CROOKED by Austin Grossman

CROOKED

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Henry Kissinger, dark lord of the universe?

If you’re a student of the late Christopher Hitchens or William Shawcross, the idea won’t seem far-fetched. Grossman (You, 2013, etc.) takes it into fictional realms with this oddball book, which opens with none other than “Tricky” Dick Nixon giving a long soliloquy of a confession: “I outlived the hippies,” he says, “I outlived Elvis and Marlene Dietrich and the Soviet Union itself. It’s been twenty years since I was forced to stage my own death.” Say what? A stake doesn’t hold his heart to the Yorba Linda soil? Nope, for the eternal Nixon, bearing an eldritch tattoo administered by Henry the K and full of secrets and lies, isn’t the only evil being in the piece; indeed, after a fashion, as “the last of the American sorcerer-presidents,” he’s been helping save the world from all manner of mischief that plays out under the general rubric of the Cold War, giving new meaning to the phrase “Evil Empire.” It takes Grossman, who’s apparently been reading up on his H.P. Lovecraft, a while to fill this saggy balloon with enough gas to give it loft, and there’s way too much talk and way too little action, unless you count Pat Nixon’s discussion of her voting record as action. A sometimes-confusing timeline doesn’t help matters. Still, and even if the story is an inconsequential confection in the end, it’s pleasing to allow Nixon, who revisits his checkered career throughout Grossman's pages, supernatural leeway in explaining how he could have betrayed the public trust so badly—and pleasing to imagine, with Grossman, that he wasn’t really talking about football with those protestors at the Lincoln Memorial on that cold night all those years ago. And as for conspiracy theory? Well, let Kissinger take you down the miles and miles of secret corridors at the Pentagon—not the 17 miles that we know of but the places underground where the nukes live, ready to put an end to the world way back in our bicentennial year, “the final one of the American Republic.”

A worthy pop-cult amusement, if sometimes reading like cutting-room-floor Stephen King mixed up with a little Boris and Natasha.

Pub Date: July 28th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-316-19851-6
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Mulholland Books/Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2015




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