STRIP FOR MURDER by Max Allan Collins
I enjoyed the first Jack Starr comic strip mystery set during the 1950s, so it’s no surprise I settled in for a fun read when I picked up Strip For Murder, the second book in the series. Jack and Maggie are together again, and another body has basically been dropped in their laps. This time the stakes seem even higher than last time, though, and the murder really hits close to home.
I have to admit, I enjoyed the history revealed in the first book a lot more than I did in this one. Strip For Murder focuses on the real-life rivalry of comic strip creators Al Capp and Ham Fisher, but expands upon that history fictionally. However, where the first novel had a lot of interesting stuff that spun out of the main mystery, the history revealed in this one grew tighter and tighter with little branching out.
Also, the subject matter got really dark quick. The rivalry between Rapp and Fizer (the fictionalized versions of the two men) just drops deeper and deeper into a morass of wickedness to the point that there’s no one for Jack and Maggie to truly save except themselves.
The mystery, since it’s based on two actual people and is grounded in real events, doesn’t work too well as a puzzle either. I had it all figured out before I got there, so reading through the chapters was more or less like simply connecting the pieces.
The book is a good read. Everything Max Allan Collins has written has been something I’ve enjoyed. Reading about the coming federal crackdown on comics and comic strips has whetted my appetite for the third novel in the series: Seduction of the Innocent, named after the book by Fredric Wertham that condemned comic books and gave rise to the Comics Code Authority.