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"California, Labor Day weekend...early, with ocean fog still in the streets, outlaw motorcyclists wearing chains, shades & greasy Levis roll out from damp garages, all-night diners & cast-off one-night pads in Frisco, Hollywood, Berdoo & East Oakland, heading for the Monterey peninsula, north of Big Sur...The Menace is loose again." Thus begins Hunter S. Thomps"California, Labor Day weekend...early, with ocean fog still in the streets, outlaw motorcyclists wearing chains, shades & greasy Levis roll out from damp garages, all-night diners & cast-off one-night pads in Frisco, Hollywood, Berdoo & East Oakland, heading for the Monterey peninsula, north of Big Sur...The Menace is loose again." Thus begins Hunter S. Thompson's vivid account of his experiences with California's most notorious motorcycle gang, the Hell's Angels. In the mid-60s, Thompson spent almost two years living with the controversial Angels, cycling up & down the coast, reveling in the anarchic spirit of their clan, and, as befits their name, raising hell. His book successfully captures a singular moment in American history, when the biker lifestyle was 1st defined, & when such countercultural movements were electrifying & horrifying America. Thompson, the creator of Gonzo journalism, writes with his usual bravado, energy & brutal honesty, & with a nuanced & incisive eye; as The New Yorker pointed out, "For all its uninhibited & sardonic humor, Thompson's book is a thoughtful piece of work." As illuminating now as when originally published in '67, Hell's Angels is a gripping portrait, the best account we have of the truth behind an American legend....

Title : Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9782221090732
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 295 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga Reviews

  • Petra X
    2019-05-05 07:52

    I'd just read Jay Dobyn's extremely exciting and fully-involved No Angel: My Harrowing Undercover Journey to the Inner Circle of the Hells Angels. Dobyn was an undercover cop whose total immersion in Angels' culture led to him substituting his real life for what was really a job. Because it was so involved, it took me a while to get into Hunter Thompson's cool, cynical, totally-detached own year-long involvement with the Angels, whose beer, drugs and addiction to speed he was happy to share, but the rest was left behind when he drove home to his wife and child. Although 40 years separate these books there is an enjoyable synchronicity between them - some of Thompson's characters turn up in Dobyn's book, and the philosophy or politics of rejection by society's rejects remains the same.Stunning writing. No padding, every word of every sentence adds to each developing story. Oh to write like that, like an angel....Damn' good read.

  • Kinga
    2019-05-06 05:53

    Hunter S. Thompson is the writer you want to read if you want to pull all those cool guys. They all love him, it seems, so just make a trip to some hipster café, open one if his books and wait to score.I didn’t go for the obvious “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” but instead I read his debut, a non-fiction account of his time spent the Hell’s Angels, a motorcycle gang. It was also the book my book club was reading, so I didn’t have that much of a choice.Even growing up in the 80s and 90s in Poland I had a good idea what a motorcycle gang was. The symbolism of it is omnipresent; it’s like a cultural picklock. The members of a motorcycle gang wear cut off dirt denim vest with their club colours, they drive big Harley-Davidsons, they have beards and they are scary. The message has always been clear – don’t step on their toes. Of course, these days they are most often used for creating a comic effect when a big dangerous bearded thug turns out to be really fond of puppies and wouldn’t hurt a fly.It seems that demythologising of Hell’s Angels (and some other motorcycle gangs) was Thompson’s main goal in this book. On one hand he is trying to do away with the notion that they are the worst threat to the American society by putting their (still quite shocking) hooligan excesses in perspective. On the other hand he is also trying to deromanticise their image and make it clear that they didn’t have any agenda and that there was nothing glamorous about them. They were mostly a bunch of lowlifes with few prospects that found a sense identity and belonging in joining the gang.The most fascinating part of the book was the role the media played in creating the Hell’s Angels. The media loved them. They were dangerous and flamboyant. A little Hell’s Angels riot in a small town in California was like a Christmas come early for any journalist. No wonder, the media created a story even when there was no story. The public wanted it - they liked to be scared. And the Hell’s Angels felt obliged to live up to their reputation.Currently, America has a new boogeyman – the terrorists. They are just as exciting for the media as Hell’s Angels once were. They are just as unpredictable, unreasonable and they aim to destroy all that is good and true in America. Most of the public has been now driven into such a frenzy they would agree to just about anything to protect themselves from this horrifying threat. And I guess we need another Hunter S. Thompson to write a book to put things in perspective again.

