- Category : Writers-Detective-Mystery
- Type : ME
- Profile : 1/4 - Investigating / Opportunist
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Rulership 1
American writer who began selling his stories in 1935 to slick and pulp magazines. In 1947 he published "I, The Jury" the first of the Mike Hammer, tough-guy private eye series that made him one of the best-selling and best-paid novelists in the 1950s. He also did TV Miller Lite Beer commercials for 16 years.
Spillane was the only child of John Joseph "Jack" and Ann Spillane. Shortly after his birth the family moved to Elizabeth, NJ, where his dad worked in the hardware business and later joined Merck chemicals. Always an avid reader, Spillane finished the works of Alexandre Dumas by the time he was 13. In high school he was a pugnacious jock, as freestyle swimmer and football quarterback and halfback. At the end of his junior year his family moved back to Brooklyn where his dad opened a bar. Spillane hated the move to the city but the gritty underbelly of Brooklyn provided the perfect setting for his stories.
When he was 17 he sent his first script, a "Blue Bolt" comic book story to an agency called Funnies Inc., which accepted it. Despite this early success as a writer, he planned to study law, and after high school he spent three years at Fort Hays State University in Kansas. The attack on Pearl Harbor ended his legal ambition, and he became an aviation cadet, winning his wings and gold bars. Spillane made 313 parachute jumps and logged in 11,000 hours as a pilot. He proved so adept a fighter pilot that he won an assignment as an instructor for the duration of the war. There in Greenwood, MS, he met Mary Ann Pearce, a secretary on the base.
In 1945 they married and moved to Newburgh, NY where he went back to comic-book writing. He earned enough money to buy some land but couldn't afford a dwelling to go with it. Forced to live in a tent that first summer and fall, he wrote a private-eye novel in 1946 in hopes of raising the necessary $1,000 to add a house. The book, published in 1947 was "I, The Jury," where he introduced tough guy Mike Hammer. It sold eight million copies, more than enough to move from tent to home. Six more books followed in five years. During the 1950s he became a professional diver, drove racing cars and once toured with Ringling Bros. as a trampoline artist.
Despite his many athletic and adventurous interests, he was a writer and a prolific one at that, with over 25 books to his credit. He produced a chapter a day when the mood was right, not taking time to re-write. "Agonizing is for authors, not writers," he explained, making a clear distinction between the two, emphasizing that writers like him wrote to make money. In 1963 Spillane expanded his repertoire with an acting stint, playing Mike Hammer in the film "The Girl Hunters." Although some of his Mike Hammer books were made into films, they never enjoyed the success of his novels. Two of his most improbable readers were Ayn Rand, who was a good friend and a big fan, and "Miss Lillian" Carter, mother of former President Jimmy Carter. Despite his macho touch-guy image, he collected Blue Willow china and read widely and enthusiastically, especially history.
Spillane was the child of a Catholic father and Protestant mother, raised in neither religion. In 1951, he became a Jehovah's Witness. He and his first wife had four kids: Kathy born in 1948, Ward in 1949, Michael in 1953 and Caroline in 1956. The couple moved to Murrells Inlet, SC in 1954 as Spillane considered himself a "country boy." They divorced in 1962, and he married Sherri Malinou three years later, but that marriage too ended in divorce in 1983. Claiming he hid his potential earnings from her and asserting that she wanted half of everything, Malinou took him to court to increase the $20,000 settlement she got in the divorce. After hearing mud-slinging testimony, the judge turned down her request. On October 31, 1984, Spillane married his third wife, Jane Rogers Johnson, 28 years younger than he. Jane had two daughters, Lisa and Britt, from her previous marriage.
In addition to turning out books, Spillane worked as an unsalaried writing teacher at various colleges where he told his students "No matter how you slice it, the criterion of how good you are is how much money you make." Although his novels have sold more than 140 million copies, he made no lofty claims about the literary merits of his work. He nevertheless earned several awards: a Junior Literary Guild Award in 1979; a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1983, and short story award in 1990, both from Private Eye Writers of America; and, in 1995, a Grand Master Award presented by the Mystery Writers of America.
In 1989, Spillane witnessed extensive hurricane damage to his beloved home in South Carolina. He had lived long enough to have seen many of his works go out of print and to see many reprinted. He continued to write, publishing his last novel at age 85, "Something's Down There" (2003). Mickey Spillane died at age 88 on July 17, 2006 at his home in Murrells Inlet, SC.