Published by Hard Case Crime
Max Allan Collins (MAC) will be familiar to comics fan as the writer of Road To Perdition, a run on Batman in the 80s and his self owned comic title – Ms Tree.
He is of course also a prolific author of prose and has had numerous titles hit the heights of the best seller lists throughout the world.
In Seduction Of The Innocent, Collins, yet again, mixes his two big loves ‑ comic books and crime fiction. He picks one of the most controversial periods in comics history to set his tale ‑ the mid 50s when comic books sales were in the billions (mainly horror and crime comics) and one Dr Fredric Wertham published a book called Seduction Of The Innocent (hence the novel’s title) that pilloried the comic book industry’s so-called garish, lurid publications and pointed to them as the reason behind juvenile delinquency and other assorted ills among comic reading children. This, of course, was complete nonsense but back then people swallowed anything academics or politicians would spout.
Comic book fans will love the cover of the novel as it’s very much an homage to the EC line of comics that were at the centre of Dr Wertham’s cross-hairs. Collins’s prose is a Chandleresque homage and he sets the tone, setting and location expertly.
The sharp sassy dialogue that we expect from characters of this era in crime fiction is all there and Collins hits all the bases with his characters. His lead Jack Starr is a trouble-shooter and company detective who works for his, sexually alluring, ex-stripper step mother and late father’s comic book company. He gets drawn into a murder investigation into Dr Werner Fredrick’s demise (Geddit? See what MAC’s done there?) and as ever there are suspects galore and red herrings abound.
My one big reservation is that despite the book moving along at a nice clip it takes some time to get to the heart of the central mystery. Once it does reach this point the novel kicks into high gear and it’s a terrific ride all the way to its conclusion.
In interviews MAC has said he plans to do another couple of novels with the Jack and Maggie Starr characters set in different eras of comic book history. If so they’ll be well worth looking out for if this novel and the previous two “Starr” books – A killing In Comics and Strip For Murder are anything to go by.