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He’s the master of post impressionism. He’s the Hindu Remover of Obstacles. They’re cops.
Vincent Van Gogh is a cop with a dark past. He painted some of the greatest artistic masterpieces of our time. He cut off his ear out of love for a prostitute. He was a great painter. He isn’t anymore. He’s a tough as nails loose cannon cop who plays by his own rules. When a drug called **** hits the streets, it starts turning people into the object their essence most resembles. Van Gogh is put on the case. But this hard case has a new partner. His methods are unusual, his attitude incompatible and he has the head of an elephant. He’s the Hindu God Ganesha. Can these two put aside their differences and learn to work together? Probably. It’s a buddy cop thing.
Elephant Vice is Chris Meekings contribution to Eraserhead Press’s New Bizarro Author Series. Several of these books come out a year and most of them do not get much traction. They go out of print, the publishing rights return to the authors. The authors sometimes revamp them and re-release them (see “Rock ‘N’ Roll Head Case”) or they disappear into the ether. I like these books and it is fun to try to find them. Some of them are really expensive on eBay and Amazon and other used book sites, and some of them cannot be found at all. I don’t have many of them yet, but I have been reading them as I find them. They are all short, they are entertaining, and most importantly, they are satisfying.
Stop me if you have read anything like this before. Elephant Vice is a hardboiled crime story. The mayor’s son is found overdosed on a street drug called, ****, and it is up to two renegade cops, post-impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh and Ganesha the Hindu god with the elephant head to solve the crime. They are thrown together (they are reluctant partners like in most buddy cop stories) and have to learn to work together to solve this case.
I’m not going to lie. The writing of Elephant Vice is impressive and sometimes brilliant. Meekings sets up each chapter alternating between Van Gogh and Ganesha with two obviously unique voices, with sections written in Hindi, Dutch, and French and well as English. I don’t know if these sections translate, but really sets up the difference between the characters. Also the Van Gogh chapters feel like it has captured some of the essence of how he saw the world, seeing colors and swirls everywhere. These are not a distraction as much as a dimension that makes the writing of this novella pretty impressive.
I loved Elephant Vice because of the way the story is told. At the most basic layer, it is a simple cops find drug ring story, but the characters and the writing make it so much more, so entertaining and wonderful. The paperback is out of print but the kindle edition is still available. The story feels familiar but totally unique, and I will be looking for Meekings’s name attached to other projects in the future. He should not be one of the bizarro writers that just disappears.