I have long since admired Warren Ellis’ sick, dark, and twisted style of writing, but until now it was only available in the form of comic books and graphic novels. Which is why I, amongst many others, was really looking forward to this book release this summer, second only to Harry Potter. I was slightly disappointed by the length of the book (at 277 pages, and only 7 inches tall, it’s an easy, one sitting read), but that was pretty much the only thing that disappointed.
The story follows a washed up private detective, Mike McGill, who is a magnet for bad luck. He meets a pretty, tattooed girl named Trix who wants to accompany him on his latest case tracking down a mysterious book for the government. Throughout their journey across the States, they run into a series of strange circumstances and characters. Ellis is known for exposing the underbelly of America in his work, and this novel is no different. He sheds light on some of the strangest, underground practices from Godzilla porn to saline injection parties and what upstanding Los Angeles lawyers really do at their high profile get-togethers. At certain points in the novel, you may find yourself stepping back a moment and thinking “That could never happen!” only to find yourself musing a few seconds later, “But, would that happen? Could it?” While I had a hard time stomaching everything that Ellis drudges up about our country, I firmly believe that this stuff is happening somewhere around America at this very moment.
Ellis’ most notable work (in my opinion) is his graphic novel series, Transmetropolitan, which tells of a journalist in a futuristic New York City that has descended into crime, violence, sex, and poverty. It is a major exaggeration of what NYC is like today, and could become in the future, though not impossible to believe. At times during Crooked Little Vein, I felt that Ellis had mistakenly thought he was writing for his fictional, future version of America, instead of present day, most especially in dealing with the government’s story line and the character of the Secretary of Defense. Even the Las Vegas hotel Trix and Mike stay in is just a bit too far fetched to be erected in present society.
Whether you accept it all as a possible reality or simply fiction, this book still offers a great detective mystery and love story for our modern age. It’s a quick, fun read that will leave you questioning what really happens in those dark alleys of NYC, the campy hotels in Las Vegas, and the lulls of suburbia in the Mid-West.