Max Allan Collins may have inaugurated his writing career with facsimiles of the style of the pulp writers he admired, but he has long emerged from the shadow of such influences and now produces truly individual and surprising work – which is very much the case with Seduction of the Innocent, his latest novel, which both functions as a classic period hard-boiled tale and a clever commentary on the real-life hysteria that put paid to the American crime and horror comics of the 1950s. The title, of course, is a reference to the infamous anti-comics tome by Frederick Wertham, a publicity-seeking pundit of the era who formulated some extremely specious reasons to blame all of America’s juvenile delinquency on such things as the EC Comics classic Crime SuspenStories. What Collins has done here is to create an ingenious roman à clef in which the key figures of that era feature in a murder mystery involving Jack Starr, a comics syndicate troubleshooter of the day. Along with Collins’s lively text, there are some clever illustrations by Terry Beatty which unerringly capture the style of the EC comics that caused all the fuss at the middle of the last century, particularly one of EC’s star artists, Johnny Craig. The whole thing is great fun, whether or not you are an aficionado of the comics of that era.

Seduction of the Innocent by Max Allan Collins is published by Hard Case Crime

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