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Strip For Murder [Paperback]

Max Allan Collins

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Book Description

May 6 2008 A Jack Starr Mystery (Book 2)
Manhattan, 1953. Hal Rapp?s Tall Paul, one of America?s most popular comic strips, is now a Broadway musical, infuriating Rapp?s long-time rival Sam Fizer, creator of the once beloved boxing strip Mug O?Malley. Adding insult to injury is the casting of Misty Winters, Fizer?s wife, as one of Rapp?s hillbilly gals. Then Fizer is found murdered??with all evidence pointing to Rapp.

Starr Syndicate has distribution deals with both cartoonists, but V.P. Jack Starr and his stepmother (and company president) Maggie believe Rapp?s been framed. Between loan sharks, jealous husbands, bitter artists, and Fizer?s widow, there are more colorful characters with murderous motives than in a month of Sunday funnies.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley Trade (May 6 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425221393
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425221396
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 13.7 x 20.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 272 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #759,351 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Max Allan Collins was hailed in 2004 by Publisher's Weekly as "a new breed of writer." A frequent Mystery Writers of America "Edgar" nominee, he has earned an unprecedented fifteen Private Eye Writers of America "Shamus" nominations for his historical thrillers, winning for his Nathan Heller novels, True Detective (1983) and Stolen Away (1991).

His graphic novel Road to Perdition is the basis of the Academy Award-winning film starring Tom Hanks, directed by Sam Mendes. His many comics credits include the syndicated strip "Dick Tracy"; his own "Ms. Tree"; "Batman"; and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, based on the hit TV series for which he has also written video games, jigsaw puzzles, and a bestselling series of novels (for Pocket Books) that has sold over 1.5 copies in America alone.

He has been termed "the novelization king" by Entertainment Weekly, with tie-in books on the USA TODAY bestseller list nine times and the New York Times list twice. His movie novels include Saving Private Ryan, Windtalkers, Waterworld, I Love Trouble, Daylight, I Spy, U.S Marshals, Air Force One, Maverick, U-571, The Mummy, The Mummy Returns, The Scorpion King and The Pink Panther. He even wrote the prose version of the film script based on his own Road to Perdition. His TV tie-in work includes two NYPD Blue novels, a trio of DARK ANGEL books and the current BONES novel, Buried Deep.

An independent filmmaker in the midwest, he wrote and directed the Lifetime movie "Mommy" (1996) and a 1997 sequel, "Mommy's Day." He wrote "The Expert," a 1995 HBO World Premiere, and wrote and directed the innovative made-for-DVD feature, "Real Time: Siege at Lucas Street Market" (2000). "Shades of Noir" (2004), an anthology of his short films, includes his award-winning documentary, "Mike Hammer's Mickey Spillane." Shooting on a feature film based on his acclaimed novel, The Last Quarry, began shooting in January 2007 from the author's screenplay.

His one-man show, "Eliot Ness: An Untouchable Life," was nominated for an Edgar for Best Play of 2004 by the Mystery Writers of America; a film version, written and directed by Collins, received its world premiere in Rock Island, Illinois, in February 2006.

His other credits include film criticism, short fiction, songwriting, trading-card sets. His non-fiction work has received many honors, with his coffee-table book The History of Mystery receiving nominations for every major mystery awards and his recent Men's Adventure Magazines winning the Anthony Award.

Collins lives in Muscatine, Iowa, with his wife, writer Barbara Collins; they have collaborated on three novels and numerous short stories. Their son Nathan graduated in 2005 with majors in computer science and Japanese at the University of Iowa in nearby Iowa City, and has just returned from taking a year of post-graduate studies in Japan.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Namely, jes' fine May 11 2008
By S. Berner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Max Allan Collins is the most prolific writer since, and possibly including, Isaac Asimov. Unlike Asimov, whom I knew slightly and admired immensely, Collins is actually a good writer as well as idea man. This latest (as of this writing) episode, the second in the series featuring Jack Starr and his sexy step mom Maggie , is an oddity on any number of delightful levels. A spoof of the production of the musical "Li'l Abner" (here called "Tall Paul") it fascinates in that only Collins would think there are enough people who remember the comic strip, let alone the Johnny Mercer/Gene DePaul musical. For those that do, however, the none-too-subtle portrait of the players involved (including Edie Adams, Ernie Kovacs, Peter Palmer, etc.-we will pause briefly while the vast majority out there say:"WHO????" ) is a hoot. If Collins' history is a wee bit shaky (both "The Pajama Game" & "The Caine Mutiny Court Martial" were produced in 1954, not the 1953 of the story's setting), his style and sense of humor are impeccable. Buy this! Oh, and as an aside, demand Prime Crime bring Collins' other work for them back into print!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Scandal in the funny pages Aug. 5 2008
By Craig Clarke - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Manhattan, 1953 -- Rehearsals are underway toward the opening night of the musical Tall Paul, based on the popular comic strip of the same name by Hal Rapp. Rapp's ex-employer (and chief rival), Mug O'Malley creator Sam Fizer, has threatened to sue, saying Rapp's characters were originally created by Fizer when Rapp was working under him on the O'Malley strip. To make matters worse, Fizer's estranged wife has been hired for a role in the musical.

On Halloween night, shortly after a party at Rapp's apartment, Fizer is found dead in his own room -- an apparent suicide but with painfully obvious signs pointing to Rapp as a murderer. Rapp asks Jack and Maggie Starr for help. Maggie runs the Starr Newspaper Syndication Company, and her stepson Jack is a private investigator "with one client: the Starr Syndicate." (Maggie is a former ecdysiast only 10 years Jack's senior -- a situation that is a constant source of Oedipal-incest jokes at Jack's expense.)