  • Jonathan Ashleigh
    2019-05-18 06:06

    I felt this was just too long. I don't want to read a 300 page magazine article that doesn't have a cohesive story.

  • James
    2019-05-12 02:11

    Hunter S. Thompson’s first book, Hell’s Angels is not nearly as “gonzo” or as good as his later writings and not nearly as fresh and fascinating as, say, Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Hell’s Angels is a far more straightforward piece of journalism than HST’s later work but it is still an interesting read some 45 years on (certainly no small feat).For one, it is cursorily interesting in how Hell’s Angels has quickly become outdated with references like, “Hell, eight dollars was a case of beer and gas back to Oakland.” Because now eight dollars will probably get you a 6-pack or enough gas to get out of the station.But more importantly than that, Hell’s Angels, written about a 3-year period (‘64-‘66), describes a country’s utter fixation and fear about a perceived menace. And reading it in 2008, it all seems rather quaint and foolish. Motorcycle gangs? Really? The subtitle is “A Strange and Terrible Saga.” Reading it now, it just doesn’t seem very strange and terrible at all. And not much of a saga either.And that makes me wonder about our current era’s perceived threats. Terrorists. Immigrants. Religious Fundamentalists. Health Care. Global Warming. Food Production. Disease. Radical Economists. Nefarious CEOs. Dwindling Natural Resources. Greedy and Compromised Politicians. Will they all seem quaint and insignificant in forty years?I read books like The Shock Doctrine and Under the Banner of Heaven and Fiasco, and confidently throw them across the room in a violent rage knowing that I have found our age’s plague. How naïve and simple am I?So what wicked monsters wait for us in the future to render our current perils dust bunnies in a dollhouse?Hell’s Angels is important, like all of Thompson’s writing, for his uncanny ability to summarize the consequence of whatever it is he has set his special acuity upon, this case motorcycle gangs. In Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas it was the American Dream and the 70s hippie movement. In Hell’s Angels, Thompson does not, nor did he ever, shy from bludgeoning his subjects with the cruel truth. HST had a special ability to place his topics in context, which, if you read Pierre Bayard, is all that matters.

  • Brandon
    2019-05-17 04:49

    I just read this for perhaps the fifth time. From this book up to about 1978 Hunter was at his peak and every book he wrote in that period is writing of the highest order. The guy was a major American prose stylist. Those of you who may scoff at this assertion will one day realize that I'm right. Hunter doesn't get nearly enough credit for being the very intelligent guy he was, and that intelligence is very visible in this book, written before the character of Hunter Thompson was developed enough to get in between the text and the reader. The guy simply knows his shit. His use of literary references alone is interesting, revealing a real understanding of just about everything that had come before, especially everything American. If somebody hasn't written a thesis comparing Hunter to Mark Twain yet, they should. If you scoff at that, go read "Life on the Mississippi" and then call me. Also, Hunter was a very good, very professional journalist. All his facts are straight, his figures are correct and his opinions and analysis are always labeled as such. This is a home run.

  • R.K. Gold
    2019-04-30 08:43

    This was the first hunter Thompson book I ever read and made me an instant fan of his work.Talk about a man who wanted to see the world from every angle. The scene I remember most was when he talked about the Angels getting hooked on acid. It was one thing they had in common with the hippies they hated, the difference being the angels didn’t necessarily take LSD because they loved its effects. While the merry pranksters were all about the hallucinations, the angels only took it because it was the cheapest drug they could find and any high was better than being sober.

