Both Mike and Bill, like most of the other characters in the book, like to drink and are frequently inebriated. Both tend to prattle on about inane subjects, but Bill seems much more in control of his drinking than Mike, and speaks about things with more purpose and depth in comparison to Mike. While Bill drinks profusely, he usually maintains an element of control over his behavior. He says he "certainly like(s) to drink," but maintains that if he "begin(s) to feel daunted," or out-of-control because of alcohol, he will "go off by (him)self...like a cat," so as not to embarrass himself in public. It is important to Bill to be in control; when he lost control of himself in Vienna and could not remember what he did for four days, it was unnerving to him, and colored his whole perception of Vienna in a negative manner. Mike, in contrast, is truly "a drunkard." He cannot even discern if he is "tight" or not, alternating between admitting that he is and denying it. Although he is "tanned and healthy-looking," his habitual drunkenness renders him useless and completely without direction.
In regards to finances, Bill has managed to make "a lot of money on his last book, and (is) going to make a lot more." When he has money, Bill spends it, regarding consumerism as a "simple exchange of values...you give them money...they give you a stuffed dog." Michael, on the other hand, at least according to Brett, "is an undischarged bankrupt," who was duped by his ex-partner in London.
Bill's conversation is much more versatile and lucid than is Mike's. Bill talks about his experiences in Vienna and Budapest, and is able to discern between experiences which were "wonderful" and those that were "not so good." His topics of conversation are varied, as he tells about his experiences in trying to help a prize-fighter in Vienna, and his interest in taxidermy. In addition to philosophizing about the definition of consumerism, he relates his opinion on the nature of injustice. Mike's talk, in contrast, is repetitive and hopelessly inane. He is focused almost exclusively on Brett, commenting over and over that she is "a lovely piece," and complaining about her hat (Chapter 8).