Being a fan of the excitement and drama that came out of the Golden Age of Radio, I found myself drawn to the book that I just finished reading. The War of The World Murder by Max Allan Collins is set in 1938, just before and during the famous "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast by Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater of the Air on CBS. Collins embroils Orson Welles and pulp writer Walter Gibson - creator of the pulp superhero The Shadow - in a murder mystery when a body is discovered in the CBS studios just minutes before the famous broadcast of War of the Worlds is scheduled to begin. With Welles as the number one suspect, Gibson has exactly one hour - while Welles is on the air enacting the infamous hoax story about Martian invasion - to find the real murderer and clear the radio star's name.
The concept of involving real life characters in fictitious mysteries is not a new one. Ron Goulart had a very successful series involving Groucho Marx. Harry Houdini was a member of a fictional secret society in The Arcanum by Thomas Wheeler. The trend has gone on for years.
Let me start by saying that I loved The War of the Worlds Murder. The pacing was excellent, the detail of an era gone by was incredible, and the characterization of some of Old Time Radio's legends was fantastic. Collins did an admirable job in building up the relationships between the characters and providing insight into the daily dynamic of each individual. The way that Collins intermixes Gibson's investigation with the radio broadcast as well as the world's reaction to said broadcast was incredible, making the last half of the book a page turner that you just don't want to put down.
It was obvious that Collins placed a great deal of effort in researching his topic. His detail surrounding the historical context of the story seemed precise, making it easy for the reader to envision each scene with ease.
If I had only one complain about the book, it would be this. When the solution to the crime is revealed (and I won't give anything away), I found myself, for a moment, feeling a little cheated. But, after I considered the surrounding historical events, the ending makes perfect sense and wouldn't have been correct if done any other way.
This is, by far, one of the most enjoyable books I've read in recent months. It drew me in, and kept me hooked until the end. I would highly recommend The War of the Worlds Murder.