My father was an Irish bartender. I was brought up in the time of the depression. I had to scratch and crawl my way up. It was a very tough Polack neighbourhood in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and I was an only child with no big brothers to call on. I took my lumps by myself and found that with a banana stalk in my hands I could take care of myself quite well. What we call Instant Education. But I've never been overly aggressive. Never had to be. I'm gregarious, I like people. I don't go down and get into big brawls. I've never had anybody come up to me and say, 'Hey, you're Mike Hammer. Let's see how tough you are.' No, they say, 'Hi, Mike. How about having a drink with me?' A lot safer and a lot more satisfying.
I started in what we call the slicks and you call the glossies. It was 1935 and I was 17, but I'd already been from a kid on the typewriter - turning out stories, school plays, things like that. Whe I got out of High School I went right into it. I was all ready for it. I turned out my first stories and got everything sold. I never had anything rejected.
But the trouble with the slicks was that you had so much picayune work to do, as a result of this editorial opinion and what-all. I never got bugged too much by editorial opinion, but what little they gave me I disagreed with, so I went into the pulps. Let's say it was a lower class of work, but the income was better. You didn't have a lot of editorial nonsense. You could go a little further into the fields of violence and sex, as you might call it, which wasn't as it is today. I don't really go for sex and violence unless it's necessary.
From the pulps I went into the comic book field, where again you're working your way down statuswise, but working your way up economically. I was one the group of people who originally initiated comic books. Costume things - Captain Marvel, Captain America, those things. We wrote story line, captions, instructions to the artists, action - it's just like writing a television script. We had a two page story I used to write, mainly so they could carry only fourth-class mailing charges. I used to have a big Mickey Spillane by-line. Out of that arose some trouble one day......
To be continued