Rapp has offered his new strip, Lean Jean, to the Starrs, so they are very invested in keeping him out of jail -- especially since it looks like he is being framed. Jack takes on the case, hoping to remove the frame from Rapp before Captain Pat Chandler can nail it on tight.

Though Strip for Murder has some basis in history, author Max Allan Collins plays around with the facts here more than with his other historical-mystery novels, which usually hew closely to the facts with just a fictional character thrown in.

In fact, in this case, even the main participants' names have been fictionalized right along with the timeline of events and the characters' relationships, though their real-life counterparts can easily be discovered with a little research. Collins gives them names that aren't obvious caricatures, but realistic names in the style of the real ones. (Even the fictional characters in the musical get this treatment, like turning Daisy Mae into Sunflower Sue.)

Artist Terry Beatty, Collins's collaborator on various comic projects, including Ms. Tree, serves up era-appropriate comics-style drawings at the beginning of each chapter, and also adds a cute feature illustrating the motives, means, and opportunities of all the suspects just prior to the denouement.

Beatty's illustrations do a lot to keep the reader immersed in the world of comics, because once you've seen his renderings of the characters, it's impossible to imagine them any other way. Even with his work isn't on the page, it's still there in the mind's eye. So, though Collins likely had real humans in mind when he created these characters, I had Beatty's renderings in mine while reading Strip for Murder, which gave it a surprising "graphic novel" quality uncommon in a prose volume.

The characters are as two-dimensional as the illustrations -- but that may be intentional given the milieu (Collins did write Dick Tracy for 15 years, and his lengthy experience provides fodder for some very welcome comics-business in-jokes). What's important is that Strip for Murder gives a remarkable snapshot of Manhattan in the 1950s and a mystery solution that is as surprising as it is satisfying.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strip for Murder lots of fun and a lot of truth about comic strip writers July 31 2008
By Laurence J. Coven - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Max Allan Collins is the undisputed master of the historical mystery. His research, supported by his long time aide George Hagenauer is always so superb that the reader is immersed in whatever period about which Collins is writing. As much light 24-karat fun as this who-done-it provides STRIP FOR MURDER also qualifies as an historical mystery, being the second in a series that started with A KILLING IN COMICS. Jack Starr, in-house detective for the Starr syndicate, owned by his still glamorous ex-stripper step-mother, Maggie, are caught up in another murder case when their top cartoonist Sam Fizer is found shot to death in his posh Waldorf Astoria suite just a floor away from where Hal Rapp, his arch-enemy and creator of the fabulously successful strip "Tall Paul" is having a Halloween party for the cast of the new Broadway musical based on his cartoon strip. Everyone at the party has dressed as a cartoon strip character, and virtually all of them have motives to have killed Sam Fizer, most of all Hal Rapp himself.
Unlike many of Collins' historical mysteries, this one is not based on a true life murder, but the novel is a Roman a Clef for the large dose of characters who are all too un-coincidentally similar to real celebrities of the times. Figuring out just who represents whom from real life is at least as much fun as deducing who done it!

Hal Rapp is a one-legged acerbic cartoonist whose strip takes place in Catfish Holler, populated by hunky bumpkins and curvaceous, well-endowed, corn-fed beauties. Now if you can't figure out who Hal Rapp is supposed to be you're either rhyming impaired or too young to care. Others include an intellectual cigar-smoking comedian known for his weird sight gags and his beautiful singer wife.

But don't take your eye off the murder, which at first seems like a suicide, but then a murder again, and may have been intended as an intentionally botched attempt to look like a suicide in order to frame Hal Rapp.

Other suspects include Misty Winters, born Ethel something-or-other, the victim's wife, who has been cast by Hal Rapp in the musical to play Bathless Bessie who the boys adore but their noses abhor. This bit of wife poaching had driven Misty and Sam Fizer on the road to divorce, and further fueled their already legendary feud. Others under a cloud of suspicion include gangsters, loan sharks, and other luminaries and semi-luminaries from the comic strip world.

A really superb touch is Fizer's supposed suicide note, lettered and signed just like his strip Mug O'Malley and reads, "Good-bye Mug, Good-bye Everybody, Let Me Go Out Undefeated, Sam Fizer." And the reader even gets to see it with Fizer's body slumped over his last drawn strip, thanks to the artistry of Collins's frequent partner in crime, Terry Beatty, who lends his considerable talents to give us several cartoon renderings through this basically prose novel. including a full six-page recap towards the end of the book.

And I can tell you that Collins plays eminently fair with his readers. The clues are all there, and you too can figure it out if you're as sharp as this reviewer is. Yeah I solved it-heh, heh!

So you can play detective and figure out who and how the crime was committed, or you can pat yourself on the back for spotting the thinly disguised celebrity characters from that period, or you can just have a delightful time following Jack Starr's narration and his love for cracking wise while staying two jumps ahead of the local NYPD detectives.

There really is something for everyone is this charming, funnier-than-hell semi-historical murder mystery. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION.
4.0 out of 5 stars Very fun book! Oct. 11 2013
By Lou Mougin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Max always writes enjoyable mysteries and I'm a comics fan, so I loved it. Based on the feud between Al Capp and Ham Fisher (get out your Wikipedia, newbies). Recommended.
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable takeoff on Al Capp Sept. 4 2013
By Dennis P. Donohoe - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Max Allan Collins' Jack Starr mysteries are always enjoyable both for the wit and writing and for the subject that inspired them. In this case it is Li'l Abner and Al Capp but you don't have to be familiar with them to be entertained by the murder mystery and the characters. Recommended!

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