When Mike Hammer returns to New York after a Florida vacation that never quite took, it’s to attend the funeral of an old friend: Bill Doolan, a legend in the police force and a mentor to half the powerful men in the Big Apple, including, naturally, Mike himself. Doolan, who’d recently learned he had terminal cancer and was heading into the really painful months, shot himself in the heart—at least, that’s the official story. But Mike isn’t buying it, because Doolan wasn’t the sort to kill himself. And when he stumbles over a woman’s corpse on the way back from Doolan’s wake, Mike decides something big is going down. Which is just the way he likes it, no matter how much he might protest otherwise. It means plenty of babes to pick up, plenty of bad guys to shoot at, and not many questions about who’s doing the shooting.
It’s no surprise that Kiss Her Goodbye—the fourth unfinished Mickey Spillane manuscript to be completed by crime writer Max Allan Collins—is a ridiculous book. Hell, Mike Hammer is ridiculous. A two-fisted, porkpie-hat wearing, chauvinist-and-proud-of-it Neanderthal, Hammer strides through the streets and back alleys of New York like an ape in the jungle, bashing in heads and screwing dames without wondering much about the reasons for either. The mystery in Kiss Her Goodbye isn’t terrible, but Hammer goes to work solving it by first deciding who’s guilty, then finding evidence to support his assumptions. That isn’t even the most ridiculous part. What makes Goodbye risible isn’t just its hero’s blind arrogance, but the way the world he inhabits shapes itself to support that arrogance. It’s not that Mike Hammer wants to screw every woman he meets, it’s that every woman he meets desperately wants to screw him.
The brute determinism and leering is consistent throughout, and Goodbye would’ve benefited a lot from acknowledging this somehow, instead of going through page after page of characters complimenting Mike on just how amazing he is. But for readers who can overlook the silliness, the novel is entertaining for what it is, and again proof of how well Max Allan Collins has managed to mimic Spillane’s style. The plot combines two unfinished Spillane manuscripts, and while some elements are underdeveloped, the narrative momentum never flags. Mike Hammer is never going to grow up or get wise, in spite of the occasional moments of melancholy he experiences when seeing how much his city has changed, and stories about him will always deliver what they’ve always delivered. That’s part of his (very limited) charm.