  • Alex
    2019-05-05 06:45

    You ever read a book where you can tell it was a magazine article padded out to book length? Here's one. Repetitive, circular and mostly boring, this is in no way worth reading.I had a little fun with Thompson's light jabs at Kesey - and having just read The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, I found the part where the two stories overlap very interesting - and he's sortof got a theme in there about society at the edge of society and masculinity and whatever (like all motorcycle riders, Thompson had some real questions about whether his dick was big enough) but if you can track down the magazine article, that ought to do it.I also enjoyed the epilogue, during which (view spoiler)[Thompson finally gets the stomping you've been waiting for the whole time. (hide spoiler)]

  • Kate
    2019-04-23 04:01

    Trigger Warning: violence, rape, etc.Hunter S. Thompson's Hell's Angels purports to be an inside look at the Hell's Angels motorcycle gang, but in the end it's little more than Thompson striking poses as an "insider" and issuing apologias for everything the Angels have done or are alleged to have done. For example, he frequently refers to them as rapists (and to their penchant for rape), but when it comes to specific incidents, he becomes a rape apologist, resorting to tactics ranging from the ridiculous to the outright misogynist to explain it away. Either it never really happened, or the girls/women involved "wanted it," or "it was wrong, but was it really-rape?"--that sort of thing. He refers often to their love of violence, but considers it either overblown or rather charming until he gets "stomped" himself. Incidentally, it isn't until he falls out of favor with the Angels (and is later stomped) that he manages to take a clearer look at what their lifestyle entails: actual violence with real consequences; poverty; drug abuse; ultimately, a dead-end existence. (He throws in some "decline of American culture" and "new, evil delinquency of America's youth" business for good measure. I thought he'd been using too much acid and casually observing too many gang-rapes to have any room to speak there, but I imagine Mr. Thompson disagreed.)The casualness of his attitude towards the Hell's Angels' violence against women and outright misogyny is only surpassed by his casual embrace of their racism. The Angels enthusiastically display Nazi symbols (swastikas primarily), but when confronted by the press, they typically deny being "actual" Nazi sympathizers and claim they just want to freak people out--but you know, there were some good things about those Nazis, of course, the way they had each others' backs and all! Thompson lets all of this slide. (Maybe the rest of the press did, too.) Thompson does like to point to the three or four Angels affiliates who don't happen to be white, even though he writes clearly later in the book that one in particular will never get in because he's black. The Angels throw around racial slurs with abandon and disparage those scary, angry black people who keep rioting (the book is set in, and was originally published in, the early to mid 1960s), as do the police; Thompson lets it all pass. He goes out of his way to note that the Angels are capable of getting along with mostly-black motorcycle gangs, and uses that to excuse their obvious racism. Ultimately, I don't feel like I learned much about the Hell's Angels from Hunter S. Thompson. I feel as though I learned about how Hunter S. Thompson felt special being allowed to hang out with the Angels for about a year, and how he used that time to try to explain away every bad thing anyone could ever say about America's most notorious motorcycle gang. He idolized them as "outlaws"--using an odd definition of "outlaw" that later also included Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, and Charlie Starkweather (some of these are not like the others. I mean REALLY). He waxed poetic about how "some people" found them heroic, but never said why anyone would find them worth looking up to. Maybe the book as a whole is the answer to that: nearly three hundred pages of a writer who liked to party and felt like he got to roll with the Cool Kids for a while.

