At first glance, Austin Grossman's third book, Crooked, seems like a major departure for the video game consultant–turned-novelist. His previous novels, Soon I Will Be Invincible and You, drew from the worlds of comic books and video games, respectively, resulting in delightfully nerdy adventures comparable with Ernest Cline's Ready Player One. Crooked, however, delves deep into the mind of none other than Richard Nixon, who makes a surprisingly hilarious and engaging protagonist.

In Grossman's telling, Nixon becomes embroiled in something akin to an occult conspiracy pitting Americans and Soviets against each other in an ever-escalating supernatural war. The nerdery comes into play when Grossman reinterprets American history through an occult lens, casting President Eisenhower as a powerful sorcerer whose vaunted highway system was actually part of a vast ritual, and Henry Kissinger as a centuries-old demon who takes the concept of the "Dead Hand" system far too literally. Fans of American history, especially American political history, will definitely get more out of the book's countless Easter eggs and outrageous jokes than the average reader, but anyone can find enjoyment in Crooked's bold fusion of Lovecraftian horror and political skullduggery.

Crooked is not merely a goof. Nixon's sad-sack inner monologue is simultaneously infuriating and sympathetic, much like the president himself. In between the demonic summonings and ritual bindings is a fairly traditional story of a man for whom the ends always justified the means, even when the ends were not quite clear and the means involved blood magic. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books

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