Article published on October 21, 2011.
When Mickey Spillane began work on The Consummata, Charles Manson was an unknown Ohioan drifter, King Idris was still in power in Libya, and the surface of the moon was still untainted by human boot prints. The sequel to The Delta Factor, Spillane shelved it after much frustration at the cinematic development of its predecessor. And so, several decades later, Max Allan Collins did for The Consummata what he has done for so many of Spillane’s incomplete manuscripts, and presents the finished article to a hungry audience at the tail end of 2011.
Originally intended to be contemporary, but now something of a 1960s costume drama, The Consummata wastes no time, cutting (quite literally) to the chase in the opening line. The hero is Morgan the Raider, fleeing from the attentions of various law enforcement agencies, and finding assistance in the home of Pedro, a Cuban immigrant, exiled from his native land by the rise of Castro. This chance meeting sees Morgan tasked with tracking down a Cuban thief by the name of Jaimie Halaquez, an unsavoury sexual deviant who has liberated $75k of funds pooled by Cuban exiles to help fight Castro.
As a character, Morgan is often tough to distinguish from Mike Hammer, by far the more famous of Mickey’s creations. While Morgan is a modern day (well, 20th Century) pirate and Hammer was a PI, the similarities are numerous. Hammer was a Guadalcanal veteran, Morgan fought in Europe; Hammer swaggered his way through New York, bedding an endless string of women, Morgan swaggers his way through Miami, bedding an endless string of women. They share a penchant for self-aggrandisement which can be grating at times, with other characters happy to fawn over them at any given juncture. In fact, they even opt for the same weapon, the trusty .45, although Morgan is perhaps less trigger happy than Hammer ever was. Still, Hammer was no slouch when it came to shifting books, so their similarities needn’t be a disadvantage.
Although violence is never far away in The Consummata, sex is top of the agenda. Much of the book takes place in and around a high class bordello, the Mandor Club, with principle characters including Bunny, a Madam in her fifties who once took out a contract on our hero, Gaita, a sensual but deadly Latino girl who undrapes herself before Morgan almost habitually, and the eponymous Consummata, a possibly mythical dominatrix famed internationally for her high class S&M services. Despite this, the sexual politics of The Consummata are somewhat schizophrenic. Spillane spares no detail in his descriptions of S&M tableaus, but frequently has his protagonist remind the reader where he stands on sexual outlandishness. In a world where ‘CSI’ feels comfortable bringing the BDSM underworld into our living rooms prior to the watershed, Spillane (when flying solo, Collins has no such qualms) is almost puritanical in his desire for conventional intercourse. To each their own of course, but there is something curious about a character untroubled by shootings, stabbings and drownings, but perturbed by a little leather.
Sex and violence aside, The Consummata is crammed with all the ingredients a modern pirate tale needs. Set during the hottest period of the Cold War, the CIA rears its head, the threat of nuclear annihilation lingers in the background, and there is even the small matter of a missing $40m bounty, still out there in the wide old world, waiting to be discovered by anyone brave enough to seek it out. This is by no means an Agatha Christie style puzzler; this is an old fashioned tale of gunshots and double-crosses, where the plot rattles along unconcerned by whether the reader is two steps ahead or a mile behind. However, a few linguistic clues in the title and the opening chapters mean at least one twist is obvious enough to be seen from Havana.
In terms of prose, this is classic Mickey Spillane. Working alone, Max Allan Collins has drawn smiling comparisons with Chandler himself. When working from his late friend’s manuscripts however, he stays true to Spillane’s vision; a vision Chandler often railed against. Spillane always tended to favour muscular enthusiasm over fine art, and The Consummata is in no danger of breaking the habit of his lifetime.
Overall, this is another fitting tribute from one legendary crime author to another. Nearly half a century in the making, The Consummata is by no means high-art, but delivers sex, violence and CIA-capering in spades, and comes with all the hallmarks of a writing partnership that gels so well, death itself can’t damage its integrity.