Seduction of the Innocent by Max Allan Collins
|Seduction of the Innocent by Max Allan Collins|
|Reviewer: Iain Wear|
|Summary: A superb thriller that has all the best of the hard-boiled style made famous by Raymond Chandler. The style, the setting and the plot all come together perfectly.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 272||Date: February 2013|
|Publisher: Titan Books|
|External links: Author's website|
I've been a fan of Hard Case Crime almost since their inception in 2005. It helped that one of their early books was a novella from one of my favourite authors, namely Stephen King's The Colorado Kid, but I also love the hard-boiled style of thriller they specialise in. After just 8 years in existence, Max Allan Collins' Seduction of the Innocent already marks their 110th release and with stories like this, it's no wonder they're thriving.
Loosely based on real life events from the 1950s, Seduction of the Innocent tells a story around a group of comic book publishers, who are being attacked for their product being inappropriate. Here, the innocent are a generation of young people being corrupted by that material and the seduction is that practised by the comic books themselves. In both a book he has written and in a Congressional hearing, noted psychiatrist Dr. Werner Frederick claims that comic books are leading their audience into the world of violence, crime and sex depicted in their chosen reading material, which can only be having a negative effect on the individuals and on society as a whole.
This attack threatens to result in a ban on comic books, which would affect the entire industry. Publishers, artists and distributors with Mob connections would lose out, as well as the audience themselves. This means that when Dr. Frederick is found murdered, there is a long list of potential suspects. Jack Starr, part owner of the Starr publishing house, happens to have a Private Investigator's license, so he is asked by his stepmother and boss, former showgirl Maggie Starr, to look into the murder, as she is aware of the repercussions should someone in the industry be involved.
I've always loved the laid back writing style of the hard boiled crime thrillers and Max Allan Collins, on this evidence, is one of the finest proponents of the art. No matter what is happening, be it a fist fight on a staircase or a business meeting in the Starr offices, the style remains consistent. Although it's a laid back writing style that never gets caught up in the excitement itself, this consistency helps keep the book flowing and even when the action might drop off, the style means the pages turn as quickly as when there is plenty happening.
The descriptive work is excellent here as well. As befitting a story based around the comic book industry, the writing is very visual. When Jack is taken in by a hood with a hat on the snazzy side, a light green porkpie with a darker green-and-red feather, you can almost picture the hat and the bulge of his gun, which is also nicely described. Facial features tend to be a little less loosely described, but are vivid enough to give you a decent picture of the characters, especially on a couple of occasions when there is a naked female standing in front of Jack.
The humour prevalent in such novels is also present here and works wonderfully well, again in keeping with the basic plot. It's not hard to picture Jack, our narrator, turning to the reader with an eyebrow raised as he comes out with comments like Can you boil a battle? or I said I did some of my best work on couches. The style always reminds me of the voiceovers in TV shows like The Wonder Years and, whilst they're not always played for laughs, there is a dry humour ever present.
Unusually for a crime thriller, the artwork is worth a mention. There are some excellent comic book style drawings illustrating the chapter pages and one section which drops briefly into comic book style for a couple of pages. It's an extra touch that wouldn't have harmed the book had it been missing, but one which helps remind the reader what the story is based on. It's often the tiny details that can turn a very good book into a great one and here it rounds out the whole package very nicely indeed.
If you've ever enjoyed the hard boiled crime thrillers of the likes of Raymond Chandler, even just a little, you're likely to love Seduction of the Innocent. It's perfectly written, hitting all the right notes in terms of atmosphere, characterisation and plot and I loved it. So well is it written that, even when you know who was guilty, there's still plenty here to make it worthy of a second reading.
If this sounds like the book for you, more excellent hard-boiled crime can be found in Spade and Archer by Joe Gores
You can read more book reviews or buy Seduction of the Innocent by Max Allan Collins at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Seduction of the Innocent by Max Allan Collins at Amazon.com.
Seduction of the Innocent by Max Allan Collins is in the Top Ten Crime Novels 0f 2013.
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