Monday, September 29, 2014

Seduction Of The Innocent!


Seduction of the Innocent is the third book in the Jack and Maggie Starr mystery trilogy by Max Allan Collins. This book was published by Hard Case Crime in 2013. The series first two installments had been published in 2007 and 2008 by Berkley Prime Crime, a division of Penguin Books, but that publisher had decided against doing the third and at this time final volume. So  it's real pleasure to see this final book, perhaps the best of the three. The Glen Orbik cover is a real stunner, echoing the most memorable of vintage 50's comics covers.

Dr.Frederic Wertham
The story is set in 1954 and concerns itself with a notorious psychologist cum social crusader named "Dr.Werner Frederick" whose book Ravage the Lambs sets out to reveal the lascivious nature of comic books and create a public furor about same. Of course the Starr Syndicate, headed by former stripper Maggie Starr and her stepson Jack Starr care a great deal about this effort as it will directly impact their business.

Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein
So when  E.F. (Educational Funnies) Comics honchos "Bob Price" and "Hal Feldman" seek to face down the critic, it becomes a real problem for comics when Price's testimony before a Congressional commission becomes a debacle. Price ends up embarrassed and threatens to kill Dr.Frederic.

Al Williamson
Also invested in countering Frederic is hot-headed artist "Will Allsion" who also threatens the pop pyschologist on television. That becomes a particularly dicey problem when Frederic actually does end up dead under very mysterous circumstances.

Charles Biro (the one with the monkey)
Maggie asks Jack to investigate and he does. Among the many folks he interviews are Price and Feldman, but also editor of Levinson Comics "Charley Bardwell" who is a tough mug famous for his pranks and drinking as well as his pet monkey, which even gets into the comics he published. 

Bob Wood
Bardwell's partner "Pete Pine" is an even more notorious drunk, a man who becomes quite violent when he's had too much booze.

Tarpe Mills
Jack runs into a great deal of trouble when he finds Pine at the apartment of "Lyla Lamont", a darkly beautiful comic artist who has a wild reputation for enjoying life in all its many forms.

The chase around NYC in search of a killer is a snappy and finely paced affair. Because this story centered around a group of comics folks already close to the criminality in some instances, it seem to have a more noir atmosphere than the previous volumes, or maybe the lurid details are just naturally part of this at times most pungent tale. The action is rousing in this one, both of the amorous and  pugilistic variety.


 As always Terry Beatty supplies some beautiful illustrations for this story, his style very reminiscent of the great Johhny Craig, is especially apt in this volume.

This was a great send off for the series. It seems to me there are a goodly number of stories which could be yet told from the shadowy world of comics, but Collins said that this volume concluded his plans for Jack and Maggie.

If you can find them, I highly recommend these three books. They are filled with wonderful ambience and details from 1950's New York City. Any comics fan will find them fascinating and any mystery fan will find them fulfilling.

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2 comments:

  1. Good review! Glen Orbik has a great style for these types of covers.

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    1. Thanks. Orbik is a dandy artist.I'd love to see Hard Case reprint the other two installments and let him try his hand at some truly pulp covers.

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