One Lonely Night
After having been berated by a Judge, Mike Hammer goes for a walk on a rainy night in Manhattan and comes across a terrified woman and her pursuer on a bridge. He kills the man but the woman, terrified, jumps to her death from the bridge. Both possessed oddly shaped green cards. Hammer's friend in the police department, Chambers, identifies them as membership cards for the local Communist Party. Mike attends a meeting and is mistaken for a Soviet MGB spy.
Next day, Chambers tells Hammer that Lee Deamer, a political candidate running on an anti-corruption ticket has an insane twin brother, Oscar. Chambers asks Hammer to take care of the problem, but when Hammer goes to Oscar's address he runs off and throws himself in front of a train, leaving his body unrecognisable.
Deamer tells Hammer that Oscar was trying to blackmail him with documents, now missing, and asks Hammer to recover the documents. Hammer, hindered by the Communists, eventually works out where the stolen papers are and retrieves them.
The Communists kidnap Hammer's secretary, Velda, and try to bargain—her life for the papers. Hammer assaults their hideout, kills them all and rescues Velda.
This novel illustrates the cardinal features of the subgenre known as hard-boiled crime fiction. The protagonist, Mike Hammer, feels alienated from mainstream society whose values, he feels, are no match for the evil that he must deal with. In the book's opening scene, Hammer walks on a rainy night and reviews the ways in which mainstream society labels him a killer, and he questions whether there is some truth to a judge's denunciation of his actions. He wonders if he is like the evil people he fights.
In hard-boiled crime fiction, commonly the cynical detective narrates in first-person his attempts to deal with a criminal element that the police are ill-equipped to handle, often because the legal system is not up to the task.
References to real events
The trial Hammer attends is the real life Foley Square trial, where members of the Communist Party USA were convicted of infringing the Smith Act. Deamer, may be a heavily fictionalised version of Henry A. Wallace