My tribute: One of my favourite writers, Mickey Spillane, has died. During his life, he graced us with some of the most gripping detective fiction ever produced. It started in 1947, when Spillane wrote the first of his Mike Hammer stories, I, THE JURY. Legend has it that it took barely two weeks to write and that most of it was hammered out on a typewriter in a tent where Spillane was living while his house was under construction. The novel immediately endeared itself to critics - most probably because of the high sex and violence content and especially because of the climax of the story where Mike Hammer, the hardboiled private eye, intentionally shoots the woman he loves in order to avenge the murder of a friend. That ending - so cynical, so sad, so perfect - goes, in part, like this: The critics hated him, but they never had the moxie to write that that ending has the stuff of immortality in it. So gripping it was that even the Pulitzer Prize winning American journalist David Halberstam replicated the ending in The Fifties, his book-length treatise on the decade that gave birth to rock and roll. I, THE JURY was followed by five more Mike Hammer stories in rapid succession, each of which was gobbled up by the public. Of course this did not endear him to the superstars of the literary world. Spillane even recalls being at a party somewhere when he was approached by some stuffy literary type who was incensed about how Spillane's work was affecting the public's reading habits. "I think it's disgraceful that of the 10 best-selling books of all time, seven were written by you," said the critics. Spillane's reply - which I'd like to think was delivered with a convival grin on his face - was this: "You're lucky I've only written seven books." That's Mickey for you. He had no sympathy for the writing snobs. "These bigshot writers could never dig the fact that there are more salted peanuts consumed than caviar," he said. "If the public likes you, you're good." Still, the neverending litany of bad reviews must have gotten to Spillane eventually. After publishing KISS ME, DEADLY in 1952, he didn't publish another Mike Hammer story until 1963's THE GIRL HUNTERS. Some readers have suggested that his conversion to the Jehovah's Witnesses may have discouraged him from churning out any more of the sex and violence that came to signify his stories. Certainly, the later Mike Hammer novels are tamer than the earlier ones and they are very tame compared to what you'll read in popular fiction today. To younger generations, the name of Mike Hammer is more famous than that of Mickey Spillane just as the name of James Bond is more famous than that of Ian Fleming. In the 1980s there was a popular Mike Hammer show on TV starring Stacy Keach. The show was a little more campy than Spillane's novels, but the ultraconservative spirit and the politically incorrect universe was still there. All the women in the show were gorgeous, had huge breasts, and were forever trying to get in bed with Mike. In one episode, a buxom young beauty is walking her dogs down the street when she passes Mike walking the other way. "Excuse me," she says to him. "But what do you think of my puppies." "They're not bad," Mike says. "And your dogs are pretty cute too." Later on, Mike will have a beer, beat up some bad guys, sleep with three different women, and kill a murderer. Now what guy wouldn't want to be Mike Hammer? What I like best about Mickey Spillane is his humility. More than any other writer, I think I could approach him and tell him that I admire his work and not have to worry that I'd have to qualify my statements. I bet Mickey would smile and tell me some of his funny stories - like the time Ernest Hemingway went into a restaurant in Miami and saw his picture next to Spillane's picture behind the bar and demanded that his picture not be placed side by side with such a literary pariah. The bartender obliged by taking Hemingway's picture down and tossing it away. Good ole Mick. He doesn't even like being called an author. That word is too pretentious for him. Writer, is fine. Another Spillane quote: "You'll never find a guy with a mustache or a guy drinking cognac in my books," he says. "That's because those are two words I don't know how to spell." That's funny, but I think that Spillane is actually telling us something a little deeper here. "I write about things that interest me," he seems to be saying. "I write at my level and I write about what I want." If the public likes me, great. But at least I go to bed at night knowing that I didn't try to be someone else." Now those are some words we can all take to heart.