Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72, much like its immediate predecessor Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, picks up a sort of master narrative of the futile attempts of the proverbial underdog striving for and achieving the American Dream, only to be crushed at the end by the general milieu of the postmodern world. The hero that Thompson utilizes in this autobiography of his coverage of the 1971-1972 presidential race is George McGovern, the idealistic Democratic candidate whom Thompson characterizes as the great underdog of the election versus entrenched Republican incumbent President Nixon.
Two points require immediate articulation. First, Thompson again writes a veritable diary of his position (both ideological and logistical as Rolling Stone’s political correspondent) as a chronological and cartographical narrative of what he believed to be the cultural moment. Writing in the shadows of McCarthyism and the debacle of the 1968 Democratic National Convention, he paints Richard Nixon as this narrative’s villain and an entrenched evil permeating America. From Thompson’s perspective, McGovern does, to a fault, represent the furthest left agenda, perhaps to a naïve degree, as he endorses extreme policies such as full amnesty for draft evaders of the Vietnam War and total unilateral withdrawal from the conflict itself. In effect, the gonzo journalist finds a gonzo candidate. Second, given his strong polemical...
(The entire section is 526 words.)
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Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Standing posthumously somewhere behind Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is the figure of Horatio Alger, Jr. A nineteenth century author of rags-to-riches fairy tales, Alger wrote stories describing how the littlest guy, through nothing more than hard work and determination, could succeed and achieve the American Dream. The conclusions to which Thompson takes that initial premise in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas probably go well beyond anything Alger ever possibly conceived.
The plot itself is simple. Thompson and his lawyer, operating under the absurd pseudonyms Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo, respectively, are sent out to Las Vegas to cover the Mint 400, a motorcycle race across the desert. Upon receiving the assignment, both Duke and Gonzo come upon the notion that the assignment itself is really only subordinate, and is treated as such, to a much greater project: the quest for the American Dream. While Thompson often invokes Alger’s thoughts and occasionally his words, to reiterate his quest, never in the narrative are any causal connections established between his assignment (proper) and his quest (conceived and undertaken).
To accomplish this more self-styled gonzo project, Duke and Gonzo formulate a plan to infiltrate the seedy underbelly of Las Vegas under the influence of a cornucopia of drugs and alcohol. What follows from here is little more than a travelogue of Duke and Gonzo’s adventures over the course of a few days...
(The entire section is 648 words.)
Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Raoul Duke is behind the wheel of a convertible, realizing that the drugs he took earlier have just kicked in. Sitting beside him is his three-hundred-pound traveling companion Dr. Gonzo, an attorney. The two have just left Los Angeles and are headed for Las Vegas. Duke, who is a journalist, is set to cover a desert motorcycle race called the Mint 400 for a sports publication on the East Coast. He had been in Los Angeles at the time of the assignment and did not ask questions about the job. He had decided to take the job and go.
Once in Las Vegas, Duke and Dr. Gonzo check in to their hotel but find it difficult to do so because they are so high on drugs. They soon meet the photographer who is assigned to accompany Duke at the Mint 400. However, the journalists do not spend much time at the race. Turns out that Duke and Dr. Gonzo would rather visit casinos and drive their rented Cadillac about town. Still high on drugs, Duke begins to reflect both on the city of Las Vegas and what he hopes is the American Dream.
Dr. Gonzo leaves Las Vegas for an appointment, and Duke is left to escape from the hotel room the two of them destroyed. They also tallied a massive room-service bill. As Duke begins to leave the hotel, he receives a telegram and hurriedly reads it. He finally leaves Las Vegas, heads back to California, and encounters a police officer. He then stops in the small town of Baker—where he calls Dr. Gonzo, who reminds him that he needs to...
(The entire section is 463 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 1 Summary
As Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas opens, Hunter S. Thompson and his traveling companion, a Samoan called only “my attorney” throughout the book, are careening down a highway. Their exact location is not identified. All Thompson knows is that they are in the desert “somewhere around Barstow.” Both Thompson and his attorney are heavily under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
Thompson realizes that he cannot drive any longer and asks his friend to take the wheel. Thompson stops mid-sentence, however, because he becomes aware that he is screaming. He is also hallucinating that enormous bats are dive-bombing the car. Unfazed, the attorney busily removes his own shirt and douses himself with beer to “facilitate the tanning process.” Thompson decides to keep the bat-sightings to himself.
It is very hot under the desert sun, and they still have at least one hundred miles to go. They are heading toward Las Vegas and the “Mint 400,” a racing event that Thompson has been hired to cover for a sports magazine in New York. The unnamed magazine has also made reservations at a hotel and provided a rental car, an enormous red Chevrolet convertible.
Along with the room and car, Thompson has been given $300 in cash, most of which, he admits, has already been spent on “extremely dangerous drugs”—marijuana, mescaline, acid, cocaine, and ether. It is the ether, Thompson confesses, that worries him the most. People on ether become “depraved." He knows that soon they will start using it.
The attorney eventually takes the wheel and begins singing along with the radio. Thompson is in the passenger seat and listening to a song, “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones, on a tape recorder. Both men notice a hitchhiker—a teenaged boy—on the side of the road. The tired hitchhiker gratefully climbs in the car when they pull over.
After a few minutes, Thompson worries that he and his attorney will not be able to stop rambling about their various hallucinations. He wonders if the boy will think they are associated with the Manson family. And if so, will the boy freak out? And if he freaks out, will Thompson have to kill him?
The boy looks frightened and agrees with everything Thompson says, obviously hoping to placate Thompson. Trying to speak more reasonably, Thompson...
(The entire section is 473 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 2 Summary
In Chapter 2, Thompson continues describing how their journey to Las Vegas began.
At his publisher’s Los Angeles office, Thompson was given $300, although he wanted much more money. His attorney was disheartened with the amount offered. Thompson chastised the big “Samoan” by saying that “this is the American Dream in action”: a telephone call that had come out of the blue for an all-expenses-paid trip to Las Vegas.
As he further reflects on the call, Thompson realizes that he does not know what kind of “story” he has been commissioned to write for the magazine. He supposes he will just have to decide for himself. This, Thompson emphatically declares, is “pure Gonzo journalism.”
Thompson thinks about what they had done to get the necessary supplies for their journey. A particular type of tape recorder was needed, and the two men did not take a store’s “Closed” sign as the final word. They bashed on the store’s glass doors until the clerk inside let them in and sold them the equipment. Even though they got what they wanted, the attorney was angry at what he considered their ill-treatment. He yelled that they would return to bomb the store. He raged that he knew the clerk’s name, would find out where he lived, and burn down his home.
There was more “trouble,” Thompson recalls, getting the rental car. Thompson remembers how he had terrified the lot attendant, driving in reverse at high speeds and nearly knocking over a gas pump. He thinks, too, about how the attendant had fretted that Thompson would be drinking and driving, a logical assumption since he watched Thompson load cases of alcohol into the shiny red convertible. Thompson assured the clerk that he would not be driving: they are “responsible people.” Thompson and his attorney sped away irresponsibly.
