Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (novel)

novel by Hunter S. Thompson

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (A Savage Journey into the Heart of the American Dream) (1971) by Hunter S. Thompson is a semi-autobiographical story of a drug fuelled weekend in Las Vegas. A film adaptation Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was made in 1998.

"That's not me," I said. "That's a guy named Thompson. He works for Rolling Stone...a really vicious, crazy kind of person. And that guy sitting next to him is a hit man for the Mafia in Hollywood. Shit, have you studied this photograph? What kind of a maniac would roam around wearing one black glove.”
Our room was at the Flamingo, in the nerve-center of the Strip: right across the street from Caesar's Palace and the Dunes—site of the Drug Conference.

Preface / Prologue

"He who makes a beast of himself, gets rid of the pain of being a man." - Dr. Johnson

Both book and movie:

"He who makes a beast of himself, gets rid of the pain of being a man." - Dr. Johnson

Part 1.

We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.
The only thing that really worried me was the ether. There is nothing in the world more helpless and irresponsible and depraved than a man in the depths of an ether binge. And I knew we'd get into that rotten stuff pretty soon.
  • We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like "I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive..." And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down to Las Vegas. And a voice was screaming: "Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn animals?"
  • The sporting editors had also given me $300 in cash, most of which was already spent on extremely dangerous drugs. The trunk of the car looked like a mobile police narcotics lab. We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers and also a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser, a pint of raw ether and two dozen amyls. Not that we needed all that for the trip, but once you get locked into a serious drug-collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can.
    The only thing that really worried me was the ether. There is nothing in the world more helpless and irresponsible and depraved than a man in the depths of an ether binge. And I knew we'd get into that rotten stuff pretty soon.
  • How long can we maintain? I wonder. How long before one of us starts raving and jabbering at this boy? What will he think then? This same lonely desert was the last known home of the Manson family. Will he make that grim connection...
  • No point mentioning those bats, I thought. The poor bastard will see them soon enough.
  • The car suddenly veered off the road and we came to a sliding halt in the gravel. I was hurled against the dashboard. My attorney was slumped over the wheel. “What’s wrong?” I yelled. “We can’t stop here. This is bat country!"

2. The Seizure of $300 from a Pig Woman In Beverly Hills

  • Every now and then when your life gets complicated and the weasels start closing in, the only real cure is to load up on heinous chemicals and then drive like a bastard from Hollywood to Las Vegas. To relax, as it were, in the womb of the desert sun. Just roll the roof back and screw it on, grease the face with white tanning butter and move out with the music at top volume, and at least a pint of ether.
  • Getting hold of the drugs had been no problem, but the car and the tape recorder were not easy things to round up at 6:30 on a Friday afternoon in Hollywood.
  • We spent the rest of that night rounding up materials and packing the car. Then we ate the mescaline and went swimming in the ocean. Somewhere around dawn we had breakfast in a Malibu coffee shop, then drove very carefully across town and plunged onto the smog-shrouded Pasadena Freeway, heading east.

3. Strange Medicine on the Desert...a Crisis of Confidence

  • I am still vaguely haunted by our hitchhiker’s remark about how he’d “never rode in a convertible before.” Here’s this poor geek living in a world of convertibles zipping past him on the highways all the time, and he’s never even ridden in one. It made me feel like King Farouk. I was tempted to have my attorney pull into the next airport and arrange some kind of simple, common-law contract whereby we could just give the car to this unfortunate bastard. Just say: “Here, sign this and the car’s yours.” Give him the keys and then use the credit card to zap off on a jet to some place like Miami and rent another huge fireapple-red convertible for a drug-addled, top-speed run across the water all the way out to the last stop in Key West...and then trade the car off for a boat. Keep moving.
  • But our trip was different. It was a classic affirmation of everything right and true and decent in the national character. It was a gross, physical salute to the fantastic possibilities of life in this country-but only for those with true grit. And we were chock full of that.
  • "Order some golf shoes," I whispered. "Otherwise, we'll never get out of this place alive..."
  • "Lizards?" he said. "If you think we're in trouble now, wait till you see what's happening in the elevators." He took off his Brazilian sunglasses and I could see he'd been crying.
  • We're right in the middle of a fucking reptile zoo! And somebody's giving booze to these goddamn things!

