August 11, 2014

A Dirty World Full of Dirty People




I’m a longtime John D. MacDonald fan, honestly still in awe of the quality of his prodigious output. Years ago, coming out of a lengthy Travis McGee bender, I read The Red Hot Typewriter: The Life and Times of John D. MacDonald by Hugh Merrill.


Starting at the bottom of page 71, Merrill reprints a funny spoof of Mickey Spillane that JDM sent Dick Carroll, his editor at Gold Medal, following their publication of The Brass Cupcake:


"It was one of those afternoons when the greasy sunshine flooded Third Avenue like a men’s room with a broken john. She came out of the alley lapping at her juicy red lips with her pointed spicy tongue.


I shouldered her out of the way and blew the smoke off of the end of the rod. He lay there in the alley and he was dead. I don’t know why I did it but I aimed at him and blew off the other half of his greasy skull. It was a dirty world full of dirty people and I was sick of it. I felt the crazy anger welling up in me. He lay there in the alley and he was dead. She rubbed her thorax against me. I blasted his teeth out through the back of his neck.


Pat shouldered her out of the way. He was picking his greasy teeth with a broken match. A smart cop, that Pat.


'I knew you was going to go kill crazy again, Mike. This has got to stop.'


I knew it couldn’t stop. Not while there were people left in the world. Dirty people in a dirty world. I had to kill all that I could. Even if they lifted my license. He lay there in the greasy alley in the greasy Third Avenue sunshine and he was dead and I was glad I’d shot his greasy skull apart.


'Mike, Mike,' she gasped, stabbing her tongue into my ear. It tickled.


I fingered her haunch, then shoved her away hard. She looked at me with those wide, spicy hot eyes.


'You haven’t fooled me a bit,' I rasped. Then I laughed. My laugh sounded like two Buicks rubbing together.


She knew what I meant. She said, 'Look what I can give you, Mike.' She unlatched her Maidenform.


I looked at it. I felt the sadness, the regret. But the anger was there. Pat sucked on the greasy match. He turned his head. He was a good cop.


The first shot nailed her against the alley wall. While she was slipping, her eyes still pleading with me, I wrote my initials across her gut with hot lead. It was tricky shooting.


Pat sighed. He said, 'Mike, the D.A.’ll have something to say about this.'


'Screw the D.A.,' I said. My voice sounded like a lead nickel in a stone jukebox.


We walked out of the alley, down through the soggy sunshine. Somehow, I felt very tired."


See. It’s funny, right? I thought so then, and still think so now. Though it's also a little sad that the genre is still overrun with prose and thought that still amounts to: “a dirty world full of dirty people…”

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