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 the crackdown come, falling like an executioner's axe...?
Hard Case Crime's latest book showcases Max Allan Collins, most well known for The Road to Perdition writing an old school pulp styled detective novel that also doubles as historical fiction. Comic Historians will recognize the title of this work is also the title of a book about the dangers of comics from the 50's that resulted in the Comics Codes Authority.
Collins uses this set up and changes the names of the players (EC Comics becomes EF Comics, Batman becomes Crime Fighter, etc) which is odd for a reader well aware of all these players and takes some getting used to. The writing itself is strong and the mystery unravels perfectly. Jack Starr is a solid detective, and the supporting players are unique and easy to keep track of. Comic styled art by Terry Beatty appears with Chapter breaks adding to the undeniably cool feel of this book.
As a noir, pulp and comic fan this was a fun fast paced read. While switching the names of characters and comic publishers annoyed me at first once I got past it I found a great deal to enjoy in this book.