A Fine Balance: Pulse Fiction Volume 1

pulse_fictionRemember audio cassettes and back when you used to make mix-tapes for all your friends? It was more than slapping your favourite songs on to a BASF C-90. It was walking a tight-rope; an intricate balancing act that took planning and patience. Did you start with a kick-ass rocker, or was it a soulful ballad that set the tone? If the song was too slow you’d kill the mood, or if you went too hard and fast early, the rest of the mix would seem flat. And what did you follow it with? Placement was equally as important as song selection. It was always about balance.

I have found that anthologies are a lot like mix-tapes. There are many anthologies out there in the marketplace, covering all genres – and I am guessing for the editors, balancing the stories within is a tough act. Even though the individual tales themselves maybe fantastic, placing them in the wrong order, or even in the wrong book, can make the reading experience a bit of a stop / start affair.

And that brings me to one of the reasons I am so proud to be a part of Bishop & Hancock’s Pulse Fiction. Having read it from cover to cover, I can say the balance is perfect. Not one of these six stories is out of place – and even though they are different genres they hang together cohesively, united by one common theme; that being – they are rattling good pulp adventure tales told with pace and flare.

The first story in Bishop & Hancock’s Pulse Fiction is The Insanitors by Barry Reese. Reese, the creator of the Rook and Lazarus Gray, is one of the shining lights of the New Pulp movement, and his action packed tale, The Insanitors provides more proof of his story-telling prowess. From first word to last the tale is a roller-coaster ride – taking the reader from Machu Picchu in Peru to the corridors of power in the White House. The hero of the piece is a man who calls himself Dr. Darkness, and aided by his daughter Lilly, he has to thwart the Insanitors, a group of half-breed demons intent on unleashing hell on earth.

The next story is The Honor of the Legion, by yours truly. I have talked about it quite a bit, both here and on social media, so I won’t rehash all that again, but as the title would imply it is a Foreign Legion adventure. The hero of the piece is Legionnaire, Mace Bullard – and since we’re all friends here, I’ll let you in on a little secret … Mace Bullard will return in a new blood-curdling action adventure called Sahara Six. I don’t know when it will be released, but I’ll let you know when details come to hand.

The third story in Bishop & Hancock’s Pulse Fiction Volume 1 is Never Enough Corpses by my Fight Card colleague, Brian Drake. This story is another cracking tale – harking back to The Saint, and other champagne heroes of the past. The hero of the piece is Daniel Redd, known as the Last Ace. Redd is a successful gambler with a taste for the finer things in life. But Redd is not a foppish dilettante. On the side, he also lends his assistance to those less fortunate than himself. In this instance, the damsel in distress who needs his help is Tori Heneghan – a woman caught in the middle of a blackmail scheme – and who has two goons on her tail trying to kill her.

Diamonds Are a Girl’s Worst Friend by Eric Beetner is the fourth tale. Set in Paris, in the early 1960s, and featuring Holly Lake – a slinky cat burglar – as the title may suggest, this tale is a classic diamond heist caper. I have read a few of Beetner’s other works, and generally they have been gritty and tough – often with a pitch black sense of humour. Diamonds shows another side of Beetner’s writing – delivering a sophisticated fast-paced romp that is equally entertaining as his darker work.

From the pen of one of Pulse Fiction’s creators, Tommy Hancock comes the western mystery The Man From Shadow Limb. The township of Shadow Limb is a hive of villainy and vice, that is, until a masked avenger arrives on the scene to clean up the town his way. This tense western tale is part whodunnit, so I won’t give too much away, but to say the story drips with atmosphere and I look forward to more adventures of the Man From Shadow Limb.

Last but not least, the final tale, Cry Blood, by D. Alan Lewis, features battered and bruised hard drinking P.I. Thomas Gunn – a Mike Hammer type character – who comes to the aid of a young woman whose family have been killed, and now mobsters are after her. Gunn sobers up and does his best to protect her as the body count around them rises. I reckon a lot of people are gonna love this one – it’s a great note to go out on.

