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Dr. Peter S. Murphy needs fifteen thousand dollars by the end of the day, or the city of Los Angeles can say goodbye to the El Healtho clinic. A recovery center for the most severe cases of alcoholism in the state — even if no one ever does quite seem to get dry there — El Healtho has been the bane of Dr. Murphy’s existence ever since he started running it. But now that its doors are about to close forever, Dr. Murphy finds he’ll do anything to keep it open.
Up to and including admitting Humphrey Van Twyne III, a patient with an extremely violent past whose wealthy family has the means to keep El Healtho open for business. Sure, the man isn’t exactly an alcoholic. And yes, what he really needs is to be under the care of the surgeons who performed the lobotomy that’s rendered Van Twyne all but a vegetable. But the money’s good — until the rag-tag group of ne’er-do-wells at El Healtho begin to wreak havoc with Dr. Murphy’s plans, and suddenly no one day has ever seemed so long.
A literary precursor to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Alcoholics is Thompson like you’ve never read him before, a pitch-black, mad-cap portrait of deviant behavior that is at once darkly comic, humane and harrowing.