As they merged into traffic, Thompson thought of something else he would like to have for their trip: priest’s robes. The idea was ultimately abandoned because it would take too much time to find such robes. Plus, a lot of cops are Catholic, they reason. If they were pulled over, high on drugs and wearing vestments, the cops might get upset.
(The entire section is 366 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 3 Summary
In Chapter 3, the narrative returns to the present. Thompson is upset that their passenger, the hitchhiker, has never been in a convertible. Thompson is briefly tempted to have his attorney legally give the boy the car, but he eventually decides against doing so. Thompson thinks that he might need the car in case anyone is foolish enough to challenge him to a drag race. He loves the thought of dying in a car. The notion seems to him very "American."
Thompson considers their journey to be the embodiment of the American dream. It is, he reasons, “a classic affirmation of everything right and true and decent in the national character.” He thinks, with some amazement, of the “fantastic possibilities” for people who possess “true grit.”
Thompson is pulled from his reverie when the Chevy suddenly veers off the road. The attorney is clutching his chest and screaming about his heart. The hitchhiker is horrified, but Thompson tells him not to worry: some "medicine" will help the attorney. Thompson pops a capsule of amyl nitrite, and his attorney deeply inhales the drug, quickly and loudly demanding more.
Thompson informs the hitchhiker of their plans to cover the race in Vegas. The attorney interrupts and says that Thompson’s story is not true. The real reason for their journey, he loudly confides, is that they are going to Las Vegas to kill a man named Savage Henry.
Thompson and his attorney dissolve into hysterical laughter. The attorney’s violent descriptions of what will happen to Savage Henry when they find him become increasingly more graphic. Finally, the hitchhiker has had enough. He works up the courage to scramble over the backseat and slides down the trunk, calling out as he runs away that he appreciated the ride. Thompson offers him a beer, but the boy keeps running and pretends not to hear.
The attorney is glad the hitchhiker has gone. The two decide that now would be a perfect time to do more drugs. Thompson eats a blotter of acid. The attorney reaches for a salt shaker of cocaine but spills it. The two argue about the spilled cocaine, and the attorney pulls out a .357 Magnum. They begin to laugh again. They notice that it is getting late—so late, in fact, that they only have thirty minutes to check into their hotel and receive their press credentials for the race. If they do not make it in...
(The entire section is 597 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 4 Summary
Thompson and his attorney settle into their hotel suite. It is getting dark. Thompson, still in the hallucinogenic grip of acid, is disturbed by a neon sign visible from his window. He cautiously tells his roommate that there is “some kind of electric snake...coming straight at us.” He declines to kill it, however. Instead, he says he will “study it.”
The attorney wants him to calm down. He tells Thompson how out-of-control he had been at the registration table, yelling about sea creatures and blood. The police were almost called, the attorney says.
Thompson wants to leave and get down to the race track before dark. Unfortunately, they have lost the valet ticket for the car. Thompson calls downstairs and convinces the attendant to bring the car around without it.
The social and political turbulence of the 1970s creeps into the book's narrative at this point. On their hotel room's television is a story about the invasion of Laos. The footage is gruesome: some people have been killed; others are fleeing. Buildings have been reduced to rubble, and explosions are frequent as the reporter covers the story. The attorney is disturbed by the report, so they decide to leave the room immediately. In the car, the radio is playing a war song, “The Battle Hymn of Lieutenant Calley."
They arrive at the Mint Gun Club, the site where the Mint 400 race will begin. Gun shots ring out on a regular basis: the race has not deterred the gun club enthusiasts from practicing. Thompson gets out of the car and notices that his attorney has passed out. Thompson decides to just leave him there.
Thompson checks in and has a look around. He tries to convince the registrar that he too has a vehicle to enter into the competition: a “Vincent Black Shadow,” a motorcycle that he and the attorney like. They do not actually have one. Besides, the entry fee is $250, something else they do not have. These facts do not prevent Thompson from arguing about a place in the race.
As he is haggling with the registrar, he notices the man’s face go white. Thompson turns to see his attorney lumbering toward them. The attorney has discarded his shirt and sunglasses. He is breathing laboriously and soon becomes enraged. Thompson asks him to calm down because everyone around them is armed. After a few more angry words, the attorney agrees that they should both leave because, "Crazy people are...
(The entire section is 413 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 5 Summary
At dawn, Thompson and his attorney are back at the Mint Gun Club, awaiting the start of the famed race, which will not begin for three more hours. There is a bar, but it does not open until seven. After much grumbling by the race patrons, however, the bar opens early. Everyone in attendance is eager for the race to begin. For some, Thompson explains, this race is the biggest thing to happen in sports all year, "bigger, even, than the Super Bowl."
Three hours, however, is a long time to wait. A great deal of alcohol is consumed, and a reporter from Life magazine gets especially intoxicated. Thompson claims to be horrified by the spectacle the man is making of himself. They are, after all, the “cream of the national sporting press,” and the Life reporter is degrading their profession.
Turning to his own affairs, Thompson comes to some unsettling realizations. They might be, he muses, “losing control of the situation." Furthermore, they are “dangerously unorganized.” There is no time to rectify errors in preparation, however. The race begins. Thompson watches the first set of ten bikes roar off into the desert. Another reporter suggests that they all head back to the bar, but Thompson declines. He wants to stay and watch the additional bikes take off, one hundred and ninety of them, which depart in groups of ten every two minutes.
Finally, the last group zooms away, leaving a cloud of thick dust in their wake. It is then that a journalistic problem presents itself: there is absolutely nothing more to do and nothing to “cover.” Thompson could not even see the racers through the cloud of dust, much less offer any kind of report on their progress. It is time, he grimly notes, for an “Agonizing Reappraisal of the whole scene.”
There are limited options. A helicopter would be ideal, but they do not have one, nor do they have the money to acquire one. He could sit at checkpoints in the desert and wait for the groups to blaze past. Every few minutes, a rider would stumble across the start/finish line, turn over his bike to the pit crew, and a new rider would take his place to travel the next leg of the race.
Thompson takes one of the press vehicles into the thick of the race. He goes out with a driver, but all they discover are a couple of dune buggies. The drivers of the dune buggies are frustrated because they too cannot locate the race, much less participate...
(The entire section is 512 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 6 Summary
It is Saturday night, and Thompson and his attorney are back on the Strip. He reflects that in Las Vegas there are only winners and losers: no one is in the middle. He recalls a story about a friend who once had a streak of excellent luck in Reno. For three consecutive weeks, the man won a lot of money. On the fourth week, he decided to skip the casinos and share his new fortune with some friends. The casino noticed his absence and called him, asking him to return and promising him top-of-the-line amenities. The man took the bait. He promptly lost every cent he had won and then some. The casino’s “collection agency” pursued him for every dollar he owed.
