Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, probably one of Hunter S. Thompsons weirdest and most surreal works (and that’s saying a lot), is the story of one of Raoul Duke’s (Thompson’s alter ego) trips to Las Vegas in the wild, drug induced decade that was the 1970’s. Duke is there as a sport’s journalist on assignment. He is there with his large, brown, Samoan lawyer (Author Oscar Zeta Acosta’s alter ego), whose only counsel throughout the story seems to be centered around recommending the use of more and more potent drugs for them to consume. In fact, the whole assignment really appears to be only an excuse for Duke and his out of shape lawyer to go out to Sin City in a rented red Chevy convertible with a trunk full of illegal narcotics for their personal consumption.
The book opens as Duke and his “partner in law” drive through the Nevada desert, fully drugged, and totally hallucinating, at which point they decide it’s a good idea to pick up a hapless Hitchhiker who later on escapes in response to the protagonists drug induced hostilities. Before that, although this part is covered later in the novel, the pair had been at the Los Angeles office of the magazine that Duke works for, where they are given the money to pay for the expenses they will incur on the trip. When his lawyer complains about the petty sum of cash they’ve been allotted for their assignment, Thompson reminds him that only a short time before they got the assignment and the money they had been idle, bored, and completely broke. The sudden turn of events, Duke says, is what the American dream consists of. Therefore in order to properly take advantage of the opportunity before them, Duke clearly outlines for them the specific measures they must follow for their adventure to be a success: first they must acquire a car, preferably a large American, convertible, muscle car; two, they must acquire a respectable supply of cocaine, which will keep them up on the sleepless journey they are about to begin; three, a tape recorder; and four, a good supply of colorful garments, as loud and outrageous as possible.
Duke and his lawyer will be staying at the Mint hotel in Las Vegas. Duke has been assigned to cover the Mint 400, a motorcycle and dune buggy race which takes place just outside of Sin City limits. After some initial troubles checking in to the hotel due to his drunkenness, and perhaps a bit of an ether binge, Duke and his lawyer go to the track where the Mint 400 is going to take place. They keep their drug induced stupor on for the rest of the story, which only serves to make things stranger and more surreal. Throughout their journey both of these guys seem to be testing their ability to consume every illicit substance they can get their hands on, without any regard for what damage the chemicals may be doing to their organisms, or the violent effects some of the drugs seem to have on their behavior. If you’ve never read anything of Dr. Gonzo’s before, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas would be a good place to start.