I read many different types of books, but what I love to read the most is a truly badass book. From the day I first opened up an Edgar Rice Burroughs novel as a child, I was hooked on the simple literary delights of a well-placed punch to the face. However, it is an unfortunate truth that it is a rare badass book in which ALL the parts are “good” parts. Often, the good parts are tempered with a large amount of boring parts. In this feature, I will select, from among all the parts of each featured book, only the good parts.
I must confess that Mickey Spillane’s ridiculous 1972 standalone novel The Erection Set, is one of those rare books that actually IS all good parts (or, at least, “good” parts). So much so that I’ve had to leave out a ton of sex and violence just to keep this post-length under control. Unfortunately, in his eagerness to skip straight to the “good” stuff, Spillane skimps on minor concerns like clear writing and plotting. And, seriously, goddamn if this isn’t one of the most violent and sex-obsessed books I’ve ever read (and I’ve read a few doozies). It’s also so fantastically offensive that I can’t even figure out if it circles back around to end up hilariously offensive or not. Either way, let’s meet the protagonist Dogeron Kelly–as seen through the eyes of his best buddy’s prostitute girlfriend, Rose, in the opening chapter:
Okay, Dog, now let me read you. Clothes good, but old. Perhaps fifty bucks in your jeans. I made more between cocktails and dinner last night. I had felt his arm and it scared me a little bit because I knew how old he was and the arm was a little too big and too hard. Poseur? Some do it. A cheap barber had chopped his hair, but it was all there and would be grown back in another week. Gray spotted it and a little white streak tufted up in front. He looked heavy, but there was no fat and he walked funny, one hand always hanging loose, and whatever those green eyes looked at, they saw and understood.
I wanted to screw him, only it wouldn’t be any use trying. Tomcats pick their own time and place.
Time. The clock said three minutes after five. I had known the Dog exactly eight minutes.
You will start to see a pattern with the women in this book and their attitude towards Dog. And, because Dog is in town on some kind of a secret mission, as his first order of business, he returns to Rose’s place after his buddy leaves in order to attempt to get “information” while at the same time half-heartedly refusing to fuck her in the ass even though she really wants him to:
“Supposing it hurts?”
“Use some baby oil. It won’t hurt. I can control my sphincter muscle.”
Dog, however, picks his time and place, and decides to start with some hairbrush foreplay first:
So at last the lovely whore turned over and let me look at all that naked garishness, big tits tightened into hips and legs that were all so damned luscious, especially with that gorgeous snatch peering it’s [sic] lonely eye into mine…
I got up and got a hairbrush. There’s one hell of a way to talk to a broad when you want to think. So I began brushing her hair.
Nice and easy, but there were a few things I had to learn. The dolls overseas were all different. Their wants were specific, every undulation pointing to the specific, but at last here was a pure American whore, specific only in her attitude toward money, and I said, “Oh, you capitalist, you,” just as the hairbrush gave her an orgasm.
Now, I first read this book as an inexperienced teenager. And even now, as an ever so slightly less inexperienced adult, I have no idea whether he’s brushing her hair, or whether he’s brushing her pubes, but either way, that “pure American whore” was impressed:
“Son of a bitch,” Rose breathed.
“Compliment or criticism?”
“Nobody should know that much about a woman. What will happen to the girl you marry?”
“At least she’ll lead a sexy life, “ I said.
“Somebody better believe that.”
“Oh, they will.”
“I’ll give you references.”
“For a hairbrush?”
“Damn Dog, if you can do it with a hairbrush, what can you do with the rest of the goodies?”
“Just try me,” I said. “Roll over.”
After finally deigning to give Rose a begrudging yet thorough rogering, a rogering that Rose said “was one of those rare occasions when [she’d] be willing to pay the tab [her]self,” Dog leaves to, in theory, actually get the story going for real this time. Unfortunately, the book is plotted so poorly that it’s fairly difficult to make sense of exactly WHAT is going on. As near as I can figure it out, Dog, returned from 20 years in post-war Europe running drugs or something, is now set to claim his meager $10,000 inheritance from his maternal grandfather who ran an empire called Barrin industries. The catch is Dog has to meet a “morality clause” or he doesn’t get the money. Except Dog doesn’t want the money (he carries a couple million in drug money around in a suitcase), he wants like, revenge or something, and also he wants to take the company back before old rival Cross McMillan gets a hold of it and its secret, I shit you not, antigravity machine…
Honestly, the less we focus on the plot, the better, let’s just say that Dog is a MAN OF MYSTERY.
