A sort of Phillip Marlowe with acid flashbacks. That is how I would describe the main character of Inherent Vice, Thomas Pynchon's latestnovel. Pynchon, who lived in Southern California through the sixties andearly seventies, takes his first literary step into the mystery genre witha story of missing persons, hippies, drugs, sex and politics in Californiacirca 1972. As with Pynchon's other writings, Inherent Vice is filled withcultural references (high and low), paranoid ramblings, complicated plots,and a subversive subtext.
The detective narrative is well paced with enough twists, memorablecharacters, and intrigue to stand alone as a mystery. However, InherentVice has all the characteristics of a Pynchon novel without thenine-hundred pages or convoluted plots that can make some of his earlierworks intimidating. On the surface the story centers around a privateinvestigator, Doc Sportello, who stumbles through a missing persons casewhile smoking copious amounts of dope. The backdrop for this mystery isfull of paranoia and corruption; Governor Reagan's post-sixtiesCalifornia set on edge due the recent Watts riots and Manson killings,President Nixon's clandestine efforts to suppress revolutionary groups andideals, suburban sprawl, racism, gentrification, and the dying dream ofthe sixties living in the strung-out surfer town of Gordita beach. Pynchoncreates a complex mix of characters and events, absurdities juxtaposedwith political realities, in this, his most accessible work of fiction.