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Crooked Little Vein: A Novel

Crooked Little Vein: A Novel

4.3 52
by Warren Ellis

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Burned-out private dick Michael McGill needs to jump-start his career. What he gets instead is a cattle prod to the crotch. The president's heroin-addicted chief of staff wants McGill to find the Constitution—the real one the Founding Fathers secretly devised for the time of gravest crisis. And with God, civility, and Mom's homemade apple pie already


Burned-out private dick Michael McGill needs to jump-start his career. What he gets instead is a cattle prod to the crotch. The president's heroin-addicted chief of staff wants McGill to find the Constitution—the real one the Founding Fathers secretly devised for the time of gravest crisis. And with God, civility, and Mom's homemade apple pie already dead or dying, that time is now. But McGill has a talent for stumbling into every imaginable depravity—and this case is driving him even deeper into America's darkest, dankest underbelly, toward obscenities that boggle even his mind.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Skillful investigator Mike McGill has just been hired by the heroin-injecting chief of staffto reclaim a secret constitution, and his adventures lead him into a level of hell even Dante couldn't imagine. Eloquent and charming serial killers, genital-modifying policemen and reptilian porn fans challenge McGill's sanity as he seeks to retrieve the precious document. Ellis both mocks and pays tribute to the detective genre with this deliciously perverse tale of American fetishism. McLaren embodies McGill with all the investigator'swit and cynicism. His reading makes McGill's resigned disposition toward these events even more prescient through timing, tone and emphasis. Listeners can hear in McLaren's voice resistance clash against acquiescence as McGill contends with the more surreal aspects of life. Even the more exotic characters of the novel aren't turned into vocal caricatures but provided a quality and realistic voice that adds a deeper level of insanity to the individuals and the novel. Simultaneous release with the Morrow hardcover (Reviews, June 4). (Nov.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Ellis is known to readers of comics as the writer behind, among other works, the DC Comics "Transmetropolitan" series. Now he debuts his first novel. Private Detective Michael McGill's gritty life takes a turn for the bizarre when a drug-addicted White House chief of staff enlists him to recover the Constitution. The real Constitution, of course, not the one in the National Archives. This one was handed to the Founding Fathers by aliens, lost in the 1950s, and since traded among the nation's sexual deviants. McGill hits the road with sexpot Trix to track down its current holder. It's a high-energy joyride through a collection of lecherous situations best left undescribed here and likely to appeal primarily to adolescent males. While Ellis incorporates an element of Hunter S. Thompson-inspired gonzo journalism, that style works only as a reflection of the real(ish) world. When taken to the fictional extremes of an extraterrestrial legal document in the hands of a sexual underworld, it begins to feel a little contrived. Add to that the predictable and juvenile relationship between McGill and Trix, and it's apparent that Ellis suffers from some growing pains as he moves from comics to novels. For larger public libraries and collections where Ellis's comics are popular. [See Prepub Alert, LJ5/15/07.]
—Fred Baerkircher

Winnipeg Free Press
“Packed with exciting, hilarious, and disturbing events...outrageously entertaining.”
New York magazine
“If you’re looking for an antidote to the stifling formulae of genre fiction, this could be your book.”
“Rich, dark humor and biting look at the world.”
The Gazette (Montreal)
“A relentlessly fascinating page-turner...brilliantly and effervescently subversive.”
Toronto Star
“So funny you may just laugh out loud.”
Chicago Tribune
“CROOKED LITTLE VEIN...is a book readers will not soon forget.”
Lansing State Journal
“[M]ay be destined to become one of the great underground classics of the 21st century.”
“[S]omewhere between the noir of Frank Miller and dark comedy of Chuck Palahniuk.”
Philadelphia Inquirer
“[A] much-needed kick in the butt for a genre that may be more stagnant than its enthusiasts realize.”
Myspace Books
“There’s at least one surprise, laugh, and genius turn of phrase per page here. ”
Boise Weekly
“[A] fast-paced and funny read...unforgettable.”
Globe and Mail (Toronto)
“[C]ompletely compulsive, impossible to put down.”
Entertainment Weekly
“Not for the faint of heart...surprisingly funny (with shades of Lamb author Christopher Moore).”
Los Angeles Times
“Ellis is a formidable talent whose wit and insight fit perfectly into the crime genre.”
Los Angeles Times Book Review
“A heart-shredding work of scatological brilliance that gleefully annihilates private-eye tropes and pole-vaults over taste lines.”
Madison County Herald (Mississippi)
“Think Kurt Vonnegut having tea with William Burroughs and a bipolar Raymond Chandler...Ellis takes your breath away.”
Charlotte Observer
“[L]augh-out-loud funny...a deeply inventive look at the undercurrents beneath the mainstream popular culture.”