So, after crashing a rich film producer’s party (producing the probably homophobically titled Fruits of Labor), Dog meets the virgin (you know she is a virgin because Spillane makes reference to her virginity, and her hymen specifically, at least once every three pages for the rest of the book) Sharon Cass, who finds herself wanting to fuck Dog real bad, despite her being a, and I quote, “complete maiden-headed virgin” (seriously, Spillane wastes no opportunity to mine every gross virgin descriptor he can).
Most of the book is basically just Dog wandering into random places, MYSTERIOUSLY, while fighting off all the women that want to fuck him, including one older gossip columnist who is also at the film party:
Her lips barely brushed mine, but I could feel the tiger behind them and all the real want that was there. The little pubic touch, the out-thrust chest that tried so hard to initiate the nipples into a semiorgasm behind the engineering of elastic and fabric. Twenty years ago she could have been fun.
So I grabbed her arm, kissed her right, just once, and she went all tight at first, then to pieces, and I got that funny little-girl look and said, “No more, Mona. You and I have a generation gap.”
“I’d like to gap you.”
“But you won’t. Now behave.”
Sorry Mona, too old. Sharon, on the other hand, is just young enough, and Dog figures he might as well keep her around. They eventually go and meet his five evil cousins, who are also in for a cut of grandpa’s business. Come to find out, if EVERYONE ends up failing the “morality clause,” then Dog gets everything. Leaving his cousins shitting their pants over whether or not he will find dirt on them, Sharon and Dog sneak off to get “naked and warm playing tickle finger” in “the house where [Dog’s] father fucked [his] mother.” Dog, being the gentleman he is, still refuses to go beyond some light fingering/hymen checking on account of her being engaged and, now, an officially verified virgin (“just keep it safe between your legs until [your fiance] gets it”), even though Sharon really begs for it:
“I’ll tease you.”
“Try it, Sharon, and you’ll be an unsatisfied, neurotic wreck in one hour. I’m too damn old not to know every gimmick there is to turn you women-children inside out.”
Sorry Sharon, this tomcat picks his time and place.
At this point, Dog decides he’s had enough of these two dudes who have been following him for the first third of the book. So, he hides in a bathroom, wraps his belt around his fist, and…well, goes maybe just a wee bit overboard in sending a message to their boss:
He never heard me come up behind him in my stocking feet and was just raising his foot to kick the toilet door when I smashed him in the skull behind his ear and sent him splintering through the wooden partition so hard his knees broke the seat right off the bowl. Before he could yell I had his head in my hands, slamming his face against the two-inch dirty ceramic and his teeth broke like dry matzos in a splatter of blood that speckled the stagnant water like obscene curds.
Markham was totally unconscious and never felt what happened to him. He never heard me break the bones in both his hands and never even moaned when I cupped my palms and clapped his eardrums into split pieces of delicate flesh. But in a few hours and for a month later, he’d be one hellish piece of agony and his days of usefulness to The Turk would be over.
What’s that? A bit over-the-top, even for one of these books? Well, I’m afraid to say that was only the first guy:
Outside the door, Bridey-the-Greek would have heard the noises and be anticipating the finish. It was a pleasure to oblige him. All I did was open the door and say, “Come on,” and by the time he realized it wasn’t Markham’s voice he was already inside looking up at me with eyes gone suddenly wide with fear.
He tried one lunge with the ice pick and I broke his wrist with the barrel of the .38 then laid it across the side of his head before he could let out a scream. He went down in a heap like dropping an old laundry bag, the pick rolling from his fingers. It was a nice new sliver of steel, that pick.
Ok, maybe that wasn’t so bad…oh fuck, oh fuck, he’s not done:
I broke every finger on Bridey’s hands too, then stitched him up the side of each cheek so he’d never be invisible in a crowd again. I opened his belt, pulled his pants and shorts down and waited the two minutes until he started to wake up, holding the point of the pick right over the two goodie sacs, and just as a groan wheezed through his lips and his eyes opened and rolled toward mine I drove the ice pick through those lumps of tissue into the rubber tiled floor and the frenzied yell of horror he started never got past the sharp hiss of his sucked-in breath before he fainted.
The next person to go in that bathroom would do more than relieve his bladder or bowels.
Ok, so now we have the second aspect of Dog’s personality. First, he picks his time and place, and second, he will fucking WRECK you if you cross him.
