When Mike Hammer Prowls The Slumming Streets Of LA Town-With The Film Adaptation of Mickey Spillane’s “Kiss Me Deadly” In Mind
By Social Critic Donald MacDonald
“Don’t let anybody tell, anybody from LA, Los Angeles which what we who were actually born call our town out of respect, anyhow tell you that my man, my lover, my boss Mike Hammer isn’t the straightest daddy who ever put on shoe leather.” Those words from Mike’s long time “secretary,” confidante, bait and whatever else Mike Hammer needed on either side of the satin sheets Velma, Velma Proust which is as a good a name as any to call her since under Mike’s expert guidance she had assumed many names in their little bait and switch divorce case work. See Mike had been for those who have been on some other planet for the last fifty years or so the max daddy private investigator in LA, bar none back in the 1950s when such professionals were worth their salt before they all got boggled up with high technology gadgetry and the professional lost it high-end soul. Mike’s specialty, very profitable specialty, taking whichever side paid the most in divorce cases where adultery was the hook to freedom day. Adultery being the most common but mostly the only way to get a fucking divorce before in those marriage forever bullshit days. And Velma, luscious Velma, who could make a dead man rise from his condition was the bait on the male side, the opposite as a rule of his clients who were mainly women who were to gain by the alimony settlement and thus produced nice numbers for the operation.
Velma continued, “I don’t give a fuck about all that noise about Mike screwing every available dame, meaning every dame, in LA just for the sake of doing the deed. When the deal went down, when it looked like curtains for both of us, my daddy only had thoughts of me, me and the danger I was in. You might have remembered the Albert case, the case where a guy was trying to steal our, America’s, atomic secrets, weapons too for some third party, probably the Russian red bastards and my daddy had to step in and save me, and America. No, it was not the case of those goddam commies, the ones they put in the big step off ‘lectric chairs in New York, those Uncle Joe red bastards the Rosenbergs or whatever their names were, Jews though too. This was about Carl Albert the big art dealer who somehow figured that one big atomic score was worth ten million silly commissions for art’s sake. By the way I might as well tell you right now in case I forget to tell after I tell you my daddy’s off-hand heroics just so all you girls out there know the night my daddy saved me I showed him the best time he ever had, played the flute for him all night until he cried “uncle.” So even if he messes around sometimes like all virile men do you know he has my brand on him, has me deep inside him.
“The case was kind of strange from the get-go. Mike, my daddy, I will probably call him both and maybe a couple of times “that bastard” when he is lifting some other girl’s skirt was coming down the Pacific Coast Highway one night late from up in Monterrey where he had just scored on a big settlement for the wife of Harry Brant, yeah, that Brant, the one rolling in brewery dough who was so easy for me to pick up and get between the sheets that for once I felt sorry for a sucker. I offered after Mike got his nasty photographs of me going down on Harry to do him again I was so sorry for him. He turned me down flat but the offer still holds if he ever gets down Los Angeles way. Mike had also scored some serious “tea” so we could get high as kites when he got back into town.
“Problem was he never got back that night, at least not in one piece. The way he told the story which at the time I found hard to believe but which later events proved to be true, even if not every bit of the truth came out of his beautiful two-timing mouth. As he was cruising down the ocean fresh highway some blonde dish, Cloris something, maybe Leachman, a Texas place of birth on her death certificate who turned out to have no clothes on under her raincoat stopped him in the middle of the road and gave him a story about how she had been held in Encino, in some funny farm for flipped out drug addicts and hard to handle dames whose husbands have them locked up and the key thrown away so they can go play daddy with some less hard to handle honey.
“Mike was non-plussed by her story, thought she was crazy and was going to let her off at her request at the Greyhound Bus Station over in the Bunker Hill section of Los Angeles. Her story was that she was being held at the funny farm because she knew too much, knew about some secret stuff that would blow the lid off of the town if it ever got out. Knew the players and the bad guys as well. Turned out she was not bullshitting Mike because before they got within a mile of that bus station they were cut off by some bad guys and taken out in the desert and beaten for information. Cloris wouldn’t talk so she took the big kiss-off and Mike didn’t know a damn thing so before the night was out Mike, this Cloris, and Mike’s beautiful car were found in an arroyo. Cloris long dead, the car totaled and Mike all big wounds and broken ego.