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Read an Excerpt

Crooked Little Vein

A Novel
By Warren Ellis

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2007 Warren Ellis
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780060723934

Chapter One

I opened my eyes to see the rat taking a piss in my coffee mug. It was a huge brown bastard; had a body like a turd with legs and beady black eyes full of secret rat knowledge. Making a smug huffing sound, it threw itself from the table to the floor, and scuttled back into the hole in the wall where it had spent the last three months planning new ways to screw me around. I'd tried nailing wood over the gap in the wainscot, but it gnawed through it and spat the wet pieces into my shoes. After that, I spiked bait with warfarin, but the poison seemed to somehow cause it to evolve and become a super-rat. I nailed it across the eyes once with a lucky shot with the butt of my gun, but it got up again and shat in my telephone.

I dragged myself all the way awake, lurching forward in my office chair. The stink of rat urine steaming and festering in my mug stabbed me into unwelcome wakefulness, but I'd rather have had coffee. I unstuck my backside from the sweaty leatherette of the chair, fought my way upright, and padded stiff-legged to the bathroom adjacent to my office. I knew that one of these days someone was going to burst into the office unannounced to find a naked private investigator taking a pisswith the bathroom door open. There was a time where I cared about that sort of thing. Some time before I started living in my own office, I think.

My suit and shirt were piled on the plastic chair I use for clients. I stole it from a twenty-four-hour diner off Union Square, back in my professional drinking days. I picked up the shirt and sniffed it experimentally. It seemed to me that it'd last another day before it had to be washed, although there was a nagging thought at the back of my mind that maybe it actually reeked and my sense of smell was shot. I held up the sleeve and examined the armpit. Slightly yellowish. But then, so was everything else in the office. No one would see it with the jacket on, anyway.

I rifled the jacket for cigarettes, harvested one, and went back to my chair. I swabbed some of the nicotine scum off the window behind the chair with the edge of my hand and peered down at my little piece of Manhattan street.

Gentrification had stopped dead several doors west of my spot overlooking Avenue B. You could actually see the line. That side of the line; Biafran cuisine, sparkling plastic secure window units, women called Imogen and Saffron, men called Josh and Morgan. My side of the line; crack whores, burned-out cars, bullets stuck in door frames, and men called Father-Eating Bastard. It's almost a point of honor to live near a crackhouse, like living in a pre-Rudy Zone, a piece of Old New York.

Across the street from me is the old building that the police sent tanks into, about five years back, to dislodge a community of squatters. The media never covered the guys in the crackhouse down the street a little way, hanging out of their windows, scabs dropping off their faces onto the heads of the rubberneckers down below, cheering the police on for getting those cheapass squatter motherfuckers off their block. You think the tanks ever came for the crackhouse? Did they hell.

I was new there, back then. All tingly with the notion of being a private detective in the big city. I was twenty-five, still all full of having been the child prodigy at the local desk of the main Pinkerton office in Chicago since I was twenty. But I was going to fly solo, do something less corporate and more real, make a difference in lives.

It started going wrong on the second day, when the signpainter inscribing my name on the office door made a mistake and took off before I noticed. To the world at large I am now Michael Mgil Private Invest Gator. . It's always the first line of a consultation. "No, it's McGill."