Anyway, Dog heads back to his buddy Lee’s house and finds out that Rose is a “kiss and tell doll” and had told Lee the whole hairbrush/rogering story. Luckily Lee’s motto is “share the wealth,” and he and Dog end up reminiscing about that one time in London:
“There was you in one sack with that tall Wren and me in the other with the cute little WAAC dispatcher from squadron five, switching beds every time the air raid siren went off. Why man…”
“I had forgotten it until now.”
Rose giggled over her glass. “She leave a painful memory, Dog?”
“No, but we both had to chip in on an abortion fee for the Wren. Neither one knew who did it.”
When he runs out of old abortion stories, Dog heads out to wander around mysteriously and the plot lurches forward with him both buying his dad’s old house (you know, the one where old pop used to plow mom on the reg), and finding out a super assassin called Arnold Bell is after him. He also poetically tells Sharon to knock it off with the showing him her snatch and grabbing his dick all the time:
“It gets hard on the dingus. We used to call it lover’s nuts.”
All of which puts him in the mood for a much deserved break, so he heads back alone to the house he just bought that he seems to be unable to describe without referencing his parents fucking:
I lay on the bed where my dad screwed my mother when nobody was watching and I felt very comfortable. For the first time I realized what she was like.
Outside somebody was going to kill me.
I took my pants off and made myself come.
Now, I know there is a lot to Oedipal shit to unpack there, but, in the interest of not getting even more creeped out–it’s probably best to move on from Dog’s mommy issues.
Dog still has to prove that his shitty cousins are immoral though! Not a problem for Dog, he just bullies his 3 female cousins into admitting they’ve been fucking delivery boys (followed by forcing them strip to the amusement of Dog and their butler) and then gets confirmation that his two male cousins are, disgustingly, gay. Which leads to the following very enlightened conversation:
“Not many people would pick Alfie for a queer,” I said.
“He has the sadistic streak for it. He’d be one of the mean ones.”
“At least Dennie has an excuse.”
Marvin looked at me questioningly.
“He picked up a dose of the clap from a whore when he was a kid and it probably scared him away from all women after that,” I said.
One could fill a book with what Dog knows about getting women off with hairbrushes. On homosexuality, he is…less well informed. Either way, his cousins are now confirmed to be sluts and gays, so the blanket immorality clause condition goes into effect! Up next, Dog needs to figure out what to do about Cross McMillan. To do this he turns to McMillan’s sexy yet frigid wife Sheila. She’s been helping Dog stay informed while she tugs on his junk and then won’t give it up because of a past rape that has left her frigid and unable to satisfy her husband Cross, or, even a tomcat like Dog. However, before Dog can get any more information or lovers nuts out of her, three more people try to kill him:
Their only trouble was that I had seen them coming and shot one right through the middle of his forehead and left him standing there with only a mangled mess from his eyes up until he hit the ground and ran over the other one with both wheels, then backed up over him with the same two wheels in a sound like running over a wooden bushel basket.
I was out and rolling when I spotted the third one coming in fast to see what the hell had happened and just as he saw the tangled heaps on the ground I broke his arm with one smashing chop and his neck with the next.
Sadly, Sheila wasn’t impressed by his judo chops because she had gone into shock (as women are wont to do) from all the ultra-violence. Dog wasn’t sure what to do, so he took her to his house, took off her clothes, ran his fingers through her pubes, and then covered her up to let her sleep it off. Which, I’m not sure sexual assault is the best way to treat a trauma victim that is in shock–but I don’t know women like Dog does. When Sheila wakes up she showers with Dog (where she notes that his cock is so big he “could do it soft”), and, despite his after shower ritual involving spraying a worryingly suspicious amount of deodorant into his asshole:
I tossed the towel aside and reached for the economy-sized can of deodorant. I sprayed it under my arms and under the crack of my ass until it got too cold to stand, then recapped it and sprayed myself with something that smelled pretty damn good. At least they never had it in Europe where the girls wore spinach under their arms. And never thought to bleach their pussies.
…she still decides that him fucking her is the one thing that will get her over her past rape trauma, and so they do just that all night. And then, before he leaves, as is the wont of the women in Dog’s life, she begs him to fuck her in the ass:
“Please? We’ve done everything else. One more…injection?”
To which Dog, once again, begrudgingly obliges.
Having ass-fucked all comers, there’s not much left for Dog to do but start wrapping up business. A few more hired thugs try to take him out, but he dispatches them in the usual gruesome fashion:
Anyone I touched was the enemy and they had to identify me personally. And the first one tripped over me into a ball of knuckles that put his teeth down his throat and left my fist slimy with blood. When he crashed into the wall I was rolling to the left, my arm sweeping out to yank the legs of another one out from under him. The gun in his hand blasted a swath of light into my face, hot, stinging powder etching a burn across my cheek. My hand grabbed the gun in his fingers, my other hand getting leverage on his elbow and I broke his wrist with a single twist and smashed the scream out of this throat when I backhanded the iron across his skull.
