Monday, March 23, 2015

Romp Among the Comic Strips, 1953: Max Allan Collins, STRIP FOR MURDER

Dover Publications just brought out a reprint in Mystery Classic form of a 2008 Max Allan Collins book, STRIP FOR MURDER -- and it's a light-hearted and entertaining mystery that brings back the '50s, celebrates the old Broadway's glory and adventures, and pays homage to two of the great comic strips of all time, L'il Abner and Joe Palooka. Fans of the strips will also recognize their feuding authors, Al Capp and Ham Fisher, lightly re-arranged and fictionalized into Hal Rapp and Sam Fizer.

But that's not where this (enjoyable!) story starts. Open instead with Jack Starr, a private investigator doing desk duty for his glamorous stepmother, Maggie Starr (once a striptease artist, now owner of her late husband's newspaper syndicate). Maggie's acting in a Broadway version of one of the comic strips, and Jack's supposed to keep her desk clean but make no big decisions.

Of course, that was before both Jack and Maggie saw the dead body downstairs from where the rest of the show cast was partying. Enemies of the corpse when he was alive? Lots of them ... and at least one is ready to bribe Jack in the most intimate of ways.

I'm delighted that Dover's brought back this deliciously entertaining novel from a master of the field -- Max Allan Collins writes nostalgia, humor, and wordplay with flair (yes, he has another side to his craft, political suspense, but we'll go there some other time). The cover is a gem, and the chapters include opening frames of comic art, as well as closing gestures. This one's purely a fun adventure, where even the crime is almost an illusion, and handsome Jack Starr is sure to solve it.

Looking for extra enjoyment? Visit the author's blog, here -- and have fun.

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