By Austin Grossman
Alternative history takes some weird detours indeed in Crooked, Austin Grossman’s imaginative re-telling of the political career of Richard Nixon.
In Grossman’s version of the story, American exceptionalism has come about thanks to the use of occult rituals and necromancy to harness dark, supernatural forces. But while Washington, Lincoln, and Eisenhower were all master mages, Nixon is a bumbling neophyte when it comes to understanding the portals to other dimensions that open in the Oval Office, or the monstrous secrets torn from the pages of H. P. Lovecraft and The X Files that lurk behind the fabric of everyday reality.
The Soviets are adept at playing this great dark game as well, and from the McCarthy hearings all the way through to Watergate we see Tricky Dick entangled in a truly countercultural Cold War that has him fighting alongside a pair of Russian agents against the forces of evil.
Crooked is a clever, fun read, and one that raises an interesting question. Are we now so used to conspiracy theories that the only room left for parody is in fantasies this extreme?