Thompson also reflects on Las Vegas’s seemingly arbitrary laws, especially ones concerning drugs. For example, possession of marijuana will get you a twenty-year sentence; sale of the drug will land you in prison for life. This knowledge makes Thompson uneasy because his cache of drugs is far worse and more varied than marijuana. He worries that they might get stopped after he inadvertently tries to drive “The Great Red Shark” into the laundry room of a nearby hotel.
Thompson and his attorney decide to take in a show. They argue about whom to see but ultimately decide on Debbie Reynolds at the Desert Inn. They park the car on the sidewalk. After the attorney says that he is an old friend of Debbie Reynolds, the valet finally takes the keys and drives the car to a more appropriate location.
Once inside the hotel, they haggle to get into the sold-out show. The attorney once again causes such a scene that they are admitted, standing-room only at the rear of the theater, and are admonished not to smoke. They break this rule in a few minutes when Thompson lights a hashish pipe. The men are ejected from the theater.
Back in the car, both men inhale ether. Thompson explains that the main effect of ether is loss of motor skills. He compares an ether high to being like “the village drunkard in some early Irish novel.” The brain, however, he claims, continues to function normally. You are thus forced to watch yourself unable to perform routine tasks.
They arrive at the Circus-Circus hotel. It is a bizarre amalgam of casino and circus, awash in garish colors and odd amenities. Its “Merry-Go-Round” bar revolves in a huge circle. Patrons are variously treated to watching...
(The entire section is 567 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 7 Summary
The men arrive at the Mint Hotel and Casino, parking properly this time so as not to attract unwanted attention. As they go up to their room and try to unlock the door, Thompson sees that he has two different room keys. One, his attorney explains, is to Lacerda’s room. He thought they might need it at some point, so he stole it. An argument ensues. The attorney is certain Lacerda has been trying to steal his "girlfriend." Thompson knows the attorney is delusional. He remembers that the attorney had outright insulted the girl when they were all on an elevator together. She certainly has no interest in the attorney.
No matter how ridiculous the argument is, no matter how misplaced the anger, Thompson knows not to disregard his attorney's ravings. “You can turn your back on a person, but never turn your back on a drug,” he warns. This is especially cogent advice since his enormous friend is now wielding a very sharp knife.
Thompson orders his attorney to take a shower. He locks the man in the room and hurries downstairs to the casino, taking both of the keys with him. He watches the gamblers like an anthropologist, documenting their behavior but not taking part in it. He watches as they “hump the American Dream,” everyone hoping that somehow they are going to be the “Big Winner.”
Back in the room, Thompson finds the attorney submerged in a bath and incredibly high on acid. The man is demanding the tape player be thrown in the tub with him—an act, of course, that would cause death by electrocution. Thompson devises a plan to trick him. He throws a grapefruit into the water rather than the tape player, a ruse that works for just a moment. Enraged, the wet, enormous man climbs out of the tub and threatens Thompson, but Thompson has armed himself with Mace. They scream at each other until suddenly both break into laughter.
The attorney claims he never would have seriously hurt Thompson. He just wanted to “carve a little Z” on his forehead, “nothing serious.” Thompson is not sure his psychotic rage has completely abated, however. He orders the man back into the bathtub and to stay there so that Thompson can get some sleep. The attorney agrees. Thompson knows that his attorney is about to go into the next phase of his high, a period of “hellishly intense introspection nightmares.” To be safe, Thompson pushes a chair against the bathroom door and keeps the can of Mace on the...
(The entire section is 428 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 8 Summary
Chapter 8 begins with Thompson reminiscing about the first time he ingested LSD. He remembers trying to talk to a doctor who was famous for experimenting with the drug. Before his own first experience with LSD, Thompson wanted to ask the doctor some questions about what to expect. Thompson goes to the doctor’s home and finds the man out in his garden, humming. Despite Thompson’s repeated attempts to get the doctor’s attention, the man continues to hum, deliberately ignoring Thompson. The doctor’s inability, or lack of desire, to communicate disturbs Thompson so much that he does not try LSD for another six months.
His first LSD “trip” takes place at the “The Fillmore Auditorium” in San Francisco. Thompson goes to the men’s room. He eats half the amount but spills the remainder on the sleeve of his shirt. One of the club’s musicians comes into the bathroom. Thompson tells the man that the dust on his shirt is LSD. Without a word, the musician grabs Thompson’s arm and begins sucking on his sleeve. It was a “very gross tableau,” Thompson recalls, something a person from an older generation just would not understand.
Six years have passed since that night in the Fillmore’s bathroom, and a great deal has changed in the nation. The 1960s are over, and its ideals are gone. Thompson is not sure whether the decade and its emphasis on free love and peace really meant anything or had any lasting ramifications. Still, he is glad that he was there to witness “a whole generation” come “to a head in a long fine flash.”
He remembers racing away from the Fillmore in his car, unsure of where he was going but absolutely certain that there were more people out there, just as crazy as he was, and it did not matter where he ended up stopping. There was an overwhelming sense that you could “strike a spark anywhere” and that spark would ignite. Moreover, there was the pervasive, if not completely articulated, feeling that the young people had it “right,” whatever “it” was, and that they were “winning.”
There was a sense, he recalls, of “inevitable victory” over the “Old and the Evil.” What was curious about their movement was that it was not violent. No military action was taking place, at least not on the home front. The youth would, he felt sure, “prevail” on the strength of their energy. The “momentum” for radical social change was on their side....
(The entire section is 460 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 9 Summary
Thompson and his lawyer have decided to flee from their hotel, which will be expecting payment. Thompson knows that he cannot pay the enormous bill. He also knows that the magazine is ultimately responsible for his hotel debt.
Thompson suddenly realizes that he is alone. The attorney must have “sensed trouble” and flown back to Los Angeles. Not for the first time, Thompson wonders how Horatio Alger, the writer who penned dozens of rags-to-riches novels, would handle such a situation.
Thompson finds himself giving into panic. He is alone with the Great Red Shark, a very expensive car that is not his. He is high on drugs. His attorney has left him alone with a worrisome hotel bill. As he is pondering this unenviable situation, Thompson notices the attorney's plastic briefcase in the car's front seat. He picks it up and realizes from its weight that the .357 Magnum has also been left behind. Thompson imagines what will happen if he is stopped by the police and the illegal firearm is discovered. He concocts a fantastic story of how he came to be in possession of the gun, but he knows immediately that no one would believe it.
Thompson decides that he must calm down and “maintain.” Failure to do so, he understands, is suicide. Vegas is not a place for the weak. It is a place where “the shark ethic” prevails and the wounded are like blood in the water. In a place as corrupt as Sin City, “the only crime is getting caught.”
