Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Thompson, Hunter S. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: a Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream. New York: Vintage, 1998.

Reason read: my cousin, Duane, lived and died in Vegas.

There isn’t much of a plot to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Raol Duke, aka Hunter Thompson, and his Samoan lawyer, Dr. Gonzo, travel to Las Vegas to cover a strange motorcycle race, but the real fun starts when they are asked to infiltrate a National District Attorney’s Conference on Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. Oh, the irony as the two men are out of their minds in a drug-induced haze most all of the time. Crashing cars, trashing hotels rooms, scamming their way out of restaurant checks, and all out hallucinations…this is just the beginning for the pair.
The title of the book comes from a description of Las Vegas, “bad waves of paranoia, madness, fear and loathing – intolerable vibrations in this place” (p 72).

As an aside, Fear and Loathing made me want to look up Kesey’s Bible, The Far Side of Reality to see if it really exists. I only knew of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Another aside about the bars of clear Neutrogena soap. I used to use that specific soap all the time. I can picture the smell perfectly. How bizarre.

Quotes to quote, “Las Vegas is not the kind of town where you want to drive down main street aiming a black bazooka instrument at people” (29) and “The idea of entering a coffee shop without a newspaper in my hands made me nervous” (p 124).

If I had a dollar for every time a drug was mentioned in Fear and Loathing… I could buy myself an entire wardrobe from Title 9. I decided it would be fun to catalog them all:

  • Cocaine
  • Marijuana
  • Acid
  • Mescaline
  • Meth
  • Ether
  • Rum
  • Heroin
  • Beer
  • Speed
  • Opium
  • Tequila
  • Reds
  • Chivas Regal
  • Nitrous Oxide
  • PCP
  • LSD
  • Whiskey
  • Smack
  • Uppers

Author fact: Thompson really was a journalist.

Book trivia: Everyone and their brother knows Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was made into a movie starring Johnny Depp (perfect casting, I might add). If you know anything about me you also know I haven’t seen this masterpiece. Here is a piece of trivia more centered on the book. Fear and Loathing… was dedicated to Bob Dylan for his song “Hey Mr. Tambourine Man.”

Nancy said: Pearl said Fear and Loathing was a “drug hazed account of adventures in the city” (Book Lust To Go p 128). She also liked the opening sentence.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the very obvious and simple chapter called “Las Vegas” (p 128). Also, from More Book Lust in the more interesting chapter called ” Lines That Linger, Sentences That Stick” (p 140).

Beautiful Children

Bock, Charles. Beautiful Children. Read by Mark Deakins. New York: Random House Audio, 2008.

Reason read: As some of you know, my cousin was homeless and lived under the neon in Las Vegas. In October of a certain year he was found dead. Beautiful Children was read in his honor, but now I have a new event to memorialize: the Las Vegas concert massacre earlier this month. October is a cruel, cruel month and Beautiful Children is a cruel, cruel book.

I don’t know how to review this book. I was not expecting to dislike every character, even the missing kid, Newell. I hated that I liked him least of all. The premise of the story is twelve year old Newell goes missing on the streets of Las Vegas. Vegas gives Bock a huge canvas to work with. Think about it: the seedy and spectacular people, the gritty and shiny atmosphere, the ever-lurking potential for danger around every corner. It’s Sin City, after all! Bock does take advantage of the expanse of his canvas but not in a good way. It’s almost like he had too much space so he overfilled it with garbage. Story lines are jumbled and discombobulated. Like marbles scattering in a hallway, Bock careens from one time and place to another. Yes, there are criminals, strippers, homeless kids, drug addicts, pawnshop owners, gamblers, sex addicts, comic book illustrators, beggars, liars, thieves…all of them sad and pitiful. The center of this story is supposed to be focused on a missing kid. Yes, the parents are grief stricken and the marriage suffers, but not enough attention is paid to the here and now of that intense drama. Instead, Bock delves into what intense sadness does to to a sex life. There are no FBI agents anxiously hovering over wire-tapped telephones while hand wringing, pale faced parents look on. There are no episodes of pounding the streets, littering them with Have You Seen Me? fliers. Instead, Bock focuses on the underbelly of the beast; a world where pedophiles and pornographers feel at home.

Maybe it’s because I listened to this on audio. Maybe it’s because the sex scenes were practically pornographic. Maybe it’s because the story couldn’t stay linear for two minutes. Maybe it’s because I couldn’t find a character to love or even like. I suspect, if I look for the truth closer to home, I didn’t like Beautiful Children because, for all of his over the top, down and dirty descriptions of Las Vegas, when it came right down to it, he was describing my cousin’s last home. My cousin could have been that homeless kid on page 122.

Author fact: Charles Bock is a native of Las Vegas.

Narrator fact: Mark Deakins has appeared on the television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Never saw an episode.

Book trivia: Beautiful Children was Charles Bock’s first novel.

Nancy said: Nancy described the plot but also mentioned the sins in Beautiful Children are not the ones you would expect of Vegas.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the very simple and obvious chapter called (drum roll) “Las Vegas” (p 129).