  • Kristina King
    2019-04-22 01:49

    Both Hunter S. Thompson and the Hell's Angels bring preconceived notions to mind:Thompson was a crazy sonofabitch. He was a nutbag druggie who liked to blow things up.The Hell's Angel's are crazy motherfuckers. Remember Altamont? They killed like 500 people while providing concert security for the Rolling Stones.Both of these notions have some basis in reality. Thompson liked drugs and blowing things up. The Hell's Angels did provide security at Altamont, where one person was killed by an Angel (in self-defense).It is very fitting that Thompson got close to the Angels in order to write a book, Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga (1969). This book is definitely in the vein of Gonzo journalism—Thompson spends nearly a year with the Angels, drinking, going on runs, and having close encounters with the lawmen.Don't expect to read about some elaborate ritual where Thompson gets initiated into the gang. That doesn't happen. He just hangs around with them enough that they start trusting him (and he doesn't even ride a Harley, but a British bike!). He sees firsthand what runs are like, what parties are like, and what the members do when they aren't together. Turns out the Angels are much more tame than their reputation sells them.Many are married with a mortgage, but some are unemployed couch-surfers. Neither is unique to the Angels—I'm sure you'll find both types in a Scrapbooking club.But no one has quite the reputation of the Angels. So, where did this reputation come from?Guess, c'mon...Five seconds...Ok, it was the press. Media is responsible for making the Angels simultaneously feared and revered. Thompson uses excerpts from articles and reports to show how this happened. You may have heard how Thompson got "stomped" out of the club—that's such a brief part of the story, it's in postscript.Point being, don't read this book expecting to see how brutally Thompson was beat by the Angels. That is not what it is about. It's about a group of men finding common ground and forming a club. The club—and its members and their actions—get blown out of proportion by the media to become a symbol for all that is wrong with sex, drugs, and motorcycles.Really, they aren't that bad. That's not to say they are good—they just aren't that bad.I highly recommend reading it, especially if you haven't read anything by Thompson before. I also recommend reading it if you're looking to start a much-feared gang... everything comes down to reputation.

  • David Sarkies
    2019-04-22 00:44

    Drinking with the bikies21 April 2012 I had been meaning to read this book for quite a while; ever since a friend of mine mentioned it to me years ago. Penguin then decided to release a number of books in a new mass market format, similar to their original releases back in the early days of the company. The books that they released in this new format were inexpensive and were collected from various authors throughout history. I actually appreciated this because they selected a lot of lesser known books that I probably would not have read if I had not seen them. One of the books that I grabbed was Junky by William Burroughs, and the other was this one. The reason I grabbed them because not only were they short, but they also fell into the category of 'dodgy'. I say 'dodgy' because in many ways they are not the sort of books that the average middle class reader would pick up and read, but then again the average middle class reader is likely to pick up and read airport trash (though this is not strictly the case, particularly with some of the avid readers that I know at work). The opening sentence of this book captivated me, and I cannot remember it strictly especially since I do not have a copy of the book on hand. Hold it, isn't that what the internet is for? The description of the Hell's Angels rider 'like Gengis Kahn on an iron horse, a monster steed with a firey anus' simply captivated me to a point that I could not put it down. I had read Thompson before (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) and I must admit that I found that book really amusing, however this was the first time that I had decided to return to his writings to see what he was like with his other books. I must admit that his style of journalism, called Gonzo Journalism, is different and refreshing. Thompson takes us on a tour through what he considers to be a 'misunderstood part of American culture'. This book was written during the Vietnam War so at this stage the bikie clubs had not had their ranks filled with returning vets. However, at one point he does describe the 'Linkhorns': the indentured labourers and poor people who had come over to the United States in hope of finding a better life but never actually doing so. As such they continue to move off to the west in an attempt to better their life, which never actually comes, and instead of finding a new land and wealth for themselves, they simply fall into the dark undercurrents of the society that is developing. In many cases people suggest that the Hell's Angels of this book and the Hell's Angels of today are two different organisations. I cannot vouch for that statement as my interaction with bikie gangs have been limited at best. I have known people who have been connected, and I have spoken with them about things, but myself, I have never really been involved. It is interesting though because our government seemed to take a disliking to the bikie gangs above and beyond the normal distrust. There was a section of Adelaide where they used to congregated, but the bulldozers moved in, flattened the suburb, and put up new, and more expensive, townhouses in their place. They also enacted laws (since struck down by the High Court of Australia) banning the groups and any such associations. Thank God that the High Court intervened, because I can assure you that while today it is the Hell's Angels, tomorrow it is the Greens, the Christians, and the Liberal Party Supporters. It is a bit of a shame that I cannot remember this book too well, but what Thompson tries to paint is that all they really are is a misunderstood subculture. Okay, at the end they go to town on him, but as it turns out it was because he never actually told them that he was going to write a book about them and that he was researching their lifestyle. Throughout the book we are reminded of how the police go out of their way to persecute and harass, so they will be cautious nonetheless. Thus when it comes to light that Thompson is writing about them no wonder they are pissed. We do go on a journey with them, and meet the bikie girls and enjoy a weekend at a lake. In many cases there seems to just be an awful lot of alcohol, but the drugs do come into the scene. We meet Ken Kesey at the end of the book having one of his massive drug parties, and in a way I was surprised to encounter this side of Kesey. I remember reading One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in high school and was stunned to discover that the writings of this drug fiend is being promoted in our schools. Hey, I don't particularly care, and as one friend of mine said, if 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' is the worst book that schools are forcing children to read then she would be happy. This is a short, well written, and entertaining book. I cannot vouch for whether it is relevant today in that much has changed over the years. I cannot even say if it is relevant to Australia. While Thompson does try to open up a 'misunderstood' subculture in America, I still note that it is a violent subculture, and I must admit that I am a delicate person who really does not like to get into fights, or at least physical fights. However, I guess this is simply the nature of males, in that when angry they lash out in anger but two days later they will be back in the same pub drinking beer. However, I'm not entirely convinced of this description, as males are also more than capable of holding grudges, and I suspect that the higher up the food chain you go, the more likely they are to hold grudges (I know I do, even though I paint it over with the veneer of respect and trust, but that is an argument and discussion for another day).