As I have a story in this anthology, naturally I cannot be totally subjective, but in a collection like this, a story is only as good as the stories around it, and I’ve got to say the tales in Pulse Fiction are top rate. As you’ve probably gathered from the mini reviews above, the mandate for Pulse Fiction was to put together old fashioned tales in a new fashioned way. And to that end, I believe the individual authors, and editors Paul Bishop and Tommy Hancock, have succeeded admirably. Check this one out. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

A Fine Balance: Pulse Fiction Volume 1

Kiss Me Deadly (1955)

Country: United States
Director: Robert Aldrich
Starring: Ralph Meeker, Albert Dekker, Paul Stewart, Juano Hernandez, Wesley Addy, Marian Carr, Maxine Cooper, Cloris Leachman, Strother Martin, Jack Elam
Music: Frank DeVol
Song, ‘Rather Have the Blues’ performed by Nat ‘King’ Cole
Based on characters created by Mickey Spillane

Warning: this review contains adult content.

The other day I looked at The Long Goodbye, starring Elliott Gould as Raymond Chandler’s private eye, Philip Marlowe. It stirred up some interesting debate about the character, the book, and film noir itself. Following on, today, I thought I’d look at another iconic noir character, Mike Hammer – in the film, Kiss Me Deadly.

At a cursory glance, Philip Marlowe and Mike Hammer may seem like they are cut from the same cloth — but beyond the fact that they are both private investigators they are both very different and this is mainly due to the writing styles of Raymond Chandler and Mickey Spillane. Chandler is actually pretty classy and well-written even though it may not have seemed it in it’s day. Time has shown Chandler to be an expert craftsman, and his stories have a sweep and sense of vibrant colour about them. Philip Marlowe’s stomping ground is Los Angeles, and quite often Hollywood. During the course of one of Marlowe’s investigations the neon glow is scrutinised, and all is not quite what it appears on the surface. He is basically a good guy in a corrupt world, but he does his best to plod away and hopefully make a few things right.

Spillane’s Hammer stalks the streets of New York. Stalk is the right word, because Hammer is even more cynical than Marlowe, and rather more violent. Hammer is prepared to take the law into his own hands — exemplified by the fact that Spillane’s first Hammer story was titled I, The Jury. Hammer’s world is far more gritty, dirty and unpleasant.

Spillane too, I believe is a great writer, but he doesn’t capture atmosphere like Chandler. What he captures is pent up emotion, spilling over into rage. But he tells a rattling good yarn and you almost feel as battered and bruised as Hammer, once you finish and put down the book.

From the blurb of Vengeance is Mine (Corgi, 1973 paperback edition):

Mickey Spillane, one of the world’s top mystery story writers, is read in fourteen languages every minute of every day. Since I, The Jury was published in 1947, his books have sold more than 55,000,000 copies throughout the world. People like them.

The Mike Hammer stories aren’t spy stories – although the film version of Kiss Me Deadly and the 1982 version of I, The Jury do cross over into espionage territory. However Spillane had a shot of writing a three book series of spy novels featuring a character called Tiger Mann. Thanks to Jason at Spy Vibe, I have been able to read one of the books, Day of the Guns, and it may come as no surprise to Spillane fans that it reads incredibly similar to a Hammer novel.

From the back of the book:

Meet the NEW SUPERHERO of COUNTERESPIONAGE – sexy, deadly
TIGER MANN

He’s a lone wolf in a ruthless game. he’s a master spy and a paid killer.
He’s the tough superhero of MICKEY SPILLANE’s biggest, newest hit, DAY OF THE GUNS.

“Mickey Spillane moves from the private eye field into the realm of the international agent. His latest character, Tiger Mann, slugs, shoots and beds in true Spillane style and vies for attention with such established greats as James Bond.”

-Boston Herald

But I’ll save Tiger Mann for another day.