He prepares to flee in the wee hours of the morning. He tries to act as casual as possible as the car is brought to the front of the hotel. He focuses on a newspaper as he waits. He reads a number of stories about deaths caused by drugs: a young woman who tried to throw herself through glass doors; soldiers who were drug addicts in Vietnam; a pharmacy owner who "lost" 100,000 dangerous pills.
Oddly, Thompson is comforted by these stories. It helps him put his life in perspective. He has done some bad things, but in comparison, his crimes are minor. He turns to the sports page and reads about boxer Muhammad Ali defending his status as a conscientious objector. Ali refused to go to war because he had “nothing against”...
(The entire section is 398 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 10 Summary
Thompson becomes increasingly nervous as he continues to wait for the valet to bring The Shark around. Finally he hears a voice calling, “MISTER DUKE!” (the pseudonym under which he had taken his room at the hotel). He hears the voice again but thinks he is hallucinating. Again he hears, “MISTER DUKE! Wait!”
Thompson thinks he has been discovered sneaking out of the hotel and believes he will be arrested. He wonders what it will be like to write a novel behind bars. A lot of people have done so successfully, he reasons. He remembers visiting the prison in Carson City, Nevada, on assignment for a story. He interviewed a lot of people there, both cops and cons. All were eager to see their story in print, to have their voices heard, but the story never came out. Thompson’s editor wanted him to rewrite the lead and he refused, so the story was shelved. Now Thompson wonders what the ramifications will be from the people he interviewed; he wonders if they will be angry because they were never able to read their story.
His thoughts are interrupted when the hotel clerk finally catches up to him. He has a telegram to deliver, one for “Hunter S. Thompson, c/o Raoul Duke.” The telegram is from the attorney; he tells Thompson they have a new story to cover at the Dune’s hotel. The National Conference of District Attorneys has invited Thompson to cover their four-day convention on the dangers of drug use. Reservations for him have been made at the Flamingo Hotel and for a white Cadillac convertible. Thompson is instructed to call his attorney immediately. The telegram is signed, “Doctor Gonzo.”
The clerk is confused about the telegram. He is under the impression that Doctor Gonzo was a guest at the hotel, and the addressee, Hunter S. Thompson, is not a name with which anyone is familiar. Thus, there was a delay in delivering the telegram to Mister Duke. “Duke” tells the clerk he did the right thing and explains that press messages are often deliberately mysterious. The clerk shrugs off the explanation but is not yet through with Thompson. In an odd—and slightly menacing—tone, he asks when the Doctor will be awake. A Mr. Heem wants to meet him, as he does all the guests with “large accounts.” The clerk continues to press Thompson for a time when the doctor will be available. Thompson tells the clerk the message is actually from Thompson to Dr. Gonzo; it was all just a ruse....
(The entire section is 627 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 11 Summary
It is now 9 a.m. on Tuesday. Thompson has almost left the Las Vegas city limits but has stopped at a tavern. In another few hours, he will be driving into Los Angeles, where he and his car will be completely inconspicuous. But until then the red Cadillac is like a shout disrupting the calm and quiet Nevada highway. There is no way to make himself any less visible. It seems that even the sun has turned against him; the day has turned grey and menacing.
As he sips a beer at the restaurant, Thompson suddenly finds himself “in the grip of a serious fear.” A plane takes off and Thompson wonders if Larceda is aboard, headed home after the race. It occurs to Thompson that he does not even know who won the Mint 400, which is a fairly crucial element to his eventually writing the story for the magazine. He frantically scans the sports section of the Los Angeles Times for news.
He thinks about abandoning the car there at the diner but knows he cannot. He has to make it out of the state. He is exhausted and scared. He does not know what he is doing. Someone plays a song on the jukebox. The lyrics of the song seem directed at him: “Awww... Mama / Can this really be the end?” the singer wails. Next comes Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge over Troubled Water.” The song sends Thompson into a head-spin of memories. He is gripped by “paranoia, madness, fear and loathing.” In the midst of his angst, however, it occurs to him that the hotel’s checkout time is still two hours away. The window affords some room for escape; it will not occur to anyone to hunt him down before then.
Thompson remembers that he left a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door, which is a good thing because no maid will bother to enter when they see it. He thinks about what the maids will say when the authorities question them. Will they say anything about the six hundred bars of Neutrogena soap they delivered to Suite 1850? Thompson does not think the maids will defend them. In fact, he thinks the maids will be happy to spill their story of mistreatment to the cops.
A sudden need to confess grips Thompson. He wishes there were a priest in the bar. He feels consumed by guilt. Still, he asks whatever god may be listening for five more hours to get out of Vegas. He blames his “primitive Christian instincts” for making him believe he is a criminal. He seeks to lay blame for his behavior elsewhere, chiefly at the...
(The entire section is 486 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 12 Summary
Some three and a half hours after leaving the tavern, Thompson has driven as far as Baker, California. He has not slept in at least three days, perhaps four. He is still high but knows “the crash is coming.” He knows there is no sympathy for him, nor should there be. “Buy the ticket, take the ride” is Thompson’s motto.
He thinks about two very bad experiences and close calls he just endured. The first incident involved the California Highway Patrol and the second involved a “phantom hitchhiker.” Thompson says a squad car came up behind him on the highway. Rather than do what most people would do, Thompson leads the cop on a high-speed chase. Finally he pulls over abruptly, causing the speeding police car to careen past him. Thompson believes the cop will actually be impressed by his ability to control his car. His plan, however, is undermined when he realizes he is still holding an open can of beer. This infraction will erase any goodwill on the cop’s part in regard to his speeding.
A glance at the back seat reveals another ten or so discarded beer cans. Explanations, Thompson knows, will be useless. He surprises the cop by readily admitting his guilt. The cop tries to give him something of an out. He suggests that Thompson drive a few miles up the road, pull over at a rest stop, and take a good long nap. Instead of being grateful, Thompson argues about it. He says he has been up for days and will sleep for “twenty hours” if he goes to sleep now. Thompson tells himself to “get a grip.” He explains to the officer that he is a reporter and has been in Las Vegas covering the Mint 400 for a magazine.
The cop listens and decides to give him a warning. The terms of letting him go, however, are that he will immediately drive to the rest area and take a nap. If he sees him outside that two-mile radius, he will arrest him on the spot.
Thompson feels trapped. He needs to get to Los Angeles but cannot proceed without the very real probability of being taken to jail. As he drives toward the rest area, Thompson is shocked to see the same hitchhiker he and the attorney had picked up that first day on the road to Vegas. The kid poses yet another problem. Thompson reasons that if he is identified, he will surely be arrested for his earlier threats and behavior. However, if he tries to leave Baker, he will be arrested for disobeying the policeman’s instructions. Thompson pulls over to call...