  • Louise
    2019-05-15 06:51

    Over 30 years ago I read excerpts of this book. In reading the whole piece now, I see that the work not only holds up over time but also that the full work is more impressive than the parts selected by national magazines. This portrait of the Hell’s Angels has all the info you would find in a dry academic sociological study but Thompson’s prose, personal experiences and reactions would never appear in an academic work, and these contribute greatly to the character of the work.Thompson has a curious relationship with the Angels. They accept him, but he has seen acceptance of outsiders turn on a dime, so he is careful in his demeanor, how he shares beer, stays useful and keeps a distance.You learn the Angel attitude and where it came from. You learn how Angels made their living (and didn’t make their living), acquired and chopped their bikes, worked their legal and bail issues, used violence, degraded women (and about the mamas who accepted this). You see their racial attitudes, alcohol and drug use, how they buried their members, how they fascinated the public and their early experiences with California’s academics, artists and activists.I was interested in the pre-Gonzo Thompson and found him to be a serious reporter. He delves into an official investigation (The Lynch Report) and checks out the truth of press reports (showing the New York Times troubles precede Jason Blair and Judith Miller). He reports and interprets what he sees. On pages 252-253 he gives an excellent summation.The Gonzo style appears now and then in fledgling form in content and metaphor. For instance, on p. 175 “He tended the fire with the single-minded zeal of a man who’s been eating bennies like popcorn. The flames lit up his glasses and his Nazi helmet”. This may be the first use, in print, of the Thompson cachet “fear and loathing”.I highly recommend this book for general readers interested in this topic or time.

  • F
    2019-05-19 05:55

    LOVED Even though it must be taken with a pinch of salt

  • Still
    2019-04-25 02:47

    Almost gave this 5 stars but HST padded the final 100 pages with about 50 unnecessary pages full of statistics, fantasies, and a ridiculous chapter on a riot in a Sierra national park that never occurs .The rest of the book is just about perfect.You can see in this, his first book that Hunter S. Thompson emerged on the publishing scene a true flame breathing dragon of a journalist.Highest Recommendation.

  • Jason
    2019-05-07 05:53

    This was an interesting book, it feels like he couldn't decide on what type of book he wanted to write. At times it is a piece of journalism, trying to uncover the truth of the Hell's Angels from the myth created by the news media. We know they are prone to exaggerating/making up stuff, but it is really surprising just how much bullshit they got away with writing about the Angels. The book also seems to be a nature documentary too, describing angels as if they were animals.Hunter S. Thompson spends a lot of his time on edge, ready to leg it at the slightest chance of danger, being with Hell's Angels means he was on edge the whole time, even winding up his windows when sleeping in his car so they couldn't get to him. Some of the stuff they did to their "Mates" when they had passed out was pure class, cuffing their arms and legs to radiators, then lighting a few boxes of matches and dropping it on their crotch to wake them up. Can't wait to give that a go at the next family gathering.I'm a big fan of Hunter's books and this one doesn't disappoint.

