V. is the debut novel of Thomas Pynchon, published in 1963. It describes the exploits of a discharged U.S. Navy sailor named Benny Profane, his reconnection in New York with a group of pseudo-bohemian artists and hangers-on known as the Whole Sick Crew, and the quest of an aging traveller named Herbert Stencil to identify and locate the mysterious entity he knows only as "V." It was nominated for a National Book Award.
The novel alternates between episodes featuring Benny, Stencil and other members of the Whole Sick Crew (including Profane's sidekick Pig Bodine) in 1956 (with a few minor flashbacks), and a generation-spanning plot which comprises Stencil's attempts to unravel the clues he believes will lead him to "V." (or to the various incarnations thereof). Each of these "Stencilised" chapters is set at a different moment of historical crisis; the framing narrative involving Stencil, "V.", and the journals of Stencil's British spy/diplomat father threads the sequences together. The novel's two storylines increasingly converge in the last chapters (the intersecting lines forming a V-shape, as it were), as Stencil hires Benny to travel with him to Malta.