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University at Buffalo Libraries

George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

One Lonely Night

cover image By: Spillane, Mickey (male)
Publisher: New American Library (Signet Books 888)
Place of Publication: New York, NY
Catalog #: Kelley Box 374: PS3537 .P652 O5 1955
Contributor: K. Quinlivan


Era: 1950s Author as on Cover: Mickey Spillane Geographic Locale: New York City Date of Publication: 1955  |  Original Date: 1951 Setting: urban; grim; the mean streets of the Big Apple, apartments, offices, abandoned buildings and deserted street corners Motives: murder, hatred, vengeance, political ambition

Plot Summary

When a judge claims that Mike Hammer finds killing enjoyable, the cynical private investigator wanders the deserted streets of Manhattan late one snowy night, discouraged and filled with self-doubt. He takes a cold, hard look at his methods and motives, not sure that he likes what he sees, but his thoughts are interrupted by the unexpected appearance of a frightened young woman and the slimy gunman who's trailing her. Hammer loses no time in wasting the gunman, but when the girl commits suicide by jumping off a bridge, Hammer sinks even further into a mood of gloomy introspection. His uncertainty soon changes into swirling hatred and a personal quest for vengeance when he learns that both victims were involved with the Communist party. In Mike's view, the Commies are an evil force threatening the well-being of the United States, so he decides to infiltrate the group. He ultimately discovers important secret documents, a powerful ring of enemy agents, and political upheaval looming on the horizon. When Mike's devoted girlfriend, Velda, is captured by this enemy group, Mike's response is one that he knows only too well -- find a weapon and give 'em all what they deserve: "Kill 'em left and right, show 'em that we aren't so soft after all. Kill, kill, kill, kill! They'll keep away from us then."

Major Characters

Mike Hammer adult male, mid 30s, cynical ex-soldier turned private investigator with a soul of "toughness, hate, and bitterness," anti-Communist crusader

Velda adult female, beautiful, Mike's secretary and pistol-packing partner whom he intends to marry one day -- "she was the only decent thing about me"

Marty Kooperman adult male, newspaper reporter

Paula Riis adult female, 34 years old, formerly a nurse in an insane asylum

Martin Romberg adult male, ex-con, hit man for the Communist party

Ethel Brighton adult female, tall, 30s, blonde hair, wealthy, fund raiser for the Communist party

Patrick Chambers adult male, police captain, "a practical cop with a lot of training and experience," tired of the corrupt politicians who control the police force

Henry Gladow adult male, department store clerk, in charge of the local Communist party office

General Osilov adult male, middle-aged, bald, Communist party official

Lee Deamer adult male, looks like a "very tired, middle-aged Mr. Chips," popular politician

Oscar Deamer adult male, escaped inmate of a sanitarium, Lee Deamer's twin brother


guns, fists

Level of Violence

plenty of graphic violence, and Mike Hammer savors each violent incident. He describes his thoughts in vivid detail, especially the final shoot-'em-up scene when he blows away the enemy agents with a final burst of satisfaction: "I went around the room....and if they had faces left, I made sure they didn't."


a definite double standard exists for Mike Hammer. He finds it impossible to resist the sexual advances of beautiful women, who, in turn, find him irresistible. He doesn't hesitate whenever he finds a willing sexual partner, even if she's someone from the enemy camp. His relationship with Velda (they are engaged to be engaged) does not involve intercourse, and he holds her to a seemingly higher moral standard than the women he jumps into bed with. Velda doesn't seem to mind Mike's dalliances with other women; she is willing to hold onto the promise of "some day."

Gender Roles

traditional, but with a slight twist. Velda is Mike's secretary, but she is also his partner, cool and level-headed. Mike respects her intelligence and ability, and frequently it is Velda who figures out the complexities of the case while Mike is busy berating his own shortcomings and those of society in general.


members of the Communist organization are described in derogatory, hateful terms throughout the novel (e.g. "goddamn Commies we got loose in this city," "those damned Redsthey were a scurvy bunch of lice.")

Alcohol/Drug Abuse

Mike Hammer drinks frequently, everything from beer to whiskey to sherry. He often drinks to forget and to blur the grim reality around him; at times he turns to alcohol while trying to sort out the details of the case. He smokes Luckies at every opportunity.

Law Enforcement

Mike Hammer is on fairly good terms with the New York Police Department, especially his old friend, Captain Pat Chambers. The police remain largely on the outer fringes of the case; Pat tolerates Mike's involvement because he respects Mike's ability to operate outside the boundaries imposed by departmental rules and regulations. As Mike comments, "I'm only one guy, but I'm quite a guy and you know it. I make my own rules as I go along and I don't have to account to anybody."

Added Features

numerous references to "Commies;" the Cold War and various spy trials hover in the background throughout the novel.

Subject Headings

Hammer, Mike/ Murder/ New York (N.Y.)/ Detectives, Private/ Communism/ Revenge/ Corruption (In Politics)

Psychological Elements

according to Mike Hammer, "There's no shame in killing an evil thing. As long as you have to live with the fact, you might as well enjoy it." However, his troubled inner monologues seem to indicate that he finds it increasingly difficult to justify all the killing that he does.