From the Penguin catalog…
Trim: 6 1/8″ x 9 1/4″
On Sale: 8/4/09
Price: $27.95/$31.00 Can.
EAN: 9781594202247 52795
It’s been awhile since Doc Sportello has seen his ex-girlfriend. Suddenly out of nowhere she shows up with a story about a plot to kidnap a billionaire land developer whom she just happens to be in love with. Easy for her to say. It’s the tail end of the psychedelic sixties in L.A., and Doc knows that “love” is another of those words going around at the moment, like “trip” or “groovy,” except that this one usually leads to trouble. Despite which he soon finds himself drawn into a bizarre tangle of motives and passions whose cast of characters includes surfers, hustlers, dopers and rockers, a murderous loan shark, a tenor sax player working undercover, an ex-con with a swastika tattoo and a fondness for Ethel Merman, and a mysterious entity known as the Golden Fang, which may only be a tax dodge set up by some dentists.
In this lively yarn, Thomas Pynchon, working in an unaccustomed genre, provides a classic illustration of the principle that if you can remember the sixties, you weren’t there … or … if you were there, then you … or, wait, is it … Part noir, part psychedelic romp, all Thomas Pynchon — private eye Doc Sportello comes, occasionally, out of a marijuana haze to watch the end of an era as free love slips away and paranoia creeps in with the L.A. fog.
Excerpt from Inherent Vice:
She came along the alley and up the back steps the way she always used to. Doc hadn’t seen her for over a year. Nobody had. Back then it was always sandals, bottom half of a flower-print bikini, faded Country Joe and the Fish T-shirt. Tonight she was all in flatland gear, hair a lot shorter than he remembered, looking just like she swore she’d never look.
“That you, Shasta? The packaging fooled me there for a minute.”
“Need your help, Doc.”
They stood in the streetlight through the kitchen window there’d never been much point putting curtains over and listened to the thumping of the surf from down the hill. Some nights, when the wind was right, you could hear the surf all over town.
Nobody was saying much. What was this? “So! You know I have an office now? Just like a day job and everything?”
“I looked in the phone book, almost went over there. But then I thought, better for everybody if this looks like a secret rendezvous.”
OK, nothing romantic tonight. Bummer. But it might be a paying gig. “Somebody’s keeping a close eye?”
“Just spent an hour on surface streets trying to make it look good.”
“How about a beer?” He went to the fridge, pulled two cans out of the case he kept inside, handed one to Shasta.
“There’s this guy,” she was saying.
There would be. No point getting emotional. And if he had a nickel for every time he’d heard a client start off this way, he would be over in Hawaii now, loaded day and night, digging the waves at Waimea, or better yet hiring somebody to dig them for him …. “Gentleman of the straight-world persuasion,” he beamed.
“OK, Doc. He’s married.”
“Some … money situation.”
She shook back hair that wasn’t there and raised her eyebrows so what.
Groovy with Doc. “And the wife — she knows about you?”
Shasta nodded. “But she’s seeing somebody too. Only it isn’t just the usual number — they’re working together on some creepy little scheme.”
“To make off with hubby’s fortune, yeah, I think I heard of that happenin’ once or twice around L.A. And … you want me to do what exactly?” He found the paper bag he’d brought his supper home in and got busy pretending to scribble notes on it, because straight-chick uniform, makeup supposed to look like no makeup or whatever, here came that old well-known hard-on Shasta was always good for sooner or later. Does it ever end, he wondered. Of course it does. It did.