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Essay about The Secret of Mike Hammer

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What are the attributes of a hard-boiled detective? Apart from his "uniform", including a hat, a gun and a tough attitude, he smokes and drinks. A lot. Mike Hammer, the hero of Mickey Spillane, is the embodiment of this concept. At least in his third novel, Vengeance is Mine, published in 1950. The reader will have a hard time if he decides to start searching for a page without a line referring to smoking. This might seem odd for us living in 2011 when we hear all the time that cigarette is lethal and should be banned everywhere. In the 1950s though, tobacco advertising was flourishing and it was not a bad thing if a novel was like a 176 page long advertisement for cigarettes. The audience's taste changes however, and even nuances, like the habits of the main character, can be important enough. Particularly, if the writer's only aim is to get his paycheck which depends on the fact whether he can please his audience. The bottom line is, if smoking is not the trend anymore, because it is dangerous and its advertising is banned in certain states, then the protagonist does not smoke. In Mickey Spillane's The Killing Man Mike Hammer quit smoking, he still drinks though, as we still can see liqour advertisements.
This might be a little difference between the two books, but it is pretty obvious and it shows how the transformations of our world shaped a fictional one. Even if these books share the same genre, hero, some minor characters and a few twist in the plot, they still depict two different worlds. Besides the smoking there are a few other topics of differences, like use of language, pace and violence.
In Vengeance is Mine Mike Hammer keeps his exclamative words for himself and we can read nothing but "nuts", "swore to mysel...


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... drinks all the time, punches anyone in the face, shoots bad guys and gets every woman even if he is the biggest misogyn of the world. In Vengeance is Mine Mike Hammer makes violence to women casual by smacking Connie across the mouth hard and she wants him even more than before. What is his secret? He is popular because he is what we do not dare to be and every time we start a novel featuring him as the hero we know that in the end he will get everything done.


Works Cited

1.Spillane, Mickey: Vengeance is Mine, The New American Library, Inc., 1950
2.Spillane, Mickey: The Killing Man, Penguin Books USA Inc., 1989
3.Walle, Alf H.: Hack writing vs. belle letters: the strategic implications of literary achievement, Journal of Popular Culture, Blackwell Publishers Ltd., 1996
4.Palmer, Jerry: Thrillers: Genesis and Structure of a Popular Genre, Hodder Arnold H&S 1978


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