Kiss Me Deadly is considered a hard-boiled noir classic. Also due to the ending being altered, the film also has carried a wrap for being nihilistic and an overt statement on Cold War paranoia. I’ll let wikipedia explain the alternate ending – and how it effected the way the film was received and perceived:

The original American release of the film shows Hammer and Velda escaping from the burning house at the end, running into the ocean as the words “The End” come over them on the screen. Sometime after its first release, the ending was crudely altered on the film’s original negative, removing over a minute’s worth of shots where Hammer and Velda escape and superimposing the words “The End” over the burning house. This implied that Hammer and Velda perished in the atomic blaze, and was often interpreted to represent the End of the World. In 1997, the original conclusion was restored.

But as usual I am starting arse-about, and describing the ending first. Let’s go back to the beginning. As the film opens, a woman named Christina (Cloris Leachman) is running scared along the road, naked save for a trenchcoat. Desperately she tries to flag down passing motorists but nobody stops for her. Finally she runs out into the middle of the road and into the path of an oncoming vehicle. Luckily for her, the driver skids to a halt. Behind the wheel is Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker), who reluctantly gives the terrified woman a lift.

Further up the road a police roadblock has been setup. It appears they are searching for a woman in a trenchcoat who has escaped from a mental asylum. At the roadblock, Hammer passes Christina off as his wife and is allowed to pass.

As Hammer approaches a bus stop, where he has agreed to drop Christina off, so she can continue her journey alone, a car rushes out from the side and runs Hammer off the road. Hammer is rendered unconscious in the bingle. Both Hammer and Christina are taken to a house where Christina is tortured until she dies. Hammer, meanwhile has woken up but is drifting in and out of consciousness – only capturing snippets of images in his mind.

Now that Christine is dead, the hitherto unseen hoods now have no further use for Christine or Hammer, and they place them in Hammer’s car. Then they shunt the car off an embankment as if it had been a car accident. Somehow, Hammer survives.

Hammer wakes in hospital with his faithful secretary, Velda (Maxine Cooper) and detective Pat Murphy (Wesley Addy) by his side. (Isn’t it usually Pat Chambers?) Murphy maybe a cop, but he isn’t there to interrogate Hammer – not yet anyway! The two men are old friends. But once Hammer is released from hospital, he is dragged down to police headquarters to be interrogated by some big-shot cops out of Washington. Hammer may not be a rocket scientist, but it doesn’t take much to work out that when you get that kind of attention, something ‘big’ must be going down. And he wants his cut!

Later, Hammer goes to his mechanic to ask about the damage to his car. The mechanic says that it is a right off, and also says some tough guys had come around and were asking questions. Next Hammer goes home, and outside two men are watching his apartment from a car outside. Then Pat Murphy arrives to revoke Hammer’s PI licence and confiscate his gun. It appears that everybody thinks Hammer knows something – but he doesn’t know what? But he is determined to find out.

Of course, a movie like this twists and turns through set piece after set piece, and outlining the plot and all the characters is rather futile. But needless to say Kiss Me Deadly serves up a heady stew of violence and deception, with a tiny smattering of sex (certainly not as much as the poster art would have you believe).

Ralph Meeker’s performance as Mike Hammer is lauded as one of the great tough guy roles. However, I am of the generation that grew up watching Stacey Keach as Hammer on TV. So when I first saw this at a revival theatre in the late 1980s, Meeker seemed quite a brutish Hammer. He is certainly more self-centred (that is, out for number one) than Keach. But over the years, I have warmed to Meeker’s performance, and some of his mannerisms, such as the brutish grin, are now old friends. There’s a great scene were Hammer is being tailed by a hood, and when Hammer confronts him, the hood pulls a shiv. As Hammer whallops the punk, the grin on his face signifies just how much he enjoys dishing out punishment to those who deserve it.

