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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