This is the first of a series of short book reviews. The goal is to get through 50 books this year, each with a review. It’s only appropriate that the first review of the year should be of a book by a first time novelist, Warren Ellis. Ellis is a prolific writer of comics, but this is his first foray into novelization.
Crooked Little Vein is the story of a private investigator that has the worst luck a PI can have - he attracts simple-seeming cases that turn out to be loaded guns. In this instance, Mike McGill attracts a lost property cases with high stakes - a book of Invisible Amendments that the Chief of Staff as his client intends to use on the country. These Amendments are said to be able to reset the country’s morality to the Golden Age when they were written, namely 1776. Following the trail of this book across the country forces the McGill to interact with people with varying degrees of kinks and quirks and face the morality of returning a book with the power this one contains.
The story uses McGills improbable luck to assist with moving the plot along, taking advantage of conventions frequently seen in the comic world but rarely used in mainstream novels. This cavalier attitude toward conventions of reality and coincidence is part of the novels charm. That and cleverly crafted prose, which manages to avoid pushing characters into improbable and awkward conversation while still providing vivid imagery. Even ordinary situations become extraordinary, as exemplified by a red eye flight which becomes a conversation with a serial killer.
Ellis makes good use of his comic background, bringing his scripting skills to the purely written medium. This book reads like a storyboard, the words generating pictures of their own accord. I hope that this first foray into the realm of novels is followed by others. Ellis’ growth as a cross-medium writer is only bounded by his willingness to leave the visual behind.