4. Hideous Music and the Sound of Many Shotguns...Rude Vibes on a Saturday Evening in Vegas

  • The TV news was about the Laos Invasion-a series of horrifying disasters: explosions and twisted wreckage, men fleeing in terror, Pentagon generals babbling insane lies. "Turn that shit off!" screamed my attorney "Lets get out of here!"

5. Covering the Story...A glimpse of the Press in Action...Ugliness & Failure

  • "Well, anyway, here I am. And I tell you that was one hell of a long night, man! Seven hours on that goddamn bus! But when I woke up it was dawn and here I was in downtown Vegas and for a minute I didn't know what the hell I was doin' here. All I could think was 'O, Jesus, here we go again: Who's divorced me this time?'"
  • "Goddamn, What day is it; Saturday? -More Like Sunday.

6. A Night on the Town...Confrontation at the Desert Inn...Drug Frenzy at the Circus-Circus

The Circus-Circus is what the whole world would be doing Saturday night if the Nazis had won the war.
This is not a good town for psychedelic drugs. Reality itself is too twisted.
  • Saturday midnight...Memories of this night are extremely hazy. All I have, for guide-pegs, is a pocketful of keno cards and cocktail napkins, all covered with scribbled notes. Here is one: "Get the Ford man, demand a Bronco for race-observation purposes...photos?...Lacerda/call...why not a helicopter?...Get on the phone, lean on the fuckers...heaving yelling."
    Another says: "Sign on Paradise Boulevard-'Stopless and Topless'...bush-league sex compared to L.A.; pasties here-total naked public humping in L.A....Las Vegas is a society of armed masturbator/gambling is the kicker here/sex is extra/weird trip for high rollers...house-whores for winners, hand jobs for the bad luck crowd"
  • We promised, but the moment we got inside we lost control. The tension had been too great. Debbie Reynolds was yukking across the stage in a silver Afro wig...to the tune of "Sargent Pepper." from the golden trumpet of Harry James.
  • This is the main advantage of ether: it makes you behave like the village drunkard in some early Irish novel...total loss of all basic motor skills: Blurred vision, no balance, numb tongue-severance of all connection between the body and the brain. Which is interesting, because the brain continues to function more or less normally...you can actually watch yourself behaving in the terrible way, but you can't control it.
  • What's happening here? What's going on? Then you hear yourself mumbling: "Dogs fucked the Pope, no fault of mine. Watch out!...Why money? My name is Brinks; I was born...Born? Get sheep over side...women and children to armored car...orders from Captain Zeep."
  • The Circus-Circus is what the whole world would be doing Saturday night if the Nazis had won the war. This is the Sixth Reich. The ground floor is full of gambling tables, like all the other casinos . . . but the place is about four stories high, in the style of a circus tent, and all manner of strange County-Fair/Polish Carnival madness is going on up in this space.
I left the Fillmore half-crazy and, instead of going home, aimed the big 650 Lightning across the Bay Bridge at a hundred miles an hour…certain that no matter which way I went I would come to a place where people were just as high and wild as I was.
  • Shoot the pasties off the nipples of a ten-foot bull-dyke and win a cotton-candy goat.
  • "I hate to say this," said my attorney as we sat down at the Merry-Go-Round Bar on the second balcony, "but this place is getting to me. I think I'm getting the Fear."
  • This is not a good town for psychedelic drugs. Reality itself is too twisted.

7. Paranoid Terror...and the Awful Specter of Sodomy...A flashing of Knives and Green Water

  • What were we doing out here...? What was the meaning of this trip? Did I actually have a big red convertible out there on the street? Was I just roaming around these Mint Hotel escalators in a drug frenzy of some kind, or had I really come out here to Las Vegas to work on a story?
  • "Let it roll!" he screamed. "Just as high as the fucker can go! And when it comes to that fantastic bit where the rabbit bites its own head off, I want you to throw that fuckin' radio into the tub with me!"
…and with the right kind of eyes, you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.
  • The room was very quiet. I walked over to the TV set and turned it on to a dead channel-white noise at maximum decibels, a fine sound for sleeping, a powerful continuous hiss to drown out everything strange.