  • Andy
    2019-05-07 08:12

    Still the best book about bikers ever written - and completely unromanticized, too. Their lifestyle is shown in all its greasy and grimy glory. And Hunter took a bad stomping at the end of the book by some vicious Angels. Written over forty years ago and still rawer than a lot of shit out there!

  • Cbj
    2019-05-17 02:04

    ***SPOILERS ALERT***Hell’s Angel’s is an account of the exaggerated myths, the terrible truths, the origins, motivations and the ethos of the motorcycle gang that terrorized American cities and small towns in the 1960s. A substantial portion of the book is dedicated to disproving the myths about the Angel’s which were created by the paranoid American media. Thompson investigates negative news reports about the Angels and shows how most of them were biased and hollow. But he also harbors no illusions about the Angels. He writes about them with a mix of fascination and disgust. While he is mostly sympathetic to their cause (which involves getting riding across the country on motorcycles, getting stone drunk and occasionally raping women), he does admit that he would have pulled a gun if the Angel’s ever rode into the town where he lived. He also busts any romantic notions that hippies, anti-war activists (Ken Kesey and Allen Ginsberg) and student activists might have about the Angel’s by showing that despite their anti-social image, they were fiercely patriotic and also very racist. Thompson traces their origins to the Linkhorns who came to California as slave laborers. The Second World War left many of these Linkhorns with separation bonuses which they spent on motorcycles in a new rootless world. When it came to women, the Angels were not unlike conservative religious societies. They were men who would not shy away from rape, often indulging in gang rape of women who ditched a member or gave out information to the wrong people. Even though the subject matter is very interesting, a book like this can end up as a failure in the hands of a lesser writer. While I found the first 100 pages to be a bit tedious with Thompson rebutting many negative articles about the Angels and their celebrity, there were some interesting bits like when he explains why California was the perfect home for the Angels. His description of the Angel’s machines (Harley 74’s) and how they came into being went a little over my head because I am not interested in bikes. Thompson writes clear sentences of medium length. His humor (and there is a lot of it) is caged in with occasional outbursts. His commentary on why the whole of American is fascinated with the Hell’s Angels is what truly makes this book a pleasure to read. For example: “There is an important difference between the words 'losers' and 'outlaw.' One is passive and the other is active, and the main reason the Angels are such good copy is that they are acting out the day-dreams of millions of losers who don't wear any defiant insignia and who don't know how to be outlaws. The streets of every city are thronged with men who would pay all the money they could get their hands on to be transformed-even for a day-into hairy, hard-fisted brutes who walk over cops, extort free drinks from terrified bartenders and thunder out of town on big motorcycles after raping the banker's daughter. Even people who think the Angels should all be put to sleep find it easy to identify with them. They command a fascination, however reluctant, that borders on psychic masturbation.” In the end, this book is about Hunter.S.Thompson as much as it is about the Hell’s Angels. You’ve got to admire this man. He was married with a kid when he collected material for this book. He got in his car and followed the Hell’s Angels across America, often sleeping in his car which had a large beer cooler. He became friends with some of the Angels and lived with them for almost a year, hanging out with them in bars, taking drugs and even riding with them. It was a life well lived.

