey Spillane had returned to his most famous creation, New York PI Mike Hammer, with 1962’s The Girl Hunters. In that book, we saw Hammer come out of a 7-year drinking bender when he learned his secretary and love Velda, who he had assumed dead, is still alive. That book ended before Hammer and Velda were reunited. The Snake picks up immediately where The Girl Hunters left off and pitches Hammer into a new case. Whilst rescuing Velda, Hammer also rescues a young blonde girl on the run from her stepfather, who is a high-moving politician. The girl believes her stepfather killed her mother. It becomes clear the case is linked to a robbery that took place more than 30 years earlier, which the girl’s father prosecuted as a DA. The Snake is a less successful novel than its predecessor and feels a little lacking in inspiration. The plot is familiar to genre fans in its exploration of themes around familial disharmony, trust, power and greed. Many of the plot progressions that lead Hammer to the eventual solution are incredibly contrived and coincidental. The “when will they” dilly-dallying between Hammer and Velda also becomes a little tiresome and irritating. That said it is a quick and easy read and will broadly entertain fans of thick-ear hard-boiled mysteries. Its lack of sophistication may hold it back from other stronger examples in the field, but there are moments when Spillane captures a rhythm with his prose that suggests a stronger book could have emerged if more time had been spent ironing out some of the plot difficulties which led to the writer taking the easy way out. The Snake sits in the lower rankings in the Mike Hammer bibliography but is a required read for those wanting to tie the outstanding threads from The Girl Hunters.

Film Review – THE GIRL HUNTERS (1963)

The Girl Hunters (1963) - The Stalking MoonTHE GIRL HUNTERS (UK, 1963) **½
      Distributor: Colorama Features (USA) / Twentieth Century Fox Film Company (UK); Production Company: Fellane; Release Date: 12 June 1963 (USA), 16 July 1964 (UK); Running Time: 98m; Colour: B&W; Sound Mix: Mono (Westrex Recording System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: Roy Rowland; Writer: Mickey Spillane, Robert Fellows, Roy Rowland (based on the novel by Mickey Spillane); Producer: Robert Fellows; Associate Producer: Charles Reynolds; Director of Photography: Kenneth Talbot; Music Composer: Philip Green; Film Editor: Sidney Stone; Art Director: Tony Inglis; Costumes: Rene Coke, Dan Millstein (Miss Eaton’s wardrobe); Make-up: Sidney Turner, Alice Holmes; Sound: Jim Roddan, Hugh Strain, Gerry Turner.
      Cast: Mickey Spillane (Mike Hammer), Lloyd Nolan (Federal Agent Arthur Rickerby), Shirley Eaton (Laura Knapp), Scott Peters (Police Captain Pat Chambers), Guy Kingsley Poynter (Dr. Larry Snyder), James Dyrenforth (Bayliss Henry), Charles Farrell (Joe Grissi), Kim Tracy (Nurse), Hy Gardner (Hy Gardner – the Columnist), Benny Lee (Nat Drutman), Murray Kash (Richie Cole), Bill Nagy (Georgie), Clive Endersby (Duck-Duck), Ricardo Montez (Skinny Guy), Larry Cross (Red Markham), Tony Arpino (Cab driver), Hal Galili (Bouncer), Nellie Hanham (Landlady), Robert Gallico (Dr. Leo Daniels), Michael Brennan (Policeman), Howard Greene (Policeman), Grant Holden (Policeman), Francis Napier (Detective), Larry Taylor (The Dragon).
      Synopsis: Legendary detective Mike Hammer has spent seven years in an alcoholic funk after the supposed death of his secretary, Velda. He is brought back to the land of the living by his old friendly enemy, police lieutenant Pat Chambers.
     Comment: Mickey Spillane plays his own literary creation, New York PI Mike Hammer, in this straight adaptation of his seventh Hammer novel. Here Hammer has been 7-years a drunken bum following the assumed death of his secretary Velda. When he is given hope Velda is still alive by a dying man, Hammer seeks to find the truth behind her disappearance and becomes embroiled in an espionage plot which puts him at the centre of the target for a professional killer. Eaton plays the widow of a US senator who was also involved in the plot and Nolan a government agent who has Hammer working to unravel the mystery. Made in the UK, art director Inglis does well to create authentic street scenes and sets. Spillane is stiff as Hammer and struggles to deliver his own dialogue with the tough intensity one imagines on the written page. Nolan is the movie’s bright spot along with Green’s mournful score. Like its source, the movie fails to close out the story and a sequel (an adaptation of Spillane’s follow-up novel The Snake) was intended but never shot. The tough-guy antics,  moody atmosphere and black-and-white photography suggest the movie belongs in another time – unfortunately its execution falls short of its ambition.

Book Review – THE GIRL HUNTERS (1962) by Mickey Spillane

THE GIRL HUNTERS (1962) ***½
by Mickey Spillane
This paperback edition published in The Mike Hammer Collection: Volume 3 by Obsidian, 2010, 171pp (524pp) with The Snake (1964) and The Twisted Thing (1966)
Introduction by Max Allan Collins
First published in hardcover by E.P. Dutton, 1962
ISBN: 978-0-451-23124-6
      Blurb: Seven years of hitting the hard stuff have taken it out of PI Mike Hammer. That’s how long it’s been since he gave his beloved secretary the job from which she never returned. Now he’s back with a vengeance. Velda is alive, if only he can reach her in time. But New York’s toughest investigator still has friends in the right places. And his long-neglected .45 is definitely one of those. Piecing together the puzzling deaths of a senator, a newsagent and an FBI man, Hammer finds the missing link in a murderous network of international spies. One that turns out to be Spillane’s kind of beauty – and who knows a good deal more than she should.
      Comment: There was a 10-year gap between Mickey Spillane’s sixth and seventh Mike Hammer novels (Kiss Me Deadly and The Girl Hunters).  During this period Spillane semi-retired from writing and had become a Jehovah’s Witness. The Girl Hunters addresses the absence of Mike Hammer novels during this period by introducing a plot element that has Hammer’s secretary Velda missing in action for the last seven years. Hammer believing her dead has turned to drink, lost his PI licence and his friendship with NYPD captain Pat Chambers. But when a dying man gives Hammer hope Velda is still alive, he sobers up and resolves to find her. The mystery elements are blended well as the dying man is linked to the murder of a US senator and these events, in turn, are linked to the case Hammer and Velda were working on before her disappearance. Meanwhile, Hammer has become involved with Laura, the senator’s widow. The plot may be fanciful with its mix of espionage and hit-men, but Spillane manages to keep the reader from dwelling on the absurdities and emboils us in Hammer’s search for Velda. Whilst the early passages are slow as we become re-acquainted with Hammer and learn of the nature of Velda’s disappearance, once this set-up has been explained the pace quickens and the action is tough, sexy and intriguing. The finale is pure Spillane and will satisfy his loyal fan base. Written with tough-guy dialogue and in a spare first-person narrative prose, Spillane hits his stride once more and would enter a second prolific phase of writing, which could have been written ten years earlier.  A year later the book was adapted into a movie, in which Spillane played his own creation.