Disclaimer: at no time was the reviewer stoned, tweaked, inebriated or involved in any felony endeavors during the reading of this book.
I have read other people referring to this as "Pynchon Lite" which reminds me of food off the vegetarian menu. I haven't read enough Pynchon to be an authority on whether this is medium well Pynchon or medium rare. The only other Thomas Pynchon I've ever read is Gravity's Rainbow, but I will say there is certainly plenty of meat on the bone in Inherent Vice
. "Let me tell you about my trip, man."
Our intrepid hero Doc Sportello is the owner and operator of LSD Investigations. Under the back drop of peace, love and revolution(right after I finish one more doobie)in 1969. Doc is asked by his ex-girlfriend Shasta Fay Hepworth, yes the novel is full of wonderfully concocted Pynchonesque names, to help her out of jam. Shasta has been approached by the wife of the man she is involved with, Mickey Wolfmann, and her boyfriend with a plan to kill Mickey. This is one of those cases, prevalent in American hard boiled literature where the detective basically lives on air because he is always taking on hard luck cases that have no chance to actually pay him for his time.
Doc is really not a very good detective. He falls asleep on stakeouts, he forgets most of what he has figured out from the investigation, and he frequently says the wrong thing. He walks around in a permanent pot haze that contributes to the afore mentioned reasons why he isn't a very good detective. As the novel progresses the reader is exposed to a blur of characters. The plot becomes more convoluted to the point that Doc and the reader are left wondering who and what he is really investigating. Doc, for a pot smoking hippie, or maybe because of it, gets laid a lot. The summer of love was 1967, but still in 1969 the women are willing, especially with a guy walking around with a shirt pocket full of joints.
During the course of his investigations Doc gets bludgeoned from behind (it is not a real noir novel until the detective gets popped from behind) and during another altercation is spiked with a really bad trip.
Even though this book is considered more accessible I still would have a difficult time suggesting this to a mystery reading crowd. The plot is not linear at all, sentences appear out of the fog that squeeze your head and make you have to reread them. Sometimes I had to backtrack a whole page just to understand one sentence. I would find myself smiling and thinking there you are Mr. Pynchon. The rampant paranoia that is wrapped around every scene in the book did start to have a psychological effect on me. I'm pretty sure that all my coworkers are involved in a nefarious conspiracy to destroy my life. It is only paranoia if I'm wrong, right?
To give you a little flavor of the book. Doc has just been brought in for questioning by the DAs office. They leave him alone for a moment and he notices something strange about the clock."The clock up on the wall, which reminded Doc of Elementary school back in the San Joaquin, read some hour that it could not possibly be. Doce waited for the hands to move, but they didn't, from which he deduced that the clock was broken and maybe had been for years. Which was groovy however because long ago Sortilege had taught him the esoteric skill of telling time from a broken clock. The first thing you had to do was light a joint, which in the Hall of Justice might seem odd, but surely not way back here--who knew, maybe even outside the jurisdiction of local drug enforcement--though just to be on the safe side he also lit a De Nobili cigar and filled the room with a precautionary cloud of smoke from the classic mafia favorite. After inhaling potsmoke for a while, he glanced up at the clock, and sure enough, it showed a different time now, though this could also be from Doc having forgotten where the hands were to begin with."
It did take me a while to settle into the book, but once I divested myself of the preconceived notions of what I expected from the book I was able to relax and enjoy the high I mean ride.