Bookshots: 'Crooked' by Austin Grossman

Bookshots: 'Crooked' by Austin Grossman

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review


Title:

Crooked

Who wrote it?

Nixon might seem like an unconventional choice for a main character, but it allows Grossman to delve into some of the natural-seeming paradoxes of Nixon’s presidency and offer alternative explanations.

Austin Grossman, author of Soon I Will Be Invincible and You: A novel.

Plot in a Box:

Crooked tells the secret history of Richard Nixon, former President of the United States, and helps explain what was really behind famous moments in American history — exposing the supernatural threats, sorcerers, and secrets that shaped the Nixon presidency. At the start of his career, Nixon, investigating communists, stumbles upon a couple of KGB spies and witnesses them summoning an ancient and powerful entity, opening his eyes to the presence of the occult world. He finds out that not only are the KGB involved, but President Eisenhower as well, and that the Presidency and the Constitution itself hold a strange power. 

Invent a new title for this book:

Nixon: A Secret History

Read this if you liked:

The X-Files, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Frost/Nixon

Meet the book’s lead:

Richard Nixon, 37th President of the United States, a man misunderstood by history. 

Said lead would be portrayed in a movie by:

Frank Langella (as he did in Frost/Nixon). 

Setting: would you want to live there?

Technically, I do live there. But Grossman’s America is one with hidden secrets, where extra dimensional entities (among other things) are part of a supernatural arms race between the US and Russia. So…not so much. 

What was your favorite sentence?

I lived to see myself become a laughingstock, a cartoon villain, the place in the august roll call of presidents where history pauses and snickers.

The Verdict:

I loved the concept behind Crooked. Nixon might seem like an unconventional choice for a main character, but it allows Grossman to delve into some of the natural-seeming paradoxes of Nixon’s presidency and offer alternative explanations. Grossman doesn’t pull any punches by giving us an overly flattering view of the former president, but he does paint the picture of a more sympathetic Nixon than perhaps one might expect. 

The supernatural elements are nicely creative but handled with a light touch. I found myself wanting a bit more of them, especially as many of these moments are told to us by Nixon instead of us seeing them firsthand. I’m a fan of holding back and not giving away too much, but here it seemed a bit stingy. 

The other characters are a mix of public figures associated with Nixon and original characters such as the charming Russian, Arkady, and original characters who works for the KGB (mostly), President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Pat Nixon (the First Lady), and an extremely creepy Henry Kissinger (who is somewhat blunted by the very similar character of Dr. Henry Killinger from The Venture Bros.).

There are a few moments here and there that seem out of character or take some leaps, but overall it’s an engaging read with some really great ideas which I’d love to see developed some more. It’s especially worth checking out if you are interested in Nixon or lived through his presidency. 

Image of Crooked
Author: Austin Grossman
Price: $5.50
Publisher: Mulholland Books (2015)
Binding: Hardcover, 368 pages
Rajan Khanna

Review by Rajan Khanna

Rajan Khanna is a fiction writer, blogger, reviewer and narrator. His first novel, Falling Sky, a post-apocalyptic adventure with airships, is due to be released in October 2014. His short fiction has appeared in Lightspeed Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and several anthologies. His articles and reviews have appeared at Tor.com and LitReactor.com and his podcast narrations can be heard at Podcastle, Escape Pod, PseudoPod, Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Lightspeed Magazine. Rajan lives in New York where he's a member of the Altered Fluid writing group. His personal website is www.rajankhanna.com and he tweets, @rajanyk.

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