Book Review: Max Allan Collins’ “Seduction of the Innocent”

'Seduction of The Innocent'

‘Seduction of The Innocent’

In “Seduction of the Innocent” by Max Allan Collins, the reader is transported to 1954. Social critic Dr. Werner Frederick is in the midst of a crusade against America’s most popular entertainment source – comic books. Frederick is disgusted with the blood, guts and gore found in many of these picture books and is sharing this disgust in book form, “Ravage the Lambs,” and in front of four Congressman and the public via public hearings on the matter.

When the crusade escalates from debating to murder, Jack Starr, vice president and private investigator for Starr Syndicate (closely aligned with the comic book industry), tries to solve the crime before the comic books community is completely tarnished.

It’s inspired by the 1950s witch-hunt against “Tales From the Crypt” publisher EC Comics and includes various characters who draw heavily, and not so heavily, on real-life people.

Collins should be commended on his recreation of 1954 Manhattan, complete with references to current events (i.e. Brown vs. Board of Education), automobiles (Kaiser-Darrin convertible), celebrities (James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson) and vernacular (“Pete’d had a snootful, I’d had a snootful.”) His detailed research is coupled with an easy-to-read prose helmed by narrator Jack Starr, a snarky but lovable wise guy.

Although this book is recommended for comic book aficionados and hard-boiled crime lovers, it’s also interesting in relation to the current crusade on violent video games and other violent media. Yesterday’s comic books are today’s video games and movies.

However, although this book was a pleasure to read, it fell short of masterpiece. In 260 pages, with a comic taking up two pages between each of the 12 chapters (expertly done by artist Terry Beatty), the crime in this crime novel took too long to occur, leaving less than half the book for the fun – figuring out whodunit. The juicy parts – sexual tension between stepmom and stepson, brawls, sex, alcoholism – took a backseat. Also, the ending felt rushed and almost Scooby Doo-ish.

I enjoyed “Seduction of the Innocent” but am not interested in reading more or reading it again.
Author Max Allan Collins is best known for “Road to Perdition.” “Seduction of the Innocent” is published by Hard Case Crimes. — Kate Vendetta

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7 Responses to “Book Review: Max Allan Collins’ “Seduction of the Innocent””

  1. I appreciate this review, but I wonder — do you know the meaning of the word “masterpiece”? Generally, it’s a work by an author that represents the pinnacle of that author’s art — a writer hopes to create one masterpiece in a career. I certainly don’t think SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT is mine, and I’m quite satisfied to have a reader like yourself find it “a pleasure to read.” You seem to be holding authors — and yourself — to an impossible standard, if an enjoyable read is not enough.

    As to the “Scooby-Doo-ish ending,” are you familiar with Golden Age mysteries by the likes of Rex Stout and Ellery Queen? With books about, or films based on, Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot and Earl Derr Biggers’ Charlie Chan? SEDUCTION is very specifically — and obviously — a pastiche/homage to that school of mysteries, whose endings were the kind (painfully) parodied in the Scooby Doo cartoons.

    After a lot of praise, you conclude that you are “not interested in reading more or reading it again.” More what? Books by me? More Jack Starr mysteries? A longer version? With inexact writing like that, your review is no masterpiece. But I enjoyed it.

  2. My apologies for responding to your review, Kate — a weak moment, written in the throes of deadline hell. That’s no excuse, but maybe it provides context.

    Your is actually a very well written review and I appreciate the attention you gave to the book.

  3. Kate V. says:

    I appreciate your feedback. In reference to your wonder over my use of the word “masterpiece,” I do not believe I am holding authors to an impossible standard. If I was doing so I would have said: “Do not read this book because it is not a masterpiece.” I was merely relating my opinion your book fell short of masterpiece.
    As for the Scooby-Doo-ish ending, I am not familiar with Golden Age mysteries and made no effort to relay this to our readers. I am OK with this because I am sure many of our readers are not familiar with Golden Age mysteries either. I found the ending to be Scooby Doo-ish, which is my opinion.
    As for my final opinion on your book, I don’t take my readers for fools and assumed they would be able to understand I am not interested in reading more of your books or reading this book again.
    I’m glad you enjoyed my review. I’m sorry you found problems with my writing but, as I firmly believe, everyone is entitled to their opinion.
    Critical or not, I was happy to have an author respond to one of my reviews.

  4. Again, I apologize for responding to your review in a less than gracious fashion. I try to restrict myself to correcting errors, or very occasionally responding to a review that crosses the line into a personal attack. Your review falls in neither category.

    I will say this: if you found as much positive about the novel as you did, you might not want to be so quick to dismiss the possibility of enjoying something else by the same author. It’s dangerous to generalize from one novel in that fashion, to assume that everything I write (or any writer might write) is cut from the same cloth. One review responded to SEDUCTION as “frothy,” which I felt was accurate…and a word that doesn’t apply to much of anything else I write or have written.

    You were very gracious in your response — more gracious than I deserved.

  5. Kate V. says:

    Fair enough. For me, and the general public reading this review as well as our conversation, what can you recommend I read of yours?

  6. Very kind of you to ask.

    I am proudest of my Nathan Heller novels, and the recent TARGET LANCER, which deals with the JFK assassination, would be as good a place as any to start. Or possibly the first novel, TRUE DETECTIVE (all of the Heller novels are in print).

    My Quarry novels are very tough, very hardboiled, though I hope darkly amusing. The “hero” is a hitman. Here I might suggest QUARRY IN THE MIDDLE or THE FIRST QUARRY. These are from Hard Case Crime.

    A reader who has seen and liked the film ROAD TO PERDITION might like the prose sequel, ROAD TO PURGATORY.

    And my wife and I write a “cozy” mystery series as “Barbara Allan” that is (I think) very funny, about a mother and daughter who bond through antiquing — one is bipolar and the other is on Prozac. The first was called ANTIQUES ROADKILL and in May will come ANTIQUES CHOP.

    There’s a variety, which may work toward my point that you (that is, any reader) might not care for one flavor, but just might love another.

    Kate, if you request any of these via e-mail, I’ll send it (or them) along.

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