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Interview With Max Allan Collins, Author of 'Seduction of the Innocent' [Literature]

What do you get when you combine Micky Spillane with Superman? You get the new hardboiled detective novel Seduction of the Innocent  written by Max Allan Collins with artwork by Terry Betty.

Above Image: Seduction of the Innocent cover written by Max Allan Collins

The book is inspired by the 1950's witch-hunt of comic book publishers that drove comic book publishers like EC comics out of business. I really enjoyed it and it reminded me a lot of the classic dime store crime novels. I'm a huge comic book fan and it was fascinating to see what it was like in this sad period of American comic book history set against a gritty murder mystery.
The official synopsis reads this way: "It’s 1954, and a rabble-rousing social critic has declared war on comic books – especially the scary, gory, bloody sort published by the bad boys of the industry, EF Comics. But on the way to a Senate hearing on whether these depraved publications should be banned, the would-be censor meets a violent end of his own – leaving his opponents in hot water.

"Can Jack Starr, private eye to the funny-book industry, and his beautiful boss Maggie unravel the secret of Dr. Frederick’s gruesome demise? Or will thecrackdown come, falling like an executioner’s axe…?

"A hardboiled detective novel inspired by the 1950s witch-hunt against crime and horror comic books. Written by best-selling novelist Max Allan Collins (author of Road to Perdition and long-time scripter of the Dick Tracy newspaper comic strip) and featuring 16 pages of interior illustrations by comic-book artist Terry Beatty (Batman, The Phantom), SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT tells the story of comic book industry troubleshooter Jack Starr and his investigation into the death of a moralizing crusader out to get violent comics banned.

"The book was inspired in part by the real-life crusade of Dr. Fredric Wertham, who in 1954 published a non-fiction book also titled Seduction of the Innocent in which he accused comic books – especially violent ones such as those put out by Tales from the Crypt publisher EC Comics – of corrupting America’s innocent youth."
Mr. Collins agreed to do a brief interview for the blog about the book.

Q: Thanks for the interview. What inspired you to return to this time period for your Jack Starr novels?
The early fifties was a time of change in the world of comics. You had SUPERMAN taking off on TV, yet at the same time story strips were starting to falter in the newspapers. Comic books were hugely popular, selling hundreds of millions of copies every year, but the McCarthy era witch hunt led by Dr. Frederic Wertham threw a huge wrench into those works. And there were some specific subjects I wanted to tackle in that time period -- how Siegel and Shuster lost their famous character, how two superstar cartoonists (Al Capp and Ham Fisher) had a vicious feud that led to the death of one, and the aforementioned anti-comics crusade.
Add to this the fun of recreating the Golden Age of mystery stories -- represented by Rex Stout, Agatha Christie, Erle Stanley Gardner, Ellery Queen and Mickey Spillane -- and I felt the mix was right for something entertaining and even a bit educational.

Q: What made you decide to turn this story into a mystery novel?
 Dr. Wertham was somebody that comics fans hated, and professionals obviously did, too. He was famous, his book was famous -- understand that his SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT appeared in 1954, and in that same year he testified at a Senate Committee hearing to the effect that comic books caused juvenile delinquency. In that same year, 1954, the Comics Code Authority came in, and many state legislatures banned the use of words like "crime" and "horror" on comic book covers. By 1956, some of the most successful comic book publishers, including EC Comics and Lev Publications (the CRIME DOESN NOT PAY group), were gone. Out of business. All because of one guy's misguided and dishonest effort -- just last week, the New York Times revealed that a researcher studying Wertham's papers determined that the doc had faked his data. People lost their jobs, publishers went under, and comic book went from being mainstream to a kiddie niche...all thanks to one guy.

Who better to choose for a murder victim? No shortage of suspects.

Q: Was there any concern of using the same title as Fredric Wertham's book?
 You can't copyright a title -- I've had any number of mine used by other people. But I felt because my book was a novel, and dealt with this related subject, it was appropriate.
Q: How did Terry Beatty come to illustrate the novel?
 I have collaborated with Terry since the late 1970s. We did the MS. TREE comic book together for about fifteen years, and did a mini-series called JOHNNY DYNAMITE: UNDERWORLD for Dark Horse. He also worked on MIKE DANGER with me at Techno-Comix. He was my first and only choice -- an incredible mimic, who could evoke whatever subect the novel was about...in this case, it's an EC-style approach. Terry is the artist on the PHANTOM syndicated strip, and a longtime BATMAN inker.

Q: What's your next project?
 I am about to go through the copy-edited manuscript of ASK NOT, the new Nate Heller novel out in the fall...the third of my JFK Trilogy. The previous one, TARGET LANCER, came out late last year.


This article was posted as part of the Seduction of the Innocent Blog Tour, celebrating the release of Max Allan Collins' new Hard Case Crime novel. For the opportunity to win a copy of the book, simply tweet “I would like a copy of Seduction of the Innocent @TitanBooks #MaxAllanCollins”.

Find out more about the book and the tour at www.titanbooks.com/seductionoftheinnocent

What do you think of the novel? What do you know about that sad time in America's history?
Book provided by publisher Titan Books. This in no way affected my opinion of the book or it's contents. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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  1. Alex J. CavanaughMarch 2, 2013 at 9:02 AM

    I wonder what others who remember that era (sorry, a decade before my time) would think. What a shame that one person could destroy so much with a misguided crusade. (Tipper Gore tried that with heavy metal music.)
    Max, wish you all the best!

  2. There's always someone looking to find a scapegoat and back then it was comics and Commies. I've read a couple of Collins' Nate Heller novels. They were OK, not great.

  3. the feel of the art of the cover is wonderful... the interview is very cool... it's a must to check out. thank you GT and Max Allan Collins!!

  4. Funny to reclaim that title.

  5. Fascinating interview! I have got to get this book as I love that period of time and the hateful McCarthy hearings that threatened so much creativity in this country.


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