8. "Genius 'Round the World Stands Hand in Hand, and One Shock of Recognition Runs the Whole Circle 'Round"

  • It seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era — the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run... but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant...
    History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of 'history' it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time — and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened.
    My central memory of that time seems to hang on one or five or maybe forty nights — or very early mornings — when I left the Fillmore half-crazy and, instead of going home, aimed the big 650 Lightning across the Bay Bridge at a hundred miles an hour... booming through the Treasure Island tunnel at the lights of Oakland and Berkeley and Richmond, not quite sure which turnoff to take when I got to the other end... but being absolutely certain that no matter which way I went I would come to a place where people were just as high and wild as I was: no doubt at all about that...
    There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda... You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning...
    And that, I think, was the handle — that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn't need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting — on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave...
    So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes, you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

9. No Sympathy for the Devil...Newsmen Tortured?...Flight into Madness

  • Sympathy?
    Not for me. No mercy for a criminal freak in Las Vegas. This place is like the army: the shark ethic prevails-eat the wounded. In a closed society where everybody's guilty, the only crime is getting caught. In a world of thieves, the only final sin is stupidity.
  • Reading the front page made me feel a lot better. Against that heinous background, my crimes were pale and meaningless. I was a relatively respectable citizen — a multiple felon, perhaps, but certainly not dangerous. And when the Great Scorer came to write against my name, that would surely make a difference.
    Or would it? I turned to the sports page and saw a small item about Muhammad Ali; his case was before the Supreme Court, the final appeal. He'd been sentenced to five years in prison for refusing to kill "slopes."
    "I ain't got nothin' against them Viet Congs," he said. Five years.

10. Western Union Intervenes: A Warning from Mr. Heem...New Assignment from the Sport Desk and a Savage Invitation from the Police

  • It was dangerous lunacy, but it was also the kind of thing a real connoisseur of edge-work could make an argument for. Where, for instance, was the last place the Las Vegas police would look for a drug-addled fraud-fugitive who just ripped off a downtown hotel?
    Right in the middle of a National District Attorneys' Drug Conference at an elegant hotel on the strip....

11. Aaawww, Mama, Can This Really Be the End?...Down and Out in Vegas, with Amphetamine Psychosis Again?

  • This will not be a happy run. Not even the Sun God wants to watch. He has gone behind a cloud for the first time in three days. No sun at all. The sky is grey and ugly.
  • You'd better take care of me, Lord...because if you don't you're going to have me on your hands.

12. Hellish Speed...Grappling with the California Highway Patrol...Mano a Mano on Highway 61

  • The possibility of complete mental and physical collapse is now very real.
  • No sympathy for the devil; keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride...and if it gets a little heavier than what you had in mind, well...maybe chalk it up to forced consciousness expansion: Tune in, freak out, get beaten. p. 89
  • Well, I thought. This is how the world works. All energy flows according to the whims of the Great Magnet. What a fool I was to defy him. He knew. He knew all along.

Part 2


2. Another Day, Another Convertible... & Another Hotel Full of Cops

  • I tend to sweat heavily in warm climates. My blood is too thick. My clothes are soaking wet from dawn to dusk. This worried me at first, but when I went to a doctor and described my normal daily intake of booze, drugs and poison he told me to come back when the sweating stopped.
  • This is one of the hallmarks of Vegas hospitality The only bedrock rule is Don't Burn the Locals... if Charlie Manson checked into the Sahara tomorrow, nobody would hassle him as long as he tipped big.

3. Savage Lucy... "Teeth Like Baseballs, Eyes Like Jellied Fire"


But this time our very presence would be an outrage. We would be attending the conference under false pretenses and dealing, from the start, with a crowd that was convened for the stated purpose of putting people like us in jail.

4. No Refuge for Degenerates...Reflections on a Murderous Junkie

  • "What do you want? Where's the goddamn ice I ordered? Where's the booze? There's a war on, man! People are being killed!"
    "Killed?” He almost whispered the word.
    “In Vietnam!” I yelled. “On the goddamn television!"
    “Oh...yes...yes,” he said. “This terrible war. When will it end?"
    “Tell me,” I said quietly. “What do you want?"
    • Raoul Duke, answering call from hotel desk clerk.

5. A Terrible Experience with Extremely Dangerous Drugs

  • "Even a goddamn were-wolf is entitled to legal counsel..."
  • The news was on again. Nixon's face filled the screen, but his speech was hopelessly garbled. The only word I could make out was “sacrifice.” Over and over again: “Sacrifice...sacrifice…sacrifice."
    I could hear myself breathing heavily.
    My attorney seemed to notice.
    “Just stay relaxed,” he said over his shoulder, without looking at me. “Don't try to fight it or...you'll just wither up and die.”
    His hand snaked out to change channels.

