What’s going on in Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice? Most of the action is in the following five plots.
The Mickey Plot
When billionaire real estate developer Mickey Wolfmann has an affair with hippie actress Shasta Fay Hepworth, he discovers his conscience and decides to give away his fortune. His bodyguards, his wife, her lover, and the Justice Department plot against Mickey to prevent him from divesting his billions. With the help of the LAPD and their civilian militia, Vigilant California, they kidnap Mickey, and send him for psychological reprogramming at the Chryskylodon Institute, a high-end rehab facility.
The Shasta Plot
Doc Sportello’s ex-girlfriend, Shasta Fay Hepworth, tells him that she’s romantically involved with Mickey Wolfmann. Shasta claims that Sloan and Riggs want her help in their scheme to put Mickey in a mental institution. Shasta believes she’s being followed and asks Doc for help. Then Shasta goes missing and Doc must find her.
The Coy Plot
Heroin addict Coy Harlingen has hit rock-bottom. His wife Hope Harlingen is also an addict, and they can’t give their toddler daughter the care she needs. Coy desperately needs a break in life, and help comes from an unlikely source: Vigilant California, the LAPD’s civilian militia who are described as “GOP activists.” Vigilant California helps Coy kick his heroin habit, replace his rotten teeth with new chompers, and provides financially for Coy’s wife and daughter. The catch: Coy must fake his own death and assume a new identity, working as a countersubversive informant for the police. This new start in life means he will never see his family again. Coy is grateful for the new start, but wants nothing more than to be reunited with his family.
The Bigfoot Plot (contains a spoiler)
LAPD cop Vincent Indelicato was shot dead in the line of duty. His partner, Lieutenant Bigfoot Bjornsen, knows that the murder wasn’t an accident: someone on the police force contracted the murder to Adrian Prussia, LAPD’s civilian killer-for-hire. Bigfoot wants to avenge his partner’s death but knows he is being closely watched—and informed on—by his fellow colleagues on the force. Instead, Bigfoot sets up hippie private eye Doc Sportello to kill Adrian Prussia (and his employee, Puck Beaverton) and, perhaps, to reveal who hired Adrian Prussia to kill Vincent Indelicato.
The Golden Fang Plot
The Golden Fang is a vast international organized crime syndicate. Some of its activites include smuggling heroin and counterfeit US currency, illegal arms deals, murder, and dentistry. The Golden Fang has a carefully calculated way of maintaining control while staying out-of-sight. Doc tries to determine the existence and nature of the Golden Fang.