Some asshole scraped the I out of investigator with their keys six months ago. I simply can't be bothered to fix that one. For all the work I get, I may as well be an invest gator. Every two days, I actually go down to the pay phone on the corner to call my own phone and leave a message on the answering machine to make sure it's all still working.

I don't have a secretary. Sometimes I flip on a phone voice-changer I got for five bucks on eBay and pretend to be my own secretary. It is very sad.

I blew stale-tasting cigarette smoke at the windowglass, looked down at people moving around the street, and debated what to do. I was fairly sure it was Saturday, so I didn't need to be there pretending I had a career. On the downside, I didn't have anywhere else to go. I could have coaxed my old laptop into life and gone on the Web to read about someone else's life, but I feared my email.

Maybe, I thought, it was time to leave the office, go out into the sunlight, and give the hell up.

Kids were playing in the street, which isn't something I ever saw often from my window. I considered, and watched, reaching for my coffee mug by reflex as I idly chased trains of thought around my head.

It occurs to me now that if I hadn't seen the man in black on the far side of the street at that exact second, I would probably still be brushing my teeth with bleach.

But I did. The absolute stereotypical man in black, with the shades and the earpiece and the stone face.

And another, down the street.

I leaned over. A third was outside the door to my building.


Excerpted from Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis Copyright © 2007 by Warren Ellis. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Warren Ellis is one of the most prolific, read, and admired graphic novelists in the world and the creator of Transmetropolitan and The Authority. He lives in southern England with his partner, Niki, and their daughter, Lilith. He never sleeps.

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Crooked Little Vein 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 49 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's not often I will pick up a fiction book, especially from mystery, but this little book caught my eye. Once I opened it I couldn't put it down! Every sick, twisted chapter kept me hooked from beginning to end. If you like the author of Fight Club and aren't squeemish when it comes to the weird, creepy underbelly of society, you might want to check this book out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a very original piece of work, and Warren Ellis proves that his writing abilities are not confined to graphic novels.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A very fast paced read with characters and situations far off the beaten path. While not entirely and perhaps not even vaguely realistic, I don't believe it's supposed to be either of those things. Instead, Ellis is embracing the over the top implausibility of his story instead of trying to make unbelievable situations 'realistic', a lesson many other genre writers could take to heart. While the story immerses the reader in the gross and shocking, it also tells a very strong and grounded story of the unconventional friendship and relationship of the protagonists, which is where the story really gets its substance. A quick, smart, fun read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Warren Ellis has painted a new and bizarre portrait of America in his novel. The fast paced and comical story about the misadventures of a down on his luck private detective never left me wanting. The gritty world along with an array of strange characters and events come together perfectly to satisfy a literary need for something new and different.
Technoleech More than 1 year ago
If you looking for a book off the beaten path although a bit depraved, graphic and for lack of a better word degenerate this is the book for you. Amazing! If you are a fan of warren ellis pick this up. If you aren't a fan of warren ellis, pick this book up. I started reading it and didn't put it down until I was finished. It reminds me of Bukowski if he wrote in the modern times. If you enjoy books that critique the lower ends of humanity this is the book for you!
Bluejay0191 More than 1 year ago
Slightly off ?? Don't fret, your in good company, read this book and enjoy one of the greatest (Faux) conspiracy theories of all time !! Here's to hoping Warren Ellis develops this into a series.
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disturbing, absurd, misanthropic and utterly hilarious. Warren Ellis probably has something wrong with his brain but he's a great writer.
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dharmakirti More than 1 year ago
Mr. Ellis has penned a great debut novel. This along with R Scott Bakker's Disiple of the Dog have reignited my interest in a genre that I felt had grown a bit stale.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was fantastic. Warren Ellis portrays a world comparable and full of the same ridiculousness of his series Transmepolitan. I couldn't put this down for a second. Highly recommended.
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MLBNoble More than 1 year ago
A darkly humorous book that only Ellis could write, this is a fun mystery that spirals further out of control as the story progresses. I could not put this book down because I couldn't wait to see what new screwy twist Ellis would make his anti-hero endure next. If you like Ellis' comics, this is an easy purchase to make.
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