  • Pete daPixie
    2019-05-07 06:46

    I liked this, but did I really like it? Three stars or four? Finally I decided on three. 'Hell's Angels' was a book I think I may have read many decades back but I wasn't sure about that either. Thompson's reportage struck chords with me and I had music in my head on many occasions while reading this book. From late sixties through to mid eighties, two wheels were my mode of transport. In that time I should have been killed on at least a few occasions. Me and Kev had many a midnight thrash, racing in the streets. Instead it was Kev who was killed on the track at Donnington Park.A 1966 publication that typified the beat generation from Kerouac and William S. Burroughs to Wolfe's 'The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test'. The motorcycle black madonna two-wheeled gypsy queen and her silver-studded phantom causethe gray flannel dwarf to scream. As he weeps to wicked birds of prey who pick up on his bread crumb sins.Hell's angels, if you think you need a better world why don't you just make one like the Hell's Angels. Live your own law, lick your own paw. Fancy seeing all of you slugs, well I don't knowfancy seeing all of you mugs. Drinking all your government drugs, well I don't know, helping all your government thugs.No cash, a passion for trash. The tough madonna whose cro-magnon face and crab nebular curves haunt the highways of the UK. Whose harsh credo captures the collective libido like lariats. Their lips pushed in a neon-arc of dodgems. Delightfully disciplined, dumb but deluxe. Deliciously deliciously deranged.Twin-wheeled existentialists steeped in the sterile excrements of a doomed democracy, whose post-nietzschean sensibilities reject the bovine gregariousness of a senile oligarchy. Whose god is below zero, whose hero is a dead boy. Condemned to drift like forgotten sputniks in the fool’s orbit bound for a victim’s future in the pleasure domes and ersatz bodega bars of the free world. The mechanics of love grind like organs of iron to a standstill.

  • Nick
    2019-04-22 09:00

    ReviewHell's Angels is pretty typical Hunter S. Thompson in that it is of inconsistent quality, a mixture with some passages of stellar psychotropic brilliance and others of filler and rushed garbage copy. 'Angels' is not one of Hunter's more messed-up books -- most of it is almost smoothly disjointed, with surprisingly long sections of fairly standard journalistic prose. What the reader of 'Hell's Angels' will find is an often slow, rambling and sometimes boring, but very detailed and illuminating account of the California Hell's Angels of the mid 1960s. You will read about their myths and realities, the appearance and character of individual Angels and other bikers, and the reaction of the common people and law enforcement to these beasts. Hunter spends too much time repeating obvious information and filling his book with long, often pointless block quotations, as well as generally irrelevant (unless you're, I dunno, high and wasted on various drugs) artistic quotes. I would have loved to hear much more about his time hanging out with the Angels in his apartment and partying with them. Luckily, he does treat the reader to one long 'run' (H.A. party), some incredibly graphic sex parties, good quality HST filthily poetic prose, his version of partying with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, a great Thompsonian introduction, and one of the most memorable book endings I've ever read. I doubt the average reader would really want to give this thing four stars, but if you're an HST fan, beatnik fan, adrenaline junkie, Hell's Angels afficionado, druggie, pothead, alternative culture fan, historian or pothead; give 'er a read!Some memorable passages: On Rape:~ Nobody is objective about rape. It is a horror and a titillation and a mystery all at once. Women are terrified of being raped, but somewhere in the back of every womb there is one rebellious nerve end that tingles with curiosity whenever the word is mentioned. This is even more terrifying, for it hints at basic depravity and secret lusts too dangerous to even think about. Men speak of rapists with loathing, and talk about their victims as if they carried some tragic brand. They are sympathetic, but always aware. Raped women have been divorced by their husbands -- who couldn't bear to live with the awful knowledge, the visions, the possibility that it wasn't really rape. There is the bone of it, the unspeakable mystery.~ (pg 187)Good Summary of the Angels' Place in the World:~ So there is more to their stance than a wistful yearning for acceptance in a world they never made. Their real motivation is an instinctive certainty as to what the score really is. They are out of the ballgame and they know it. Unlike the campus rebels, who with a minimum amount of effort will emerge from their struggle with a validated ticket to status, the outlaw motorcyclist views the future with the baleful eye of a man with no upward mobility at all. In a world increasingly geared to specialists, technicians and fantastically complicated machinery, the Hell's Angels are obvious losers and it bugs them. But instead of submitting quietly to their collective fate, they have made it the basis of a full-time social vendetta. They don't expect to win anything, but on the other hand, they have nothing to lose. ~ (pg 53)---------FUN SPOILER BELOW: DON'T READ THIS PART OF MY FAVOURITE PASSAGE IF YOU WANT TO READ IT IN THE BOOK ;)--------------------------------------------------------------Fear/Adrenaline/The Edge/Death/Living~ ...But with the throttle screwed on there is only the barest margin, and no room at all for mistakes. It has to be done right... and that's when the strange music starts, when you stretch your luck so far that fear becomes exhilaration and vibrates along your arms. You can barely see at a hundred; the tears blow back so fast that they vaporize before they get to your ears. The only sounds are wind and a dull roar floating back from the mufflers. You watch the white line and try to lean with it... howling through a turn to the right, then to the left and down the long hill to Pacifica... letting off now, watching for cops, but only until the next dark stretch and another few seconds on the edge... The Edge ... There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over. The others -- the living -- are those who pushed their control as far as they felt they could handle it, and then pulled back, or slowed down, or did whatever they had to when it came time to choose between Now and Later.But the edge is still Out there. Or maybe it's In. The association of motorcycles with LSD is no accident of publicity. They are both means to an end, to the place of definitions. ~

