Monday, February 25, 2013

Seduction of the Innocent

   Okay, if you're a comic book fan, especially one who enjoys EC horror comics and Lev Gleason style crime comics, you do not want to miss Max Allan Collins' new novel, Seduction of the Innocent. Loosely based on events surrounding Dr. Fredric Wertham and his book Seduction of the Innocent, which attempted to link comic books and juvenile delinquency,  Collins' novel is a fair-play, Nero Wolfe style mystery that features characters and suspects who will be very familiar to anyone well versed in the history of comics.
   Max Allan Collins, himself a sometimes writer of comic books and comic strips, does an amazing job of recreating the world of comics publishing in New York in the 1950s. This shouldn't come as a surprise as he does much the same thing in some of his collaborations with Mickey Spillane, some which I've reviewed here. His detective, Jack Starr, a trouble shooter for the Starr newspaper syndicate (owned by Jack and his foxy step mother Maggie) isn't quite the hardcase that Mike Hammer is, being closer in spirit to Rex Stout's Archie Goodwin, but when some mob boys try and lean on him, Jack shows he can certainly deal with them in a way that would make Hammer proud.
   Even if you're not a comics fan, this is a well plotted, engaging mystery with plenty of twists. I've been reading Collins for over thirty years now and I'm always impressed with his writing. He uses several first person narrators in various series and he manages to make them all individuals. Jack Starr doesn't sound like Quarry who doesn't sound like Nate Heller who doesn't sound like Mallory. Collins makes this look easy, but trust me, it isn't.
   Just like he does in his Nate Heller books, Collins provides an afterword where he discusses the books he used for reference and talks about the events that inspired the story, so don't worry if you don't catch all the references. MAC has got you covered. Oh, and the book features illustrations by artist Terry Beatty, a frequent collaborator with Collins and currently the artist on the Phantom newspaper strip. Highly recommended.

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