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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Seduction of the Innocent

Max Allan Collins

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To purchase Seduction of the Innocent

Title: Seduction of the Innocent
Author: Max Allan Collins
Genre: Novel
Written: 2013
Length: 269 pages
Availability: Seduction of the Innocent - US
Seduction of the Innocent - UK
Seduction of the Innocent - Canada
Seduction of the Innocent - India
  • With illustrations by Terry Beatty

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Our Assessment:

B : decent pulpish thriller, but too torn between facts and fantasy

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly . 24/12/2012 .
The Telegraph . 7/3/2013 Terry Ramsey

  From the Reviews:
  • "The gathering of suspects at the end for the reveal will please golden age mystery fans, but the total package falls short of Collinsís best." - Publishers Weekly

  • "Seduction of the Innocent is a piece of enjoyable hokum (.....) Itís all good fun, written in a faux-1950s style but, given that it is a homage to cheap crime stories, it moves at a surprisingly slow pace." - Terry Ramsey, The Telegraph

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Seduction of the Innocent is narrated by Jack Starr, vice president of the Starr Newspaper Syndication Company and sometime P.I. as chief troubleshooter for the family company (run by his step-mother, former stripper Maggie). The novel is set in 1954, and takes on the attacks on violence and gore in the comic strips of the day, including the Senate hearings into juvenile delinquency that tried to place a great deal of blame on the supposedly corrupting influence of comics.
       A vocal and successful opponent to violent comics is Dr.Werner Frederick, just set to publish his book denouncing them, Ravage the Lambs; the character is closely modeled on real-life comic opponent Dr.Fredric Wertham, famous for his 1954 book ... Seduction of the Innocent. The Starrs know he can be trouble, so Maggie thinks the best thing would be to get him on board, by hiring him to write a syndicated advice column -- with the condition that he doesn't discuss comic books or strips in the column, since that might be a conflict of interest. Frederick is tempted by the easy money -- Maggie even promises to supply him with an assistant who can do most of the actual writing -- and it sounds like a deal that both sides can benefit from.
       With the Senate hearings, however, there's other trouble brewing for the Starrs, as some of the others they deal with are less easy to handle than Frederick. In particular, one publisher, Bob Price, who volunteers to testify at the hearings -- and who has a personal beef with Frederick (though he's hardly the only one) -- proves to be a handful, with Jack assigned to be his bodyguard when he appears at the hearings, given the threats Price has been getting.
       The woman they eye as Frederick's ghostwriter, young Dr.Sylvia Winters who plies her trade in the Village, makes for a convenient semi-romantic interest for Jack, but things get all twisted when one of the characters is found dead. It's almost halfway through the novel before the murder -- giving ample room to set the stage for those who might have had an interest in committing the act. Still, Seduction of the Innocent is less whodunnit than leisurely look at the comic book industry and the assault on it at the time.
       If Frederick's attacks prove shallow and misleading, so too Collins' fictional defense here relies too much on pop-psychology and anecdotal evidence, as he uneasily stirs the historical debate within the fictional story. Neither closely documentary, nor sufficiently far removed from the incidents (and particularly the actual people, notably Wertham), Seduction of the Innocent remains too closely tethered to reality, and it really feels like the story is held back by that.
       Collins' Jack is a bit too eager to indulge in wordplay but otherwise makes for an entertaining enough narrator and guide through the thicket of comic strip syndication and everything to do with it. The murder-mystery part of the novel is pretty basic, though Collins does offer a few nice touches, but it's not ideally integrated into the larger arguments about comic book violence.
       It makes for a fine, fast pulp read, with some interesting period detail -- Collins is pretty good at that -- that just feels a bit flat. The comic-strip-like illustrations by Terry Beatty at the start of each chapter are a nice touch.

- M.A.Orthofer, 14 January 2013

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Seduction of the Innocent: Reviews: Max Allan Collins: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       American author Max Allan Collins was born in 1948.

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© 2013 the complete review

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