Another familiar face in Kiss Me Deadly is Jack Elam. A rather young Jack Elam! Here he plays a two-bit hood, who is so scrawny that he looks like an oboe in a Hawaiian shirt – rather a long way from the crazy old men, I am used to seeing him play in films like Cannonball Run and Rio Lobo.

Then there is Albert Dekker who plays the villaim of the piece, Doctor Soberlin. It’s not a big role, but the shadow and the menace of Soberlin permeates every scene in the movie. On a different note, but strangely could come from the pages of a Mickey Spillane novel, is the strange and bizarre death of Dekker. It is still debated whether he was the victim of a robbery – allegedly some items were missing from his home – or if his death was the result of autoerotic asphyxiation. The gruesome scene, how Dekker was found, as described on the findadeath website:

Dekker was kneeling nude in the bathtub. A noose was around his neck but not tight enough to have strangled him. A scarf was tied over his eyes and a horse’s bit was in his mouth, fashioned from a rubber ball and metal wire, the bit had chain “reins” that were tightly tied beneath his head. Two leather straps were stretched between the leather belts that girded his neck and chest. A third belt, around his waist, was tied with a rope that stretched to his ankles, where it had been tied in some kind of timber hitch. The end of the rope, which continued up his side, wrapped around his wrist several times and was held in Dekker’s hand. Handcuffs clamped both wrists with a key attached. Written in red lipstick on his right buttock was the word, “whip.” Sunrays had also been drawn around his nipples. “Make me suck,” was written on his throat, and “slave,” and “cocksucker,” on his chest. On his stomach was drawn a vagina. He had apparently been dead for several days.

Well, yes, ahem …little to say on Dekker really. That kind of notoriety overshadows any contribution to cinematic art.

Kiss Me Deadly probably represents the best cinematic rendering of Mike Hammer — although I must confess there are a few Hammer films I haven’t seen – Biff Elliot’s I, The Jury, Robert Bray’s My Gun is Quick, and Rob Estes’ Come Die With Me. But Kiss Me Deadly is a film I return to, again and again! Va Va Voom!

Kiss Me Deadly (1955)

I, The Jury (1982)

Country: United States
Director:
Richard T. Heffron
Starring: Armand Assante, Barbara Carrera, Paul Sorvino, Alan King, Geoffrey Lewis, Laurene Landon, Justin Earney Scott
Music:
Bill Conti
Based on a story by Mickey Spillane

In the 80’s when this film first came out I thought it was one of the classic detective movies. I was going through a Philip Marlowe and Mike Hammer phase, and this film had everything a hormonal teenage boy could want: sex, violence, tough dialogue, and dead fish.

But time has moved on, and I have grown up (well, a bit anyway). Now I see I, The Jury for what it truly is – a B-grade action film that is so sleazy that it encroaches on being an exploitation picture. Not that that’s a bad thing, I just remember it as being slightly more classy. After all, this is the film, that in it’s trailer, promised Mike Hammer making love to a ‘gorgeous set of twins’. With advertising like that, how could I stay away?

For those who have never heard of I, The Jury, it features a hard-boiled detective named Mike Hammer, and is based on a novel by Mickey Spillane. Above I mentioned Raymond Chandler’s iconic detective, Philip Marlowe who is different to Hammer. Sure they are both hard asses, but Marlowe works in the candy coloured world of Los Angeles, and particularly Hollywood. His down-to-earth nature is always juxtaposed against the phoney façade of tinsel town. Hammer, on the other hand deals more with ‘underworld’ types. He’s a ‘crush your kidney with a crowbar’ kind of guy. Today, Spillane’s writing is often accused of being extremely right wing, bordering on fascism.

Of course, this isn’t the first time Mike Hammer has appeared on the screen. In fact I, The Jury was filmed once before in 1953, with Biff Elliot playing Hammer. Other popular Hammer films are the classic Kiss Me Deadly with Ralph Meeker, and The Girl Hunters which featured Spillane himself as Mike Hammer. The Girl Hunters also featured Shirley Eaton, the woman who’s image is indelibly etched into the minds of any boy who watched Goldfinger as a kid. Hammer has also turned up on television, first in the 50’s portrayed by Darren McGavin, and then later in the 80’s with Stacey Keach taking on the role.

