In the literary world, there are few authors who were as upfront and hard knock as Mickey Spillane. Accused of glorifying sex and violence, and promoting misogyny, Spillane never backed down too easy. However, despite his outward style, he was a sensitive, kind storyteller. The reason I bring all of this up is The Consummata, the latest book from the mind of Spillane, releases this Tuesday, October 4th, 2011. Abandoned in the late 1960’s when Spillane had a disappointing experience on the movie adaptation of his novel The Delta Factor, he bequeathed his unfinished manuscripts to his friend since the early 1980’s, the prolific and stylish Max Allan Collins. Collins is perhaps most famous for his story Road To Perdition, which was turned into a major motion picture starring Tom Hanks, but in the literary world he is known for his hard boiled characters Nathan Heller, Nolan, Quarry, and Mallory, as well as serving as a long time writer of the Dick Tracy comics.
Upon Spillane’s death, Collins revisited these manuscripts that were left to him, and The Consummata is the direct sequel to The Delta Factor, and only the second book featuring Morgan the Raider, espionage pirate. Directly concerning the events of The Delta Factor, The Consummata features an exhausted and alone Morgan, although anyone that knows anything about Morgan knows he’s never down and out, no matter how bad the situation. At the beginning of the book, Morgan finds himself in Miami, being hunted by Walter Crowely and his team, for a $40 million heist Morgan insists he had nothing to do with.
Finding quick allies among the heavy Cuban community of Little Havana in Miami, he is hidden by a man named Pedro, who, like many of the Cubans, view Morgan as a hero for what they percieve to be Robin Hood-esque actions in his dealings with big government. Morgan doesn’t feel the admiration is warranted, but he needs the help, so he’s willing to take it in stride. When Pedro asks for his help along with community elder Louis Saladar. They ask him his advice in tracking down the dangerous Jaime Halaquez, who has misappropriated the community’s treasury fund and run off.
Despite his status as a wanted federal fugitive, Morgan agrees to help, reasoning that they won’t be looking for someone that is out looking for someone else. He hears of the legendary Consummata, a dominatrix of mythic proportions, and knows that Halaquez’ dark fantasies won’t allow him to stay away from the Consummata.
Along the way, Morgan runs into his wife, the CIA agent Kim Stacy, who he married on a cover assignment before everything fell apart on his last mission. One of the few that believes Morgan is innocent, Kim helps him concoct a plan to catch Jaime Halaquez, and make a deal with Crowley and the government at the same time.
Fast paced and gritty, Collins manages to not merely mimic Spillane, he dutifully finishes the story as it was intended to be written, whether he knew the ending or not. Everything here is classic Spillane, from the tough female characters of Gaita, Morgan’s Cuban exile aid, Bunny, his friend that runs a brothel, and Kim, his wife, the woman that seems to not only keep pace with Morgan, but outdo him on many levels.
Written very much with sympathy toward the true victim’s of Castro’s Cuba, the Cuban exiles who can’t find a place even in the US. Like Morgan, they are outsiders to the system, untrusting to everything but their own code. Which is why Morgan gets along with them, and ultimately agrees to help them. He sees put-upon people and wants to help. Their ego stroking doesn’t hurt matters either.
Equipped with the brutal violence that made Spillane’s work exceptionally different from his contemporaries, the subject matter may have been taboo at the time of writing, but today a lot of the sexual elements are quite tame. However, this doesn’t prevent the book from being a visceral experience, with the plot constantly rocketing forward at a breakneck pace. This experience is a uniquely Spillane one, the style and language remains very true to the time period in which it was written. This is not an homage to pulp novels, this is the true blue real thing. Max Allan Collins has finished one of the lost works of a pulp master, and it’s an invigorating experience to know that without his talents, this would have remained a lost Spillane book.