BOOK OF THE DAY
THE LAST STAND
By Mickey Spillane
Hard Case Crime | $22.99
March 20, 2018
THE LAST STAND
Review by G. Robert Frazier
Mickey Spillane lives again! The grand master of mystery/pulp fiction and creator of private detective Mike Hammer may have passed away in 2006, but fans will be pleased to celebrate what would have been his 100th birthday on March 20 with a new novel. Billed as his final completed, unpublished novel, The Last Stand hits bookstores courtesy of Hard Case Crime.
While it’s not the gritty, in-your-face detective noir Spillane was famous for, and Hammer is absent from its pages, The Last Stand is nonetheless an entertaining adventure. The novel begins when pilot Joe Gillian’s BT-13A plane inexplicably loses power during an old-timer’s cross-country junket, forcing him to land in a desert somewhere in the U.S.
Joe’s arrival doesn’t go unnoticed, as Native American Sequoia Pete, abandoned by his own horse while searching for artifacts, comes upon him. Together, the men are forced to hike fifty miles back to Pete’s village where Joe hopes he’ll find help to get his plane airborne again. The men learn more about each other along the way: Pete’s not a very good Indian in the traditional sense, his sister has an engineering degree, and rattlesnake makes a decent dinner when there’s nothing else to be had.
But it’s the discovery of an unusual glass-like arrowhead of unknown substance and origin that provides the mystery, and impetus, for the remainder of the story. The shard draws the attention of both ruthless businessman Maxie Angelo and a cadre of federal agents, all of whom want the shard and any similar artifacts at any cost. Joe, meanwhile, has problems of his own as his attraction to Pete’s sister, Running Fox, draws the ire of jealous boyfriend Big Arms. All of the plotlines come to an action-packed finale filled with a wild airplane ride, explosions, guns, and, yes, rattlesnakes.
The adventure takes a lot of unexpected turns and Spillane weaves in a lot of threads in just a couple hundred pages, but that’s all part and parcel of Spillane’s brilliance. Combined with his trademark sharp dialogue and simple prose style, he keeps the tale moving at an entertaining clip.
For Spillane fans yearning for more traditional crime fare, The Last Stand includes the novelette “A Bullet for Satisfaction,” written early in his career. Reminiscent of early Hammer novels, Bullet involves a dishonored police detective gunning for justice against the mob and a corrupt police force.
Longtime Spillane collaborator and 2017 Killer Nashville guest of honor Max Allan Collins writes the introduction, recounting the origins of both stories for this centennial publication.