But that’s enough background information about Hammer.

The film open with one of Hammer’s friends, Jack Williams (Frederic Downs), who happens to be a detective, being shot and killed. Williams was a Vietnam vet who lost an arm during the Tet Offensive. Hammer is called to the murder scene by Pat Chambers (Paul Sorvino). Chambers, who is a police detective, is also a friend of Hammer’s. In a very strange, creepy scene, Hammer is visibly upset at his friends death. Because he is so tough he isn’t about to cry, but he does pick up Williams prosthetic arm and cradle it. I think it is supposed to be an emotional moment, but like I said it is just plain creepy.

Naturally, Hammer wont leave it to the police to find his friends killer, and he starts poking around. It appears that Williams had been having sexual problems, and going to a private clinic to sort it out.

Hammer turns up at the clinic to see what goes on. The clinic is run by Dr. Charlotte Bennett (Barbara Carrera – who you may remember as the villainous Fatima Blush in Sean Connery’s Bond comeback movie Never Say Never Again). Carrera is the one thing this movie has going for it. She is beautiful. Her acting isn’t too convincing, but that doesn’t really matter.

It seems that this sex clinic has some thing to do with the dirty dealings of the CIA. And as Hammer continues to investigate, and gets closer to the truth, the story gets more convoluted and people start to die a bit more frequently. The CIA is an organisation that doesn’t like it’s secrets revealed to the greater community. To stop Hammer, and to tidy up the loose ends, the CIA have a hitman, Mr. Kendricks (Judson Scott). Kendricks is an absolute nutter, whose specialty is killing women. He dresses them up in red wigs and makes them tell him that they love him. The CIA send this nut job after Velda (Laurene Landon), Hammer’s secretary.

From the brief synopsis above you’ve probably gathered that I, The Jury is a pretty violent film. It also features quite a bit of nudity (in some prints anyway – The German print that I watched recently appears to be cut – much to my disappointment). I don’t mind the odd bit of nudity in a motion picture, but here it is presented in such a voyeuristic fashion, that some viewers may feel the need to take a bath after watching this film.

Armand Assante isn’t really a good choice for Mike Hammer. Sure, he can be a good actor (maybe not this film), but he doesn’t seem world weary. And he scrubs up too well in a suit. Everybody knows that Hammer can’t afford a decent suit.

The music by Bill Conti has dated badly. I am sure in 1982, when the film came out, that combining brassy jazz sounds with a contemporary beat didn’t sound too bad. The jazz elements almost work today, but the 80’s contemporary sound is cheesy and sleazy (much like the movie). Conti is a good composer; he did the theme from Rocky, but he does have a tendency to compose scores that only work around the vintage that the film was made. Another example is his score for the Bond film For Your Eyes Only which is very difficult to listen to today.

All in all, if you’re a fan of Mike Hammer or just have a perverse fascination with Barbara Carrera, then you’ll have to watch this film. If not and your after a good detective movie this isn’t the place to start. There are better, and I feel more faithful adaptations of Spillane’s source material.

I, The Jury (1982)

Song Bird (2003)

Mike HammerCountry: United States
Director:
Jonathan Winfrey
Starring:
Stacy Keach, Moira Walley, Shannon Whirry, Frank Stallone, Peter Jason, Kent Williams, Jack Sheldon
Music:

Based on characters created by Mickey Spillane

Song Bird is one of Stacy Keach’s later efforts as Mike Hammer. It was made after he’d got out of the Big House, after doing a six month stretch for cocaine possession. But by this time some of the magic had gone. Gone too is the gritty, hard boiled world of Hammer. In it’s place is a nice coat of polish. Somehow I feel that Mike Hammer shouldn’t be well lit and polished. It should be dark and dirty.