Then, like, a bunch more crazy shit happens, old war operatives appear with antigravity devices, cars blow up, loose ends are “tied” up, and Dog has his big meeting with all his cousins where he can rub it in their faces that he knows they are slutty poofters. Unfortunately for cousin Dennie, he had to go and talk shit on Dog’s mother, and, we all know Dog has some issues with his mother, so, Dog decides to shut Dennie up in his own inimitable fashion:
When I hit him his whole face exploded into a shower of blood and teeth…
Dog must have fucking hand grenades on his fists considering all the exploding faces they seem to create…anyway Dog isn’t done with Denny yet:
…and before he was able to fall I caught him with a right to the ribs that make [sic] them crackle like broken sticks under my fist.
Goddamnit Dog, haven’t you ever heard of a proportionate response? Oh shit, wait, he’s still not done:
Dennie’s skull bounced off the wood, but he was still conscious when I hauled him up again and tore one ear off the side of his head and he tried to scream through his shattered mouth, but all that came out was a faint squeak before he fainted.
After that, every single person in the room throws up (heh, really, and Spillane describes how each one does it), much to, I assume, Dog’s delight.
Only two loose ends left, we’re almost there!
First, Cross McMillan, finally calls off his assassins and also gives Dog all the stock and property that he didn’t already have of his grandfather’s company. Why you ask? Wasn’t Cross Dog’s old enemy? And didn’t Dog bum-fuck his wife? Well, it was Dog fucking his wife’s frigidity away with a good deep dicking that got Cross to bury the hatchet after all those years:
“You gave her to me. She always loved me, now she loves me all the way.” The rain suddenly came down in a slashing stream, driving into our faces and neither of us could care less. “Funny,” he continued, “having you do it. The doctors couldn’t. The headshrinks couldn’t. Nobody could. Then you came along and sexed the hell out of my wife and you did it. You gave me the thing I was never able to buy.”
That’s right, Dog is such a good lay that he even wins over the husbands of the women he fucks.
The second loose end is the super assassin Arnold Bell, who is still out there, gunning for Dog. But, Dog is finding it hard to concentrate on him since Sharon is still after his dingus. In a serious of expository twists, it turns out that Dog ISN’T a drug runner, he’s a secret government agent! And, it turns out the person Sharon is both engaged to and has been saving herself for is Dog! You see, when she was 10 years old she met a nice soldier who she was so taken with that she made him buy her a ring and promise to marry her when he got back. That soldier was Dogeron Kelly, and she’d been saving herself for him this whole time in a twist that isn’t creepy at all. Either way, with those issues out of the way, it was FINALLY time for Dog to pop that cherry, just so long as he can think of his mother first to get him in the mood:
She was all beautiful and slippery and blonde and brunette at once with those crazy curving hills and sloped, wet banks like a rained-on race course that heaved and undulated with tiny muscular spasms aching to be relieved in a gigantic orgasm and I was there in her little room where she slept as a girl, in a room something like where my pop slept with my mother…
However, JUST as Dog is about to penetrate Sharon’s much vaunted hymen while picturing his dad doing the same thing to his mother, Arnold Bell finally shows up with an attempted contract killing cock-block:
“And as I was rolling onto her I heard the voice say, “How pretty. How pretty.”
But he shouldn’t have said it the second time, enjoying the scene of naked flesh, part soft and part hard, wondering where to put the bullet, because wherever a .45 hits you it tears one hell of a hole and the .45 was right next to my hand and the first shot took his arm off and the second left no memory of Arnold Bell’s face in anybody’s mind because he had no face left to remember. His skin and bones were indented on the wall behind the headless body and tomorrow I’d have to get another crew out here to clean up and patch the hole and if I were lucky , the quarts of blood wouldn’t flow through the cracks in the floor and ruin the ceiling downstairs.
“Now?” I asked her.
The two shots were still reverberating in her ears. She looked at the mess by the door and didn’t get sick at all. She didn’t hear me, but she knew what I said.
Sharon smiled and turned the old brass ring around so it looked like a cheap wedding band.
At this point I should briefly point out that Mickey Spillane has always said that the last sentence of a book should be the best. Let’s see how he did with Sharon’s response:
“Shut up and fuck me,” she said, “like a dog.”
You know, say what you will about The Erection Set, but it’s still a better love story than Twilight.