Good Thief’s Guide to Vegas

Ewan, Chris. The Good Thief’s Guide to Vegas. New York: Minotaur Books, 2010.

Every time I read a Chris Ewan book I like his style more and more. Yes, his Good Thief books follow a certain formula. Writer/thief Charlie Howard gets himself into trouble time and time again and lives to write about it. Ewan can make Charlie visit every major city in the world and then some. And if Charlie ever settles down and has a kid who takes after pops…well, sky’s the limit. The trick is to make every story stand alone and Ewan does that. You won’t be missing out if you read just one (but you won’t want to). It’s definitely more fun to read them all in order.
When we catch up to Charlie Howard and his editor sidekick Victoria they are in Vegas, trying to enjoy a little holiday after being kicked out of Paris. Charlie gets himself into a little bit of trouble when he decides he wants to rob an obnoxious magician who rubbed him the wrong way. Finding a dead woman in the magician’s hotel room is only the beginning. There weren’t as many laugh-out-loud moments in this one, but it was still a pleasure to read.

No favorite lines in this one.

Reason read: To “finish” the series I started in September but truth be known, I would have read this in October, in honor of my cousin who lived on the mean streets of Vegas.

Author fact: According to the back flap Chris Ewan lives on the Isle of Man but spent his honeymoon trying his luck in Vegas. Funny how he doesn’t tell us how that turned out!

Book trivia: This is the third Good Thief book in the series.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust to Go in the chapter called “Las Vegas” (p 128).

Beneath the Neon

O’Brien, Matthew. Beneath the Neon: Life and Death in the Tunnels of Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Huntington Press, 2007.

This was not a Challenge book. This wasn’t an Early Review selection. This was a morbid curiosity about how someone I know lives. Homeless in Las Vegas. I didn’t know O’Brien’s book existed until talking to someone about my June trip to Vegas. What I talked about happened on the strip, above ground. “Yes, but did you know about the tunnels?” someone asked of me. Errr…no.

There is a whole society beneath the streets of Vegas and Matthew O’Brien painstaking draws this community out. Drain by drain, dark tunnel by tunnel he explores their world and shares their stories with the likes of us. From the moment I spied the words “drooling algae” on the first page (p 1), I was hooked. The trip Matthew takes us on is creepy, dark, violent, sexy, artistic, tragic, ill, romantic, pitiful, dangerous and sweet. Everyone in the drains has a story: running away from drugs, running to them. Gambling. Hiding. Healing. Living. Dying. Some say they are saving to “get out”, others know they will die where they sleep. Some are moved to tears, others could care less. Sleep to dream, sleep to die. It makes no difference in the tunnels under the Vegas Strip.

It was weird to read about the places I frequented. There is a whole art wall underneath Caesar’s Palace. I never knew. While I was there the city was careful to disguise its poverty, hide its ugly. At the time, standing in the water gardens of the Flamingo I wouldn’t have believed the story of the drains. Now, it makes perfect sense.

A few favorite phrases: “There’s more stuff in our dumpsters than there is in all the houses and closets of Third World countries” (p 79).
“..but the heat was stealing my soul” (p 192).

In case this fascinates you like it did me…read the book then visit these links:
For the photography of Danny Mollohan go here.
For the Beneath The Neon website go here.

Epilogue ~ I choked on my words when I accidentally found this blog again. For the person who started this review in the first place, my homeless someone in Vegas, is now dead. I have never been more sick of my own words than I am right now.

Orgasmic Mesa

Heaven on Earth

This could also be called Ode To Bobby Flay or Where are the Damn Statues?! We went to Caesar’s Palace four times. Not for the gambling. Not for the shopping. For the statues. When my mother visited Vegas she had all these great stories of moving statues. I wanted to see them for myself. I had always told myself that if I ever made it to sin city I was going to find the statues in Caesar’s Palace.
The first time we went it was early morning. Nothing was really opened yet. Spotless and quiet, even the slot machines seemed muted. We didn’t find the statues.
The second time we passed through Caesar’s it was mid-afternoon. We followed signs to the moving statues and came up empty. So empty I felt lost. Where were the statues?
The third time we deliberately went to Caesar’s we asked someone for directions and were led to a cheesy, theatrical fountain show with mechanical puppets and lots of fire. Not what I was picturing. Not at all. Rather than wasting a trip I convinced Kisa to have lunch at Mesa, one of Bobby Flay’s restaurants.
Never before have I eaten at a place where the food is so good my eyes literally rolled back in my head. I ordered the southwest breakfast burrito with chorizo, scrambled egg, goat cheese, cilantro and three kinds of sauces.
On our fourth trip to Caesars I found the statues my mother had been talking about. Finally. I recognized them from the pictures she took. I was surprised to discover they are not LIVING statues but rather, moving mechanical statues. Just like the ones I found the day before. Admitting defeat I finally moved on from Caesars but I will never forget Mesa.