"The Last Cop Out" is a 1973 novel by Mickey Spillane, one of the most famous purveyors of "hard boiled" detective fiction. It was written towards the end of his career, and does not feature his most famous protagonist, Mike Hammer, instead introducing a new character, Gillian Burke.
In New York City, a series of mobsters are being killed in professionally planned assassinations. Fearing a gang war is about to start, the police call in Gill Burke, a tough as nails ex-cop who got railroaded out of the force because he was trying to bring to justice the same mobsters that are now being killed. Will he solve the killings before New York descends into chaos? And will he fall in love with the daughter of the slain cop who is inexplicably working for the Mafia?
I like to read books that are representative of genres that I might not normally read. Crime noir, while being rough around the edges, is a distinctly American genre of writing, and is a good record of the American social landscape of the mid-20th century. It also, of course, is supposed to be exciting. So what did I think of this work?
I happened to read this story at a time when police brutality and police killings were in the headlines, which made the book's callous treatment of the subject somewhat unpalatable. The book is relentlessly violent, with no remorse or regret shown when one of the "bad guys" dies. However, it would hardly be fair to judge a book from 1973, and a book from a genre where callousness is the entire point, by the standards of sensitivity. But just from a point of view of my enjoyment of the story, I do think that the violence is less than entertaining. The problem is that while this book is too fantastical to be taken as a realistic crime story, it is also too violent to be a fun adventure story. Grim and gritty doesn't age well, especially in the book's sex scenes, which at the time were probably daring, but now are tamer than what could be found with a two minute search online.
While I don't object to pulp, and I've read other hard-boiled detective stories that I liked, this book just wasn't fun for me.