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Craig's Book Club
Book Reviews

Spotlight on: My Lolita Complex and Other Tales of Sex and Violence
by Max Allan Collins and Matthew V. Clemens


To arrange to have products considered for review, send an email to craigsbookclub@yahoo.com.


My Lolita Complex by Max Allan Collins and Matthew V. Clemens Max Allan Collins and Matthew V. Clemens,
My Lolita Complex and Other Tales of Sex and Violence

Matthew V. Clemens has collaborated with Max Allan Collins on the research and plotting of all of the popular series of CSI and CSI: Miami novels written by Collins, in addition to the recent Bones: Buried Deep. In between novels, they have also been slowly building a cache of short stories in various magazines and anthologies. My Lolita Complex and Other Tales of Sex and Violence collects nine of those stories. It is a slim volume, but it really packs a punch.

It is a motley collection, to be sure, with stories based on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Hellboy, as well as pastiches of such cultural landmarks as James Bond and The Thin Man. Those only familiar with Collins's and Clemens's TV tie-in work will be surprised by the variation present in My Lolita Complex, but not by the authors' adeptness with the characters of others, displayed in five of the nine stories.

Putting the weaker tales at the beginning isn't the greatest idea, but it gets them out of the way. Still, if you skipped over "A Woman's Touch," a mostly pointless Civil War story with an admittedly surprising ending, and "A Pebble for Papa" (the authors' first collaboration), a tedious Prohibition-era mob tale, you wouldn't be missing much.

I don't know how Collins and Clemens managed to write a story faithful to both the Buffy the Vampire Slayer mythos and also to Collins's specialties (1940s private eye with connections to Frank Nitti), but "Stakeout on Rush Street" offers the best of both worlds. Hellboy meets cryptozoology in "I Had Bigfoot's Baby!" which shows the crimson hero investigating the title legend for the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense and finding more than he bargained for.

In "Sand on the Beach" and "Lie Beside Me," Collins and Clemens bring forth international superspy John Sand, "inspiration" for James Bond, and show that even a retired and newly married intelligence agent has made too many enemies to expect peaceful marital bliss, even when that marital bliss is as healthy (and happens as often) as occurs in these stories. There is a lot of humor especially in "Lie Beside Me," as Sand discovers that, even in marriage, sexual shenanigans can be dangerous.

In "East Side, West Side," Collins and Clemens bring their own touch to Nick and Nora Charles from The Thin Man (here Mickey and Maryanne Ashford, though Mickey still looks like "a taller, unmustached William Powell"), as they solve their first mystery as a couple. The inclusion of celebrity cameos harkens to Collins's Nathan Heller series, but the lighter tone reminds me more of Stuart Kaminsky's Toby Peters mysteries.

All three of the previously mentioned stories were originally the first chapters of novels for a publisher that wanted to produce sexy books for and about married couples, and Collins and Clemens add a lot of spice to these relationships. Another story that was originally the first chapter of a novel (the inaugural CSI release, Double Dealer) was "Graveyard Shift," which has been rewritten with a more shockingly unexpected finale that suits the theme of My Lolita Complex perfectly.

So, it is too bad the title story, "My Lolita Complex," is a bit of a disappointment. It is lurid in all the right ways, despite the predictable outcome, but the details of Clemens's life used as atmospheric details were distracting. Had I not known that another story held this title, I would have thought this was Collins's and Clemens's first collaboration. It is not a bad little tale; it simply lacks the originality necessary to take it to another level and end the collection with a "wow finish."

All in all, My Lolita Complex is an entertaining volume of sexy and violent stories. Editor Tina Jens could have reordered the stories to better effect, however that would only have covered over the existent flaws until they became apparent in the reading. Fans of Max Allan Collins's novels, though, should enjoy this other side of his fictional output (of which novel readers are likely to be unaware, as I was), and be grateful that Twilight Tales has brought them together in a form that properly showcases them.


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