2 out of 5
So in 1967, Mickey Spillane publishes The Delta Factor, featuring rogueish thief-type “Morgan the Raider.” It has a film adaptation, and an intended book sequel. …Which Spillane never gets around to. Some time on, he passes his notes to friend Max Allan Collins, and about forty years after the fact, Collins completes the book.
While such background shouldn’t really be necessary, I can’t help but feel it defines what I felt to be the core problems hanging over the book – problems that dominate its tone and from which it never really escapes. Collins’ other completed-for-Spillane book, Dead Street, didn’t miss a beat – I’m admittedly a poor crime / noir fan and have yet to read a Spillane book, but regardless, Dead Street came off as assured, and of one voice, and didn’t sound exactly like Collins – which made me feel like he had likely properly mimicked Spillane’s voice. Dead Street, though, was worked up from notes; The Consummata sounds like it had a partial manuscript. Without knowing what the split was, the book unfortunately never finds a “voice;” it lacks the brutral snark of Collins, and isn’t quite as dry and sharp as Dead Street felt. Finding that voice is perhaps subject to a need to find its character, Morgan. Whether this was baked into the original or inserted as a result of being a 40 years-on sequel, many of the beginning chapters unclearly flip between catching us up on current events – Morgan is hiding out from the Feds in 60s Miami, suspected of stolen moneys – and, I think, recapping the previous book, with that ‘think’ being rather operative: the narrative puts us in a puzzling position of feeling like we’re supposed to know everything about Morgan, while also trying to explain it all to us. As such, there’s not much time to actually craft the character for this book, and he comes across as a generic hero type, not particularly anything special, and even the setting lacks authenticity – we could be anywhere, any time. Following on this, when Morgan decides to help out some exiled Cubans in tracking down their stolen money, the reasoning lands with a thud – he’s personalityless, and we’re timeless and placeless, so it’s all rather without consequence.
Thankfully, once this pursuit gets going, Collins has some fun tracing clues and tossing in some fisticuffs along the way. The choreography is solid, and we start to get a bit more of a feel for Morgan when he’s in the trenches, piecing together why a pretty low sum of money – 75 grand – is turning into a hot pursuit. We’re floated the name and description of a Bond-like villain – The Consummata; a mysterious and infamous dominatrix – and this adds some more needed intrigue to things.
Once we get towards the end of the mystery, though, things start to fall pretty flat again. Whether from Spillane or Collins, this Consummata character doesn’t ever feel fully wended into the story – to the extent that they feel forgotten – and the ending tries to pull a few punches too many, when a more straight-forward conclusion could’ve maybe allowed for a stronger and more memorable punch.
Constructing a book after the fact, and doing so while trying to honor another writer, is surely not an enviable task. A different version of that worked very well for Spillane and Collins previously, but The Consummata is a mostly unsuccessful take on the setup.