6. Getting Down to Business...Opening Day at the drug Convention

  • KNOW YOUR DOPE FIEND. YOUR LIFE MAY DEPEND ON IT! You will not be able to see his eyes because of Tea-Shades, But his knuckles will be white from inner tension and his pants will be crusted with semen from constantly jacking off when he can't find a rape victim. He will stagger and babble when questioned. He will not respect your badge. The Dope Fiend fears nothing. He will attack, for no reason, with every weapon at his command-including yours. BEWARE. Any officer apprehending a suspected marijuana addict should use all necessary force immediately. One stitch in time (on him) will usually save nine on you. Good luck. - The Chief

7. If You Don't Know, Come to Learn...If You Know, Come to Teach


8. Back Door Beauty...&Finally a Bit of Serious Drag Racing on the Strip

  • The Coupe de Ville is not your ideal machine for high speed cornering in residential neighborhoods…At first I thought it was only because the tires were soft, so I took it into the Texaco station next to the Flamingo and had the tires pumped up to fifty pounds [345 kPa] each — which alarmed the attendant, until I explained that these were "experimental" tires.
    But fifty pounds each didn't help the cornering, so I went back a few hours later and told him I wanted to try seventy-five. He shook his head nervously.
    "What's wrong?" I asked. "You think they can't take seventy-five?”…In truth, I was nervous. The two front ones were tighter than snare drums; they felt like teak wood when I tapped on them with the rod. But what the hell? I thought. If they explode, so what? It's not often that a man gets a chance to run terminal experiments on a virgin Cadillac.

9. Breakdown on Paradise Blvd.


10. Heavy Duty at the Airport...Ugly Peruvian Flashback... 'No! It's Too Late! Don't Try It!'

  • When you bring an act into this town, you want to bring it heavy. Don't waste any time with cheap shucks and misdemeanors. Go straight for the jugular. Get right into felonies.

11. Fraud? Larceny? Rape? A Brutal Connection with the Alice from Linen Service

After West Point and the Priesthood, LSD must have seemed entirely logical to [Timothy Leary]...
  • After West Point and the Priesthood, LSD must have seemed entirely logical to him...
  • All those pathetically eager acid freaks who thought they could buy Peace and Understanding for three bucks a hit. But their loss and failure is ours, too. What Leary took down with him was the central illusion of a whole life-style that he helped to create...a generation of permanent cripples, failed seekers, who never understood the essential old mystic fallacy of the Acid Culture: the desperate assumption that somebody-or at least some force-is tending the Light at the end of the tunnel.

12.Return to the Circus-Circus...Looking for the Ape...to Hell with the American Dream

  • There was evidence in this room, of excessive consumption of almost every type of drug known to civilized man since 1544 A.D. It could only be explained as a montage,
  • In a scene where nobody with any ambition is really what he appears to be, there’s not much risk in acting like a king-hell freak.

13. End of the Road...Death of the Whale...Soaking Sweats in the Airport

  • I shrugged. "That's not me", I said. "That's a guy named Thompson". He works for Rolling Stone... a really vicious crazy kind of person.
  • Why bother with newspapers, if this is all they offer? Agnew was right. The press is a gang of cruel faggots. Journalism is not a profession or a trade. It is a cheap catch-all for fuckoffs and misfits — a false doorway to the backside of life, a filthy piss-ridden little hole nailed off by the building inspector, but just deep enough for a wino to curl up from the sidewalk and masturbate like a chimp in a zoo-cage.

14. Farewell to Vegas...'God's Mercy on You Swine!'

  • I felt like a monster reincarnation of Horatio Alger: A man on the move, and just sick enough to be totally confident.
    • last lines

Quotes about

  • I feel like I’ve known Hunter S. Thompson for most of my life. I first encountered him in 1981, when I was twelve. A family friend had moved out after a long stay in the guest room, and I decided to find out what he’d left behind. On the nightstand I found a copy of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I liked the cover art, so I read it. It changed my life. The book made me want to drop everything (specifically, the sixth grade) and take up journalism. It made me want to travel the world with a pen and notebook, having adventures, recording my observations, and speaking fearlessly on behalf of truth as a sworn guardian of the First Amendment. But mostly, it made me want to do drugs.
    • Tucker Carlson, "When the Fun Stopped," Weekly Standard, March 7, 2005