(The entire section is 463 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 1 Summary
Thompson is just twenty miles east of Baker, California. It is hot. He says he feels like killing something—anything—maybe one of those big desert lizards. He honks his horn several times trying to attract an iguana or two. He is startled when he almost falls down, knocked off his balance by three loud shots. He is even more startled to realize he is the one who fired them. It would be a difficult thing to explain to a passing police officer. Quickly, he pitches the gun into the front seat. He concocts a story in his head to offer a cop should one happen to stop and inquire about the gunshots. He thinks he will say the gun has a hair-trigger. Furthermore, he will tell the cop he only intended to fire a single shot and, what’s more, the lizards were on the attack. Thompson pictures the incredulous look on the cop’s face. He decides this story will probably not work, especially when the officer decides to search his car. The drugs would be found and he would be locked up post-haste.
No one heard the shots, however. Thompson checks the level of supplies in the drug kit. The stash is a mess. Lots of different things have broken and the contents of the capsules are mixed together. However, some items are salvageable. Thanks to the attorney, they are completely out of reds, but there remains a good deal of speed, some opium hash, and a half a dozen amyls. All in all, the inventory is quite low but there is enough to get him and the attorney through the four-day conference if they pace themselves.
Thompson stops at a pharmacy and ponders asking the druggist for ether and nitrous oxide but thinks better of it. Instead, he picks up the paper and reads another story about someone who has gone crazy due to a drug overdose. In this story, the unfortunate victim plucked out his own eyes. The report says he did not seem to feel any pain when he did it. The drug that caused the breakdown was an animal tranquilizer known as PCP. PCP has not been sold for human consumption since 1963, but a spokesman for the company who produced the drug told the reporter it had likely entered the black market. Its effects generally wear off in about fourteen hours for humans, but the spokesman could not say what the effects of PCP might be when combined with other drugs, like acid.
(The entire section is 420 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 2 Summary
Thompson decides it is time to ditch the Great Red Shark. The convertible is far too conspicuous. The best place to get rid of it, he reasons, is in the airport’s parking lot. He finds a spot between two enormous Air Force buses and walks to the terminal, which is a good distance on foot. By the time he arrives, his clothes are soaked in sweat. He used to worry about how much he sweated until he went to his doctor and told him how many, and how many different kinds, of drugs he regularly ingested. The stunned physician told Thompson that given his history, he should begin worrying if he stops sweating. This would mean his organs had ceased trying to flush out the poison in his system.
“In Vegas, they kill the weak and deranged,” Thompson reminds himself. He tries hard to pull himself together and appear normal. He turns in the keys to the Great Red Shark, complaining bitterly to the attendant about the poor performance of the Chevrolet. The clerk apologizes and suggests the Coupe de Ville. Thompson accepts it and summarily names the white Cadillac “The Whale.” He is pleased by all The Whale’s automatic gadgets, from the rear windows that leap up and down with a switch to the soft roof that can be raised or lowered with the touch of a button. He pays for the car with a credit card he later finds out has been cancelled. Fortunately for him, the computer system had not yet flagged his account. He imagines, with some delight, the call that will come to inform the car rental agency of what had become of his last rental car. But by then it will be far too late. But because the credit card he presented at the time of the rental was thought to be valid, they had no reason to detain or question him. This desire to not bother people is a “hallmark of Vegas hospitality,” Thompson says. Rules are few but one is set in stone: “Don’t Burn the Locals.” Other than that, people are pretty much left to their own devices.
Thompson arrives at the Flamingo and sees the Whale safely driven away by the valet. He is a bit taken aback when he sees that the entire hotel is “full of cops.” But of course it is: law enforcement personnel by the hundreds have arrived for the conference. At the registration desk, one cop is haggling with the hotel clerk; his reservation cannot be located. Thompson takes pleasure in interrupting and promptly being given his room key despite his disheveled and dirty appearance.
(The entire section is 443 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 3 Summary
Thompson goes up to his room at the Flamingo after checking in downstairs. He tells the bellboy to bring up several bottles of booze. He is looking forward to a few hours of quiet for reflection. Covering this conference, he knows, will be a much different experience from reporting on the Mint 400. At the race, no one seemed to notice or care about his behavior or appearance. Additionally, covering the race had been an “observer gig.” The conference will require “participation.”
It is such an irony, he thinks, that he has been sent to write a story about people who would gladly put him and all others like him behind bars. He feels a bit of pride at the thought of being among this group of straights and standing up for the “drug culture.”
All these thoughts occur to Thompson as he walks the great distance from the lobby to his room. The thought process changes, however, when he tries to open the door and finds it blocked. A girl is lying in front of the door, passed out. Thompson wishes it were the wrong room but knows it is not; he steps over the girl and into the suite.
His attorney is standing at the bathroom door, completely naked and obviously high. Thompson calls him a pig but he does not care. “This is Lucy,” he says, by way of introduction. Lucy eyes Thompson with “obvious venom.” She seems like she is preparing to attack. The attorney attempts to intervene. He tells her Thompson is his client. Thompson sits on one of the beds and gets his can of Mace out of his satchel. All he wants is to rest, not fight this crazy girl.
The attorney continues to try to reason with Lucy. He begs her to show him her paintings. Thompson realizes that the room contains dozens of paintings, each depicting an identical subject: the face of Barbara Streisand. Lucy has come to Vegas, the attorney explains, to give these paintings to Streisand in person.
Thompson and the attorney speak privately; Thompson asks the attorney what his plans are for the girl. He does not know exactly. He tells Thompson how he met Lucy on the plane and gave her some acid. He says she is some sort of “religious freak” who has run away from home. Thompson suggests, probably jokingly, that they pimp her out during the convention. The suggestion enrages the attorney.
Back at the room, Thompson tries to have a serious talk with Lucy. He is quite worried that when the high wears off from the acid,...
(The entire section is 594 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 4 Summary
Thompson and his attorney sneak up to their room in the Flamingo via the back entrance of the hotel. A flashing red message light on the phone greets the pair as they enter. Thompson calls down to the front desk to find out who has called. Once again, Thompson has registered under the pseudonym Raoul Duke. The clerk, with some hesitation, tells him that one call was from the conference organizers to welcome him to the event; the other, he stammers, was from someone named Lucy, who says to call her “at the Americana, Room 1600.”
Thompson is taken aback. This is most unwelcome news. He goes to tell the attorney, who has already submerged himself in the bathtub. “I feel like Othello,” Thompson says, because everything that has happened seems to point to an inevitable tragedy.
The phone rings. It is the clerk calling back because Thompson had hung up on him. He wants to tell him that the woman on the phone sounded quite upset, and he thought Mr. Duke should know. Thompson is quite aware that Lucy could cause him problems, even get them both arrested. He thinks quickly and tells the desk clerk that Lucy is under surveillance and that she is a “case study.” If she should ever call back, the operator is to treat her “very gently.” The clerk agrees as long as the hotel is not under any threat of trouble. Thompson assures them they are not at any risk.
