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Book Review: Seduction of the Innocent by Max Allan Collins, Illustrated by Terry Beatty

Seduction of the Innocent cover by Terry BeattyIs one allowed to call a noir book frothy? I hope so, because I am about to. Max Allan Collins’ Seduction of the Innocent is a wonderful, fun, frothy mix of genres, with lots of in-jokes thrown in for fans of the aforementioned. It’s noir, pulp, and comic book, with a double-handful of alternate history thrown in for flavor. It’s a fast, exciting read, well worth carting along for moments-between or sitting down with for some self-indulgent reading.

The novel is set in 1954, and is, in part, an alternate telling of the notorious Dr. Fredric Wertham’s campaign against comic books, which he blamed for encouraging children to violence and delinquency. In the real world, his campaign led to a Senate hearing, the Comics Code, and a dip in comic book sales; in the real world, Wertham lived. In Collins’ alternate world, he–or rather, his fictitious alter-ego, Dr. Werner Frederick gets murdered. This doesn’t actually help the comic book industry, as he’s already written his book, the hearing has been held, and many of the chief suspects are comic book artists or publishers. So, it’s up to Jack Starr part-owner and detective for the Starr Newspaper Syndication Company to find the real murderer before the scandal causes even more damage to the industry.

There is a needlessly complicated murder. There are fistfights. Guns are fired. Beautiful women try to seduce the hero. The detective is properly stoic. Suspects, likely and unlikely, keep adding themselves to the list. The mob is involved. There are more fistfights, a gathering of suspects, and a dramatic reveal. It’s all highly satisfactory, even if you don’t get all the references.

There are also Terry Beatty’s illustrations, which are an integral part of the book’s appeal. It starts with the endpaper illustration, one of the books on trial in the novel, and the beginning of each chapter is signaled by a comic panel, with the title given in a speech balloon, making them essentially as series of conversations.

The fun starts with the cover, which I fell in love with right from the start. This is one of the few books I think you can judge by the cover; if you like the cover, you’ll like the book. If not–probably not. Glen Orbik’s’s cover sets the appropriate, pulpy atmosphere and, yes, features in the book itself.

Collins and Betty clearly appreciate their genres, mixing, melding, and adapting with unqualified glee to make a highly enjoyable noir tale. Deep analysis? No. Fun? Yes, very much so.

Seduction of the Innocent goes on sale tomorrow, February 19, 2013. Read more about it on Titan Book’s Blog entry.


(1) No, don’t bother looking for a “1” in the text. There isn’t one. This is just an aside. Right after I finished the book, I ran across this article. It seems the real Dr. Wertham did quite a lot of data manipulation in his book.

Disclosure: Review copy supplied by the publisher. A positive review was not specified, and all views expressed are my own.

Edited Feb. 20 to split the illustration paragraph in two. I had incorrectly named the cover artist; Glen Orbik’s name is right there on the back!

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2 Comments

  1. I am intrigued!

    • Jessica Greenlee

      I’d love to see your take on Maggie.

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  1. Tom Arnold, Paul Williams and More « Friends/Family/Fans of Max Allan Collins - [...] And Geek Girl loves her some SEDUCTION, too. [...]

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