The author and the mobster
The Times received some puzzled inquires about the article in Sunday’s National Briefing column headlined “Son of Mobster Spillane Dies.” The piece reported the death of Robert Spillane, “the son of legendary New York City mobster Mickey Spillane.”
Bob Bauer of Pacific Palisades said of Spillane, "In fact he was a well-known writer of crime novels, and his most famous character was Mike Hammer. 'I, the Jury' sold 6.5 million copies in the U.S. alone, according to Wikipedia."
And James Lincoln Warren of Los Angeles wrote, "Identifying author Mickey Spillane, the creator of Mike Hammer, as a notorious New York mobster is like calling James Joyce a famous Irish terrorist."
But Robert Spillane wasn’t the son of the bestselling author Mickey Spillane. Another man by the same name was his father, and that Mickey Spillane, who died in 1977, was an organized-crime boss who operated in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen.
In a blog post for the Village Voice on Monday, Tom Robbins wrote about Robert Spillane’s father. Robbins referenced a passage from "Paddy Whacked," a book by T.J. English on Irish American gangsters, in which the mobster Spillane, appearing before a grand jury but not saying much, is asked about the author Spillane:
"Finally," writes English, "the exasperated assistant D.A. asked: 'Well, can you tell me this: Are you related to the other Mickey Spillane? The famous writer?' After a momentary pause, Mickey leaned over to the microphone and said, 'No. But I'd be happy to change places with him at the moment.' "
Robbins also noted in his post that "most stories about the son's tragic death dutifully noted that dad Mickey Spillane was no relation to the pulp fiction writer of the same name."
However, the brief article in The Times did not. The Associated Press report posted Saturday did, but that point was omitted when the story was trimmed to six paragraphs for the briefing column. It would have been a helpful fact to retain.
Photo: Author Mickey Spillane. Credit: Simon & Schuster.