  • Kelly B
    2019-05-01 00:51

    I love Hunter S., and granted, this is his first book, and I love books written about this time, and there's great insight and observations and great writing and all, but I got halfway through this book more than once and (granted again, this was during my A.D.D. phase where I couldn't finish any book, I usually had 4-6 books going at the same time and never finished any of them) didn't reach the end. Well I finally picked it up again and read it from beginning to end, without reading a bunch of other books at the same time. Crazy motherfucker rode, as a journalist, with the goddamn Hells Angels and wrote a great book about it. I still had a hard time getting through the middle though. Their Bass Lake run just went on a little long for me. But the end was the best part, the party at Ken Kesey and The Merry Prankster's La Honda ranch. Tom Wolfe took Hunter's recorded tapes from that time to help him write The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, which I need to reread having finally finished Hell's Angels. This is a part of history man. The kind of history story with great writing. Hunter S. just put himself right in the middle of his stories. He wasn't just the wayside observational journalist reporting on stories. He was in the stories, and sometimes the star of them.

  • John
    2019-05-01 00:42

    "Everyone an outlaw, until it time to do outlaw shit."I picked this up because THE NATION recommended that if I, a pasty suburban leftie liberal, wanted to understand the "forgotten man" Trump voter, I should read this. I find out near the the end, that the goddamn NATION magazine paid the tab on HST's drink account to dictate this into a handheld tape recorder. Shady. But the suggestion is not "that" wrong. As with everything HST wrote, there is a near perfect, poetic epiphany right near the end of the article/book that just sparks with soul cleansing crystal magic poetry. In the case of the Angels, HST crafts it out of the sheer loserdom that defines the cyclists' whole reason for being. "In terms of the Great Society the Hell's Angels and their ilk are losers - dropouts, failures and malcontents. They are rejects looking for a way to get even with a world in which they are only a problem. The Hell's Angels are not visionaries, but diehards, and if they are forerunners of the vanguard of anything it is not the "moral revolution" in vogue on college campuses, but a fast-growing legion of young unemployables whose trapped energy will inevitably find the same kind of destructive outlet that "outlaws" like the Hell's Angels have been finding for years. The difference between the student radicals and the Hell's Angels is that the students are rebelling against he past, while the Angels are fighting the future. Their only common ground is their disdain for the present, or the status quo." p. 256-257.Lost by their own hobbying, lost by their own addictions, lost by their own purposeful sense of community and belonging. But still given a certain nodding respect by conservative society and it's wide belted police force. Because, the Angels, are, when it is said and done, still young white boys and probably could be rehabilitated. HST does an amazing thing, much like Arendt, he unpacks the bluster to strip the myth down to the most banal reality of the outlaw. While he never coins the phrase, the HELL'S ANGELS can be seen as a study in the "banality of hooliganism." The long stretch where HST does a play by play of the party at Bear Lake illustrates just how absurd the whole game of cat and mouse becomes - where the most dangerous thing are the "squares" armed to the teeth and those teeth floating in a bile of pent up fearful rage. The begrudging respect the police afford the motorcycle revelers and the