Although released as a DVD movie in 2003, this was actually a two part episode of the Mike Hammer: Private Eye series (1997-1998) – not to be confused with Keach’s other series, entitled Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer (1984-1987). Keach also did a few Hammer tele-movies, but I’ll ignore them for now – they’ll only confuse things.

The show starts of with a musical montage a Jazz Greats, like Satchmo, Ella Fitzgerald, and even Frank (Sinatra – not Stallone), floating through saxophones and neon treble clefs. Over the top, we get the voice over by Mike Hammer (Keach) who reminisces about the old days on 52nd Street – the clubs, the singers, and the scene. He is sitting in a smoky nightclub. Des Long and his Allstars are performing the old standard, ‘You Made Me Love You’. Out front, singing is Lila B (Moira Walley). The crowd loves her performance. After the number she leaves the club by the back entrance and meets her boyfriend Johnny Dive (Frank Stallone). Dive is a mobster and is wanted by the police. When he arrives, he hands Lila a gun and tells her to hide it for him. At that moment, three police cars, with lights-a-flashin’, and sirens-a-wailin’ race around the corner. Johnny pushes Lila into his car and she takes off. The police do not pursue her, as they are after Johnny. They stop and arrest him for possession of narcotics.

Back at the station, Johnny is being interrogated by Captain Skip Gleason (Peter Jason) and the D.A., Barry Lawrence (Kent Williams). For those who never caught any of this series when it was aired, Skip is the replacement for Pat Chambers (the cop who’s a friend to Hammer), and Lawrence is the over officious official who is always trying to revoke Hammer’s P.I. Licence. But here, they’re giving Johnny a hard time. They have a tape of one of Johnny’s deals. He is going down. But they give him an option – he can either go to prison for a long, long time, or he can rat on the local mob boss, Don Vito. Johnny reluctantly decides to turn.

Johnny gets a police ‘wire’ taped to his chest, and goes to the Napoli Restaurant for a meeting with Don Vito. Of course, it all goes horribly wrong. The ‘wire’ is discovered and the police have to rush in to the restaurant to rescue Johnny. This doesn’t work out so well either. The mobsters produce guns and a large scale shootout takes place. Despite all the bullets and the high body count, Don Vito manages to escape through on exit, and Johnny out of another. Johnny steals a car from the carpark and disappears.

So now the cops and the mob are after Johnny Dive. The mob think that the best way to get to him, is through Lila, but she cannot be found either. So the next link in the chain is Des Long (Jack Sheldon), the leader of the Jazz ensemble that Lila sings with.

The mob send a hitman to Long’s apartment. Long doesn’t know where Lila is and this doesn’t please the assassin. He is about to shoot Long, when there’s a knock on the door. It’s Mike Hammer, coming to collect Long for his performance later that night. Long yells out that Hammer should come back later with Betsy. Betsy is the name of Hammer’s gun. Hammer realises that something is wrong, and kicks open the door with his gun drawn. Then in slow motion he shoots the Mafia hitman, who flies back and falls out the window. Without knowing why or how, Hammer is now involved and has a case of sorts.

After the shooting, Hammer takes Long to the nightclub to perform. Long and his troupe play a few numbers. Later that evening Lila shows up to join them on stage. She sings one number, and then leaves the nightclub with the piano player. From outside, we hear two shots. Hammer and Long rush outside. A car takes off, and the piano player is lying dead on the ground. And of course, Lila is nowhere to be found. From here on the plot convolution spirals out of control.

Although extended to 80 minutes, Song Bird, while entertaining is not much different to your standard 40/45 minute episode. The padding comes courtesy of the Jazz sequences. As such, the success or failure of the show hangs on these scenes. When Jack Sheldon as Des Long is playing his trumpet, the mood is almost right – the club seems a little too bright, and there isn’t enough cigarette smoke – but hey that’s television. But what almost kills the show for me is Moira Walley as the titular Song Bird. She can hold a note, but not for a second do I believe that she is a goddess-like jazz chanteuse.

