Born in Brooklyn, New York City, and raised in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Spillane was the only child of his Irish bartender father, John Joseph Spillane, and his Scottish mother, Catherine Anne. Mickey Spillane attended Erasmus Hall High School, graduating in 1935. He started writing while in high school, briefly attended Fort Hays State College in Kansas and worked a variety of jobs, including summers as a lifeguard at Breezy Point, Queens, and a period as a trampoline artist for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. During World War II Spillane enlisted in the Army Air Corps, becoming a fighter pilot and a flight instructor. While flying over Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, he said, “That is where I want to live.” Later, he would use his celebrity status to publicize the Grand Strand on TV, but when it became a popular resort area and traffic became a problem, Spillane said, “I shouldn’t have told people about it.” He was an active Jehovah’s Witness. Mickey and Mary Ann Spillane had four children (Caroline, Kathy, Michael, Ward), and their marriage ended in 1962. In November 1965, he married his second wife, nightclub singer Sherri Malinou. After that marriage ended in divorce (and a lawsuit) in 1983, Spillane shared his waterfront house in Murrells Inlet with his third wife, Jane Rogers Johnson, whom he married in October 1983, and her two daughters (Jennifer and Margaret Johnson). In the 1960s, Spillane became a friend of the novelist Ayn Rand. Despite their apparent differences, Rand admired Spillane’s literary style, and Spillane became, as he described it, a “fan” of Rand’s work. In 1989, Hurricane Hugo ravaged his Murrells Inlet house to such a degree it had to be almost entirely reconstructed. A television interview showed Spillane standing in the ruins of his house.
Mickey Spillane joined the United States Army Air Forces on December 8, 1941, the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. In the mid-1940s he was stationed as a flight instructor in Greenwood, Mississippi, where he met and married Mary Ann Pearce in 1945. The couple wanted to buy a country house in the town of Newburgh, New York, 60 miles north of New York City, so Spillane decided to boost his bank account by writing a novel. In 19 days he wrote I, the Jury. At the suggestion of Ray Gill, he sent it to E. P. Dutton. With the combined total of the 1947 hardcover and the Signet paperback (December 1948), I, the Jury sold six and a half million copies in the United States alone. I, the Jury introduced Spillane’s most famous character, hardboiled detective Mike Hammer. Although tame by current standards, his novels featured more sex than competing titles, and the violence was more overt than the usual detective story. An early version of Spillane’s Mike Hammer character, called Mike Danger, was submitted in a script for a detective-themed comic book. ” ‘Mike Hammer originally started out to be a comic book. I was gonna have a Mike Danger comic book,’ [Spillane] said in a 1984 interview.” Two Mike Danger comic-book stories were published in 1954 without Spillane’s knowledge, as well as one featuring Mike Lancer (1942). These were published with other material in “Byline: Mickey Spillane,” edited by Max Allan Collins and Lynn F. Myers, Jr. (Crippen & Landru publishers, 2004).
The Signet paperbacks displayed dramatic front cover illustrations. Lou Kimmel did the cover paintings for My Gun Is Quick, Vengeance Is Mine, One Lonely Night and The Long Wait. The cover art for Kiss Me, Deadly was by James Meese. He received an Edgar Allan Poe Grand Master Award in 1995. Spillane’s novels went out of print, but in 2001, the New American Library began reissuing them. Spillane died July 17, 2006 at his home in Murrells Inlet, of pancreatic carcinoma. After his death, his friend and literary executor, Max Allan Collins, began the task of editing and completing Spillane’s unpublished typescripts, beginning with a Mike Hammer novel, The Goliath Bone (2008). In July 2011, the town of Murrells Inlet named U.S 17 Business the “Mickey Spillane Waterfront 17 Highway.” The proposal first passed the Georgetown County Council in 2006 while Spillane was still alive, but the South Carolina General Assembly rejected the plan then. He is survived by his wife, Jane Spillane.
- March, 09, 1918
- Brooklyn, New York
- July, 17, 2006
- Murrells Inlet, South Carolina
Cause of Death
- pancreatic carcinoma