Saturday, March 28, 2015


I got out of comics before Warren Ellis became a big name in that industry . I was barely aware of him when I walked away from comics and have to admit that I don't recall reading any of his work in that format. But his name was everywhere whenever I would check into what passes for journalism in the comic book publishing business, so I was aware of him.

Recently I was in an independent bookstore and they had a novel by him on sale. The price was right and the cover blurbs looked interesting. So...what the Hell...I decided to spring for the price of the novel.

It's called GUN MACHINE and it's pretty good. It's a classic detective novel featuring a New York City Police detective. The first five chapters or so are jam-packed with classic detective novel simile. Think the best of the old cats in the form and not some of the talented newer folk like Joe Lansdale. That stuff hooked me but I began to wonder if he could do that for the duration of the entire novel. My feeling is that he could, but chose not to do that. The average reader would have been hooked by that point, so why wring the old drippy gray thing dry when you don't have to?

The story centers on Detective John Tallow who, in the first few pages of the novel, loses his partner to a crazed naked man brandishing a 12-guage shotgun (said nudist blowing his partner's brains out). Tallow returns fire, kills the guy, and then makes an accidental discovery that brings down a shit-storm of woe on the detective and the investigative team who form around the event.

Ellis tells the story in quick, short, effective chapters, splitting the narrative between Tallow and the mysterious killer we see described only as "the Hunter". Tallow has to figure out the origin and the meaning of an apartment decorated with hundreds of handguns used in the commission of murders. What is the gun used by the Son of Sam doing in there as a part of that metal collage? And how did that gun even get there when it's supposed to be in police-controlled storage?

The author takes the reader on a curious journey through the history of the City of New York. From its earliest days as land being stolen from its native inhabitants, to the modern mystery of corruption and calculated murder.

It's quite a feat and I rather enjoyed it. My only problem with the book at all was one moment over a chance meeting that was so improbable that it bugged me to no end, and I couldn't figure out why Ellis couldn't have come up with a better way to otherwise create an explanation for how those two characters could have met.

But if that's all that bugged me, that's a rare feat.

A pretty darned good book. I'll have to see what other prose he's written. But I still haven't read any of his comics. Not sure if I will. Superheroes and all that kind of stuff, you know...

GUN MACHINE by Warren Ellis.

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