Song Bird is only for Mike Hammer completists. If you’re one, then step right up and enjoy this middling Hammer tale. For all others, for a jazz fix try Young Man With A Horn, and those in need of a detective fix should load up L.A. Confidential one more time.

Song Bird (2003)

Beautiful, Blue and Deadly (1958)

Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer: TV series (1958-1960)
Country:
United States
Director: Boris Sagal
Starring: Darren McGavin, Nita Talbot, Bart Burns, Robert Ellenstein, Tom Brown, Berry Kroeger

This incarnation of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer television series, ran for 78 episodes from 1958 till 1960. Of course, Stacey Keach starred in a series of the same name that ran from 1984 till 1985. This particular episode was the fourteenth in the series. With that kind of longevity, it must have been pretty popular in it’s day. If all the episodes were as solid and witty as this, then I don’t know why it’s not out there as a complete series on DVD. But hey, that’s not my decision. The blurb of the one video I have found extols the virtues of the series:

“This private-eye series was every bit as violent as the novels that made Mickey Spillane famous…

A typical plot had a man and woman thrown down a flight of stairs, a brutal fist fight, a knifing and a shooting, plus Hammer making what appeared to be a highly successful pass at a married woman…”

With a write up like that, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the series (or more correctly — to any episodes that I can find). This episode opens at Aikens Garage. Johnny Aikens is a fine mechanic (or so the voice over tells us). Mike Hammer (Darren McGavin) always takes his car to Aikens Garage for repairs.

As Aikens and Hammer are old friends, they spend a bit of time chatting in the office. Aikens says how he is keen to get his hands on a 1956 sports model Jag. The previous day, a gentleman called Arthur Phister came to the garage and said he would pay top money for a car that was exactly as he wanted. That is a baby blue 1956 sports model Jag, with white wall tyres, and a rear tyre rack.

At that moment a dame, Susan Reed (Nita Talbot) drives into the garage, driving just such a vehicle, and wishing to sell. Aikens cannot believe his luck.

Now Hammer has been around the block a few times and knows all the confidence tricks. He’s seen this one before. He quickly realises that Susan and Phister are working together. They have figured that if Aikens believed he had a buyer who was ready and waiting, he bump up the price he’d pay. But they haven’t counted on Hammer’s intervention.

Oh well, their scheme had failed, but Susan needs to sell the car. You see, she was just widowed a few weeks previously, and she needs the dividend from the vehicle’s sale to simply get by.

After the sale is complete Aikens and Hammer check the car over. They are surprised to find blood stains on the floor and a couple of bullet holes in the back seat. Hammer doesn’t waste any time and calls in his best friend Pat Chamber (Bart Burns).

Chambers arrives and examines the car, but it doesn’t require much examining. It had been impounded for the last four weeks after Harry Reed – Susan’s dead husband – had been shot after returning home one evening. The car had been returned to Susan the previous day, and it is perfectly legal for her to sell it. No mystery so far, so Hammer leaves the garage, but promises to return later in the day to collect his car.

Meanwhile Oliver Lynch, Harry Reed’s silent partner has tracked down Susan. He wants the car. As she doesn’t have it any more, she points him in the direction of the garage.

Lynch arrives at the garage an claims to be a friend and wants to buy the car. Aikens shows him the vehicle, but then is distracted by a phone call. Left alone Lynch starts tearing the car apart, frantically searching for something hidden inside. Aikens finishes the call, and returns to Lynch. He is dismayed to see the damage Lynch is doing and tries to prevent it. For his trouble, Lynch hits him over the back of the head with a monkey wrench.

I could go on, but you get the idea. The episode has a few more good wisecracks, a couple of shootouts, and two fist fights – all this squeezed inside a thirty minute package.

As I mentioned at the top, I don’t know if all the episodes are like this, but if they are, then if you are a Mike Hammer fan, this series is one that is worth checking out.

Beautiful, Blue and Deadly (1958)