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Crooked Little Vein: A Novel by Warren Ellis
Review by Drew Bittner
William Morrow Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 0060723939
Date: 24 July 2007 List Price $21.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

If Hunter S. Thompson and William S. Burroughs ever got thoroughly trashed and decided to write a road trip/political thriller, Crooked Little Vein might have been the result.

Warren Ellis, best known for his singular, nigh-maniacal take on superheroes (Planetary, The Authority, Nextwave, newuniversal), the near future/posthumanity (Transmetropolitan) and broken men in desperate straits (Fell), delivers up a wacked-out, cracked out vision of America as only a Brit can do.

Michael McGill, private eye and self-professed "$#it magnet," gets the job of a lifetime... or so it might seem. The White House Chief of Staff arrives amid a cloud of men in black and gives McGill a job, with no possibility of refusing. America has lost its way and only the long-lost corrective known as the Secret Constitution can fix it. The Founders created this failsafe for just such an emergency as rampant debauchery and madness; the chief intends to put it to use.

After a career in a terminal downward spiral, where his best cases inevitably involve the most wretched perversions McGill can imagine, it doesn't sound too bad to chase an old book. Problem is, nobody knows where it is. Richard Nixon traded it to a Chinese hooker in the '70s and it vanished after that. (The previous sentence only hints at how weird the book gets from here.)

McGill takes the case, along with a half million dollars, and kicks off a road trip through the filthy underbelly of America. He hooks up with Trix, a girl with too many lovers and a sharp eye, then follows a trail of improbable breadcrumbs toward his ultimate goal. Along the way, he finds a group of guys with an unlikely fetish, which leads him to drug dealers, a cyberporn mastermind with uncommon ambitions, an old and powerful Texas family with political leanings (not that one!), and a cabal of perverts at the highest levels of Los Angeles society.

Along the way, he's beaten, subjected to grotesque mistreatment, suffers pangs of emotions thought long buried, and finds that there really is something to the American dream after all-- well, sort of. Depending on who's doing the dreaming.

Ellis writes fast-paced and gripping prose dripping with imagination (and some disgusting bodily fluids as well). His career in comics has only been Act 1; now that he's launched himself as a novelist, there'll really be no tolerating the man. But a spectacular launch it is-- and we'll be looking forward to the next one.

Not family safe, nor for the squeamish or easily provoked, Crooked Little Vein is a wicked little book with an awful lot to say.

Recommended.

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