I finished up the book a few weeks ago and then had several weekends of vacations so I finally just got around to watching the movie last night. I picked up the used book from Amazon, it was an old library copy from the only city in Florida I have ever been to, Panama City. I also snagged the DVD from Amazon and here is fair warning there will be spoilers ahead if you have not read this book or watched the movie.
As I am sure you can guess from the title this story is about smuggling drugs. Marijuana to be precise although there are quite a few different drugs also mentioned in the book and movie. The book starts out with our main character Peter, arriving in Berkeley to pick up a shipment of some “dope” to fly back to Boston with for his friend John. Peter is a student at Harvard and John is a professor or someone who works at the school, I could never quite figure it out. One of the more interesting things about this book is the first person viewpoint that it is written in. I do not recall many of Crichton’s books being written in first person, The Eaters of the Dead and his non-fiction Travels are the only two that come to mind, so I am looking forward to seeing if there are any more on my journey. Peter is pretty much stoned non stop the entire time, everyone in the book is really, and there are lots of “far out”s and other crazy slang from the late 60’s and early 70’s in the book. This novel was actually published under the pseudonym “Michael Douglas” and was written with his brother, there is even a cute picture of the two of them on the back of the book as little kids.
Back to the plot, Peter arrives at the address he is given to pick up the bricks of dope but no one is home. He gets in his car rolls up a joint and smokes it trying to figure out what to do next. He is just about to take off when all of the sudden the SWAT team rolls up to the house he was supposed to pick up the dope from and busts in, he gets harassed by the cops a little and then escapes no worse for the wear. He heads down to the campus to try and find someone he knows from his last visit to Berkeley, so he can use their phone to find John, oh the joys of living in a time before cell phones. He finally recognizes someone after seeing a lot of crazy shit on the campus, protests and such and gets the new meeting place to pick up his bricks. He arrives to meet Musty, the local drug smuggler/dealer and gets his hands on the Marijuana. He lets some speed head borrow his car for some strange reason while he is there, its a rental of course, and decides to pass out in an unused bedroom upstairs and hang out until his flight leaves the following day. Here he meets his groovy chick, Sukie, whom he decides to smoke about 10 joints with in the upstairs bedroom and then have sex with. He falls in love of course, but then is promptly arrested by some cops who randomly show up in the house looking for him. You see the speed head who borrowed his car earlier got pulled over and busted with a bunch of drugs, since he was the rental car owner ol’ speedy decided to try and blame everything on him. He is put through the ringer and here meets the villain of our story Murphy, a tough no nonsense narcotics cop who is out in CA from Boston helping bring those punk ass drug dealers down. They don’t have enough evidence to keep charges on him and have to let him go, eventually dropping all the charges just in time for Sukie to drive him to the airport to catch his flight home with his suitcase full of dope.
He has no problems and makes it back to John with the goods just fine. But he misses his new chick, he has to see her and he doesn’t care how, problem is he has no money for a plane ticket so she can come for a visit. Personally I would have made sure that if I am putting my ass on the line smuggling a bunch of Marijuana in a suitcase across the country I am going to be rewarded handsomely, but Peter seems to have too many other things on his plate to worry about getting paid. His parents find out he is dealing pot and he is harassed by them in a strange scene about halfway through the book, and he is also failing several of his classes, but somehow manages to sweet talk his way out of both situations and comes out unscathed. He then comes up with the perfect solution to seeing Sukie, have her do a run to Boston for John. John at first refuses because “chicks always fuck up” but then he randomly decides its a good idea and sets it up for Peter.
Sukie of course gets busted big time. But the news reports that she was only busted with 20 bricks when in fact she was smuggling 40. Peter and another friend Herbie, John is in hiding by this point he cleaned out his house of all the drugs and decides to vanish for a while since the chick he had doing a run is now in prison facing down major time, decide they are going to blackmail Murphy who is obviously trying to make some extra cash on the side from the other 20 bricks. Peter and Herbie grab a gun and decide to follow Murphy. Up until this point the book was decently paced but full of a lot of randomness, now the action started to come at a rapid fire pace until abruptly ending. They follow Murphy until he drops the other suitcase full of 20 bricks off with some crackhead. They confront and threaten the crack head until they steal the dope back and then get into a gun fight with him as they escape. Now that they have the dope again fresh with Murphy’s prints, the blackmailing begins. It doesn’t work at first and Murphy calls their bluff, but eventually Peter convinces Murphy to let Sukie go and drop all the charges and he will give the 20 bricks back to him. The setup for the final scene was actually really cool and it was probably the best writing in the book. Peter sends Murphy on a wild goose chase, keeps the dope, and gets Sukie back and thats that. The book ended really abruptly, but it did leave me wanting to know exactly what happened so I suppose thats a good thing.
The movie was decent, it didn’t follow the book very well, changing and omitting quite a few things but most book to movie adaptations do that. I did like the ending of the movie quite a bit more than the book, it showed what happened when Peter led Murphy on the wild goose chase and ended in quite a dramatic fashion. The best part of the movie was the fact that this was John Lithgow’s first acting credit and he had a lustrous full head of 70’s hair. It was shot in that strange early 70’s fashion that sort of reminded me of The Terminal Man, but this movie was no where near as awful as that one.
Up next is 5 patients, a non fiction novel by Crichton that details his time as a doctor at the very beginning of his practicing medicine.. I am currently reading the new Dan Brown book Inferno and I am hoping it doesn’t end in the horrible way that The Lost Symbol did, but we shall see. The wife and I went camping on the Coast for our 5th anniversary so I will try to get some pictures of that up this weekend as well, good times were had, and I am looking forward to our Sunriver trip for the 4th of July here in the next few weeks. Cheers keep on reading and writing!