Thompson and the attorney discuss Lucy. To Thompson’s surprise, the attorney claims Lucy “flipped” for the writer; she has a serious crush on him. The only way the attorney could convince her to let him leave her at the airport was to say that Thompson was taking him “out to the desert for a showdown.” The winner of that showdown would get Lucy. She must have assumed that Thompson won the duel because she asked for him when she called the front desk.
Thompson begins packing his bags. He does not want to go but Lucy poses an incredibly real risk of incarceration. He thinks a jury would certainly believe a pretty young girl over the likes of the two of them. Her story would be even more credible when the trunk of the Whale was searched. The amount of drugs in its belly would be enough to fell an “entire platoon of Marines.” But the real rub, in Thompson’s mind, is the vast, unbridgeable gap between the drug culture and the nonusers. He knows they will insist on making everything much more dangerous and frightening than it actually...
(The entire section is 448 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 5 Summary
Thompson is hastily packing his bags, about to make good on his promise to leave. He wants none of the trouble Lucy might bring to them both. His attorney, however, stops him. He calls Lucy and tells the still-hallucinating girl that he has beaten up Thompson, who is no longer a threat to anyone; he is not dead, the lawyer assures her, but he is seriously hurt. Then the lawyer tells her he is about to leave the hotel. He claims Thompson has written the Flamingo a bad check and that she needs to be careful because Thompson had listed her as a reference. As such, he warns, the police will be looking for her to recover the hotel’s money. The attorney also cautions Lucy to not call the Flamingo or their room again because the line is likely bugged. Suddenly, the attorney starts to yell into the receiver, “O MY GOD! THEY’RE KICKING DOWN THE DOOR!” He pretends to talk to the intruding cops, loudly enough so that Lucy can hear; he says he does not know where she is, that she has gone and they will never find her. He makes her think he has been cuffed, and finally the attorney hangs up the phone.
Thompson is convinced by his roommate’s over-the-top performance. He does not believe Lucy will ever bother either one of them again. He relaxes, puts down his bag, and opens up the drug kit. The attorney begins to help himself to the stash; Thompson mumbles that it is getting very low. Not to worry, the attorney tells him. He has acquired something new for their experimental pleasures: adrenochrome.
Adrenonchrome, he explains, is extraordinarily powerful. Just a little bit of the liquid on the end of a matchstick and touched to one’s tongue is all that is needed. Thompson wants to know what “monster client” this drug came from because he knows there is only one source for adrenochrome: the adrenal glands of a “living human body.” The attorney nods. He knows the source. He says it was offered to him in lieu of payment by a client who practices Satanism.
The narcotic has an immediate and intense effect on Thompson. He begins talking rapidly and wildly. Then his body begins reacting: his jaw locks and his tongue swells. He feels like he is experiencing “total paralysis”; even his eyeballs will not move. His attorney assures him that this initial phase will not last long.
The paralysis does begin to subside but hallucinations begin. Thompson watches President Nixon on television but...
(The entire section is 497 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 6 Summary
Thompson and his attorney head down at noon for the opening of the National District Attorneys’ Association’s Conference on Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. Low-fidelity speakers dot the conference hall. The sound system leaves much to be desired. Black, upright speakers are everywhere, blocking the view for many people. Those around the speakers tend to look at the speakers rather than the person delivering the address on the stage. It gives the entire assembly an odd feel, “depersonalizing” the space in an odd way and also giving off an air that is both “ominous and authoritarian.” Thompson thinks the whole setup seems very antiquated, something of which Ulysses S. Grant might have approved.
The equipment is not the only thing that seems out of touch with the times. As Thompson listens to the lectures, it becomes ever more apparent that these enforcement agents have very little real contact or reliable information about the drug world. A speaker explains that the end of a joint is called a “roach” because it resembles the insect when burned down to a nub. Thompson and his attorney exchange incredulous glances. Neither of them had ever thought that was the reason. “You’d have to be crazy on acid to think a joint looks like a goddamn cockroach!” the attorney exclaims.
Another “drug expert” tells the crowd about the dangers of acid, specifically how a trip can haunt a user months after ingesting the drug. Thompson is experienced with LSD, of course, and thinks this is hogwash; more misinformation from the “experts” is given to the naïve assembly. This speaker is Dr. E. R. Bloomquist, M.D. He has written a tell-all book titled Marijuana, which Thompson finds amusing for its lack of insight and misinformation. In the book, Bloomquist writes about the “four states of being” when one smokes marijuana: “Cool, Groovy, Hip, and Square.” Thompson thinks someone has duped this man; perhaps it was the famous drug experimenter Timothy Leary, who may have wanted to see just how much poppycock this medical professional would believe. As funny as Thompson finds the lectures, he is also disturbed by the amount of false claims being made.
As the hours wear on, Thompson becomes more self-conscious. It must be obvious to everyone, he thinks, that he does not belong in this crowd. The attorney, too, is feeling awkward. He did not know people like those in attendance actually existed...
(The entire section is 445 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 7 Summary
The day of speeches at the conference wears interminably on. Thompson has not learned a single thing. Although the program invites anyone who is in the “know” to “teach,” he thinks wiser of the suggestion. He does not think his version of teaching would go over well. He feels bored and wishes he could make the hours more tolerable by getting high on mescaline but decides that, too, is not a smart idea. The effect of mescaline, he explains, is to “exaggerate” reality, not completely alter it. He does not want to envision the conference attendees enhanced in any way. A fat couple kissing while sober is almost more than he can bear.
Instead, Thompson listens to the speakers drone on. He becomes increasingly convinced that the efforts of these people to understand the drug culture are hopelessly off the mark. They seem much more interested in cheap shots and patched-together hearsay than in making sincere efforts to understand why some Americans choose to indulge in mind-altering substances. Moreover, they make no distinction between abuse and enjoyment. In their opinion, both are equally corrupt.
The attorney has had enough of the empty talk and departs for the casino, stumbling over people and leaving Thompson behind. Thompson cannot endure it any longer either. He pretends he is about to vomit and the crowd parts to let him through. He meets his attorney at a bar downstairs. One of the conference attendees, a cop from Georgia, is also passing time at the bar. He tells Thompson that he has been discussing “drug fiends” with the attorney. Thompson quickly catches on that his friend is playing mind games with the cop. Thompson and his attorney delight in one-upping each other. Their stories of out-of-control addicts become more and more bizarre. In a few minutes, they have the naïve man believing that the drug problem has become so out of control that many of the fiends are turning to human sacrifice as they descend into the depths of drug-induced depravity. The cop eats it up and seems to honestly believe that this menace from California will soon sweep the entire nation. Thompson says the only solution is to kill the druggies, just as they are doing in California—but of course they are keeping their containment policy secret. The press, he insists, must not find out. Rather than being horrified by such a system, the cop agrees that the best thing to do is keep that sort of thing between those in authority....
