I’m really stoked to have been chosen to narrate and produce the modern audiobook version of Mickey Spillane’s iconic novel I, the Jury for Simon & Schuster. This will appear in unabridged form and will be the first time this book has had a modern audio presence.
I, the Jury was Spillane’s first Mike Hammer novel and the biggest-selling book of his entire career, which spanned nearly 60 years. Even though it generated little interest on its initial release in 1947, selling fewer than ten thousand hardcover copies to mostly bad reviews, and even though the publisher rejected Spillane’s second Hammer novel, For Whom the Gods Would Destroy, the importance of I, the Jury cannot be overstated.
When the paperback version of I, the Jury was released in early 1948 with a cover similar to the one on this page, sales shot into the stratosphere. The reading public couldn’t get enough of the hulking, hard-bitten private eye. The novel proved to be a watershed for the crime fiction genre of the day. Spillane’s language, sex-tinged scenes, and his hard-charging style marked a sharp departure from everything that came before it. With this unlikely, profane antihero, crime fiction had entered new territory.
Ironically, For Whom the Gods Would Destroy was not released until the 1960s, and then under a different title, although it’s still considered the “second” Mike Hammer novel. Spillane, however, chose My Gun Is Quick (1950) as the follow-up to I, the Jury. Its sales propelled Spillane into the top ranks of bestselling authors, and from then on, he never looked back.
In 1950, Gold Medal Books came into existence. Their stock in trade was the frank, in-your-face crime novel that Spillane had pioneered. Their lurid covers drew millions of readers to spinning stands in drugstores, and Gold Medal in turn spawned legions of only-in-paperback publisher/imitators, all of them ready to cash in on Spillane’s burgeoning fan base.
Which brings us to this audiobook. During the summer of 2014, I was startled to learn I, the Jury had no modern audio presence. After a six-month-long effort beginning with an email to my friend and Spillane collaborator Max Allan Collins, I finally came to an agreement with Simon & Schuster to narrate and produce a twenty-first century audio version of this great novel.
Most of the other Hammer audiobooks have been read by the great Stacy Keach, who actually played Mike Hammer on TV for years, so I’ve got big shoes to fill on this one.
Simon & Schuster has not yet announced a release date, but when they do, I’ll let you know.