“That broken ego part would not last for long because as Mike said no self-respecting private eye could let it go for professional reasons. He always would bring up the famous, maybe infamous, Miles Archer case where he took the big step-off from some dizzy dame up in Frisco and it was touch and go whether his partner, Sam, Sam Spade, was going to avenge his death or go along with the dizzy dame. Sam set the gold standard for P.I.s on that one when he turned the frill over and didn’t think twice about whether she would fry or not after she had led him a merry chase and had been the one who had actually pulled the trigger on skirt-crazy Miles. He said he would cry some tears on lonely winter nights over her but would get over it, get over it fast I figured. I often wondered whether Mike would feel the same way, move on fast if something happened to me but now I know that my daddy would cry real tears and that makes me feel good-and kind of horny.
“Naturally Mike had to find out more about this Cloris, where she lived, who she was connected with. You know the ABCs that every serious P.I. figures out along the way-or gets bounced more often than not. Mike doesn’t mind tangling with bad guys but he is a sucker for even bad dames and that held him back for a while. Seems this Cloris lived in Los Angeles, in that Bunker Hill section of town, run down with whorehouses, strip joints and B-girl lure low-life bars complete with con artists and an occasional hipster who wanted to get kicks, dope or whatever else he or she might be into. I had a short time job at Eddie’s Bar, a famous hang-out for hipsters but I left shortly thereafter because as much as I like kicks just like the next girl the scene was too weird for me. I went over to Santa Monica near the pier working at The Grille where I picked Mike up one night and he took me out of that life-and put me in this crazy gumshoe life as it turned out.
“This Cloris had a roommate, or who claimed to be her roommate, Gabby, who turned out to be the bad girl that Mike got caught up with before he found out who she really was, found out she was working for a guy named Sobern, Sobel something like that we never did find out his real name until after the fire when it came out Albert. Her play was to get Mike to protect her from the same bad guys as were after Cloris. She played Mike like a fiddle, he says no but I am sure she took him under the sheets before he consummated the contract, the job. The whole caper involved finding this small box that was supposed to be valuable and would put whoever had possession of it on easy street. Mike figured it was worth a shot and maybe he would get some serious dough for once without having to dirty his (and my) hands with low-rent dirty pictures in a divorce proceeding. To me it sounded like the same bullshit that Mary, Mary Astor I think her name was, threw at Sam Spade about a valuable bird, maybe a falcon, that was just there for the plucking.
“This Gabby (and Sobel too) thought Cloris had given the box to Mike while she was in the car or at some point so Mike became a central target for the bad guys to follow. Eventually they got tired of following Mike and they picked me up, kidnapped me and took me to a beach house up near Malibu. That got my daddy’s attention alright, got how he felt about me straight for once in his crooked life. He found the small box in some gym locker but before he could do anything about it somebody, one of the bad guys grabbed it. So before the end the small box and I were in the same beach-house. One night Mike tailed Gabby there and that was that that. Well not quite. It seems that Gabby had as big eyes for the easy street as Sobel and she tried to get the damn thing away from him. What she didn’t know, maybe Sobel either, was the thing was radioactive, was a small sample of what any government, any rich individual would pay plenty for to have such power.
“The problem was that if anybody opened the box fully the damn thing would ignite. That is what happened when Gabby and Sobel were wrestling for control. The house began to burn, burn fast. My daddy yelled his head off to find where they had stashed me and he eventually found me. Found me and we ran like crazy away from that blazing inferno. I already told you what I did for my daddy that night. But you know I still wonder about that Gabby, about what she did to get Mike to do her dirty work for her. Maybe I will ask him someday, yeah, maybe.