(The entire section is 420 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 8 Summary
It is now midnight of the evening following the first day of the conference. Thompson’s attorney has insisted they go out for coffee. He gets sick in the car and vomits all over the side of it at a stoplight. Another car pulls up next to them. The couples in the vehicle are overweight and look like they are probably in town for the conference. The attorney does not take kindly to their ignoring the situation. To shock them, he yells an offer to sell them heroin. The couples do not respond. They keep their eyes off of him entirely, but their faces registered their shock. The silent treatment only serves to further enrage the attorney. He shouts again, renewing his offer of “cheap heroin.” The car roars away when the light changes but Thompson gives pursuit while the attorney yells obscenities and threats. Finally the driver of the other car gives the attorney the reaction for which he had hoped. He shouts back that he will kill them if they pull over. Thompson decides they have had their fun and cuts across several lanes of traffic to lose them.
The attorney is delighted with the whole exchange of speed, bad language, and taunts. Thompson continues to drive and takes corners hard, almost rolling the Whale, but he refuses to slow down. He wonders if the driver of the other car will report them to the police. He decides that it is probably unlikely; the whole thing happened too fast. Making another turn, he almost loses control of the car. He thinks something must be wrong and pulls into a gas station. At his request and against the attendant’s objection, the tires are filled to fifty pounds, far above the recommendation. After a test drive, Thompson is still not satisfied and has the tires inflated to an incredible, and dangerous, seventy-five pounds. The ride is rough but Thompson likes it.
Thirty minutes later, Thompson and his lawyer are in North Vegas. North Vegas is where people go who have outlived both their usefulness and their money on the Strip. It is a depressing place. If you are here, you are effectively washed up. Thompson considers the huge differences between Vegas proper and North Vegas. For example, Caesar’s Palace on the Strip has its own form of law enforcement; it “breeds its own army.” There is no such security in North Vegas. This town is the refuge of the “gunsels, the hustlers, the drug cripples and all the other losers.”
They settle into some seats at a diner. The...
(The entire section is 514 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 9 Summary
This chapter begins with an Editor’s Note. It explains that Dr. Duke, also known as Thompson, had “completely broken down.” The hard copy of what Thompson had written was completely illegible. What follows in this chapter, the editor explains, is what could be pieced together from the audiotapes and was “transcribed verbatim”; absolutely no editing took place, and Thompson declined to read it at all. To summarize what follows, the editor managed to discern from the tapes that Thompson and his attorney had come to the conclusion that the elusive American Dream would not show itself at the boring and lifeless District Attorneys’ Conference on Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. The transcription begins as Thompson and his attorney are driving down Paradise Road just outside of Las Vegas proper.
For a long time as they drive, the two men argue about where they will stop to eat. All Duke really wants is some coffee. The attorney insists that they stop for tacos. Duke would rather have a burger. Finally they find a place offering both. The attorney, as is his wont, gives the waitress a hard time. He quizzes her about where the city of Boulder is and gets frustrated by her answers. Finally he tries to explain to the confused woman that he and Thompson are searching for the American Dream and that they had been told they were getting close. The waitress completely misunderstands. She thinks that the American Dream is a particular place, a bar or a restaurant or something. She yells to the short-order cook, asking him if he knows where to find the American Dream.
The cook replies that he thinks it is a place in the city that used to be called The Old Psychiatrist’s Club. The attorney wants to know if it is a mental hospital of some sort. The waitress says it is not; it is a place where drug addicts and other degenerates hang out, but she does not think it is called the American Dream. Regardless, the attorney writes down the location and description of the building. Thompson and the attorney head out.
Another Editor’s Note concludes the chapter. He says the remainder of the tape was too garbled for transcription. Apparently some sort of liquid had been spilled on the cassette. He was able, however, to discern that Duke and the attorney located the dilapidated—closed—Old Psychiatrist’s Club. The building was in a vacant lot, crumbling, and overgrown with weeds. A gas station attendant across the street...
(The entire section is 442 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 10 Summary
Thompson’s attorney has decided it is time to go. Thompson takes him to the airport but almost causes his friend to miss the flight because he gets lost on the way. In fact, they are going in the opposite direction of the airport. The attorney is not happy. Thompson tells him not to worry; he has never missed a flight.
Thompson considers the logistics of his situation. There will not be another stoplight where he can turn around for at least five more miles. In Thompson’s estimation, there is only one option: cross the steep and grassy median and get to the opposite side of the freeway. He goes in at an angle, knowing full well that a wrong approach might flip the Whale over. The descent seems precarious for a few minutes, but eventually they come up the hill and blast onto the southbound freeway. Unfortunately, the Whale does not stop when it hits the pavement but careens across the lanes to the other side, into a field of cactus and breaking through a fence, which it drags for a while.
The Whale, Thompson, and the attorney find themselves on the airport’s runway. Thompson worries that a plane might come along and flatten them, but by this point he is fairly committed to his plan of action. He floors the gas pedal and they roar forward. They have just over three minutes until the attorney’s flight is to depart. Thompson sees the plane up ahead and tells the attorney to get his things and be ready to jump out of the car. The attorney worries that he will be arrested but Thompson tells him to say he was just a hitchhiker and had no control over the actions of the crazy driver who picked him up.
Thompson drops the man off behind a van. He is relieved and somewhat surprised to see that no one is after them. Thompson spots a hole in the fence and takes off. He sees in his rearview mirror that the attorney is successfully boarding the plane.
As he drives back into Las Vegas, Thompson considers how he has “broken every rule Vegas lived by—burning the locals, abusing the tourists, terrifying the help.” His only hope is that the real story of what he has done is so ridiculous that no one will ever believe it all to be true. He thinks, too, about how Vegas is so “grossly atavistic.”
He considers the case of a former neighbor, a young man who just wanted to travel and absorb life. He made the mistake of wandering into Vegas with no particular intent or plan and was arrested for...
(The entire section is 599 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 11 Summary
Thompson thinks about the kid who was fined and jailed for vagrancy. He cannot imagine what the penalties might be for his transgressions. He considers the potential charges—rape and larceny among them—but decides the magazine’s lawyers would be wily enough to keep him out of jail for years, probably forever. Thompson fantasizes about moving all over the world; with each move, his defense attorneys would concoct new reasons to delay trials based on the change of venue.
He considers the sanity of such a scheme but then wonders what could be considered sane in a country under the rule of Richard Nixon. Once again, Thompson ponders the changes that have occurred in America since the 1960s. He also thinks about the misleading information and promises offered by gurus of the 1960s like Timothy Leary, who promised his LSD followers “consciousness expansion." But Leary did not understand that some people took him quite seriously and ruined their lives. Yes, Leary also destroyed his own life, but Thompson feels no pity for him because he took “too many others down with him.”
Leary’s disciples, like so many other people in that decade, were naïve to think that “Peace and Understanding” could come from “three bucks a hit.” The “central illusion” of the era, Thompson argues, is that there was any real hope for anything better. It is the “mystic fallacy of the Acid Culture” he explains. Like all religions, they believe there is some “Light at the end of the tunnel.”
For Thompson personally, the day the illusion was broken was when The Beatles went to India to study with the Maharishi. The trajectory of the 1960s belief system had gone this way, he says: first gurus, then Jesus, then communes. And then there was the incident with Sonny Barger, leader of the biker gang the Hell’s Angels, and the run-in at the antiwar march. Thompson says it was the first “open break between the Greasers and the Longhairs.” Efforts by poet Alan Ginsberg and writer Ken Kesey to bring the Hell’s Angels and the radical left together failed, culminating at the Rolling Stones concert in Altamont, California, where four people died in an outburst of violence.
Finally, Thompson makes it back to his room. He is horrified by the state of destruction he finds. The mirror is shattered. At some point, the attorney had set his bed on fire; the comforter is charred and black. There is nothing unfouled...
(The entire section is 660 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 12 Summary
It has been nearly three days since the encounter with Alice, the maid, who now thinks she is secretly an informant for the police. The suite has not been cleaned for many days, either by Alice or by any other maid. The state of the rooms is getting progressively worse. Dirty towels are everywhere. Dried vomit coats the floor, as do grapefruit rinds and broken glass from the shattered mirror.
Thompson considers the depth of depravity the scene represents. He knows when it is discovered it will be immediately apparent that this scene was not caused by your run-of-the-mill drug user. It is “too savage, too aggressive.”
As he contemplates the sheer mass of the horror, the phone rings. It is a friend, Bruce Innes, calling from the Circus-Circus. He says located the ape about which Thompson has been asking (although this is the first mention of an ape anywhere in the narrative). Thompson is eager to get the beast. He tells Innes he will be there in ten minutes.
At the Circus-Circus, a valet immediately attends Thompson. At first Thompson thinks he has become a familiar customer, but then he realizes he is still wearing his police badge from the conference. He also thinks the superb treatment might just come from acting crazy on a regular basis. In Las Vegas, people seem to assume that if you act crazy and tip well, you “must be important.”
Thompson heads to the bar and finds Innes. He wants the ape immediately but Innes has bad news: The ape attacked a man. The man was taken away by ambulance and the police took away the ape. Thompson is furious and threatens to go bail the ape out. Innes advises Thompson to stay away from the jail because he is likely to get arrested. Thompson decides his friend is probably right.
Thompson tells Innes he has decided it is time to go. Innes is surprised. He asks, did he find the American Dream? Thompson says he has—right here, at the Circus-Circus. “We’re sitting on the main nerve right now,” he declares. He reminds Innes of how the Circus-Circus came to be. The man who built it had always wanted to join the circus when he was a child. Innes looks around and understands. “Now the bastard has his own circus, and a license to steal too,” he realizes. Thompson nods. “It’s pure Horatio Alger,” he says.
It is time to go. Five days in Vegas is enough for any one. Some people may say they would like to stay...
(The entire section is 436 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 13 Summary
Two bouncers approach Thompson at the baccarat table and tell him it is time to go. They escort him to the front entrance and signal to the valet. They want to know where Thompson’s friend is. Thompson claims ignorance, but one of the bouncers produces a large photograph of him with his attorney.
Although it clearly is Thompson in the picture, he denies being that man. He says it is a guy named Thompson who works for Rolling Stone.His own name, he claims, is Raoul Duke. He says the other man in the photograph is a hit man for the Mafia. The bouncers want to know where he gets this information. Thompson flashes his police conference badge and warns the men to not make a scene. While they are equivocating, Thompson drives off in the Whale.
Thompson knows the gig is up, so he heads back to the Flamingo to retrieve his things. He tries to put up the convertible top as he exits, but it will not budge. It has been damaged by a “water test” in Lake Mead. The entire car is battered; it is the mobile equivalent of the destroyed hotel room at the Flamingo.
It is very early in the morning when Thompson eases the Whale into the VIP parking lot at the airport. The only attendant is a kid of about fifteen. This is a break for Thompson, who assures the kid that he signed the daily insurance form and that his two dollars per day will cover the damage. Had anyone else other than a naïve kid been on duty, there surely would have been trouble.
There are still a few hours to kill before the flight back to Los Angeles departs. Thompson checks his luggage except for the leather satchel, which contains his gun and the remainder of the drugs. He hunkers down in a coffee shop. As he looks around, Thompson is horrified to see that the entire airport is full of “pigs.” This disconcerts him greatly for a few minutes until he realizes that all the attendees of the National Attorneys’ Association’s Conference on Narcotics and Dangerous drugs are on their way back home.
As he sits and watches the throngs of law enforcement personnel, Thompson’s mind wanders back to the day he was rejected from enlistment in the military. The reason was a minor physical problem: one leg was a bit longer than the other one. When Thompson was denied a career in the armed services he became a “Doctor of Gonzo Journalism.” The Captain who refused to admit him into the Navy was later killed in battle.
(The entire section is 443 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 14 Summary
Thompson wanders around the airport. He is still wearing his police badge from the conference. The badge reads, “Raoul Duke, Special Investigator, Los Angeles.” He had forgotten about it until he sees it in the mirror while in the men’s room. He tells himself to get rid of it. The meaningless of the conference greatly annoys him and he does not want to be associated with the gathering that he now considers a “cheap excuse” for a thousand cops to hang out in Las Vegas. He is disgusted that this entire conference, whose main purported purpose was to educate law enforcement personnel, had done no such thing. Nothing was learned.
The only thing Thompson takes away from the conference is that those in authority are easily ten years behind the times. As proof of their lack of understanding, Thompson points to the “thousands of dollars” taxpayers still are paying to produce films on “the dangers of LSD” when that drug has gone very much out of vogue. Everybody but the cops, Thompson says, now considers acid to be the “Studebaker of the drug market.” It is no longer much of a factor at all, yet the police continue to act like LSD is a major threat to the fabric of society.
The drugs of 1971 are not about consciousness raising or consciousness expansion. Instead, the most popular drugs are those that “short-circuit” the brain. Additionally, there are no longer levels of experimentation. Kids today go straight for heroin, skipping less potent drugs like speed altogether. Nixon ushered in the era of the “downer.” Consciousness raising, Thompson argues, “went out with LBJ.”
Finally, it is time to board the plane. Thompson is too exhausted to care are about the “ugly vibrations” he feels as the other passengers glare at him as he walks down the aisle. He finds his seat and is glad the stewardess senses he is on the verge of either “cry[ing] or go[ing] mad.” She sees to it that he gets his requested Bloody Mary quickly. She even gives him one of her own cigarettes. Before the plane hits the runway, Thompson falls asleep.
Thompson awakens when the plane jolts to a stop. Looking out the window, he is startled to see not Los Angeles but the Rocky Mountains. He knows there is not much he can do, so he deplanes and goes to the airport drug store, where he talks the pharmacist into selling him some amyls.
As he is leaving the store, two Marines are coming out of the...
(The entire section is 472 words.)