Thursday, August 6, 2009

Crooked Little Vein

At first glance, Crooked Little Vein would seem to be nothing more than a comic I-can-top-that sort of novel, combined with the trappings of a hard-boiled private eye novel.

Michael McGill is a private eye, and a self-described “shit magnet”, to whom everything goes both wrong and weird. Weird as in cases involving man-ostrich sex. McGill thinks he’s plumbed the depths, but that changes when a shady, perverted Washington power broker hires him to find a lost document. And not just any lost document. He is to search for the secret Constitution of the United States, which Benjamin Franklin had bound in the skin of an extraterrestrial being, and which Richard Nixon lost in a whorehouse when he was president. It seems that the document, through its mysterious origins, possesses the power to “reset” the morals of America, which the current administration badly wishes to do.

So McGill sets off on a cross-country trip with a young female sidekick named Trix, who is writing her doctoral thesis on sexual fetishes. They careen from one misadventure to another, including one where McGill allows salt water to be injected into his genitals in exchange for information.

It is easy to see Crooked Little Vein as a freakshow. But Warren Ellis, who has worked mostly in the graphic novel field, is a talented writer, and hidden in all the extreme behavior are cogent observations about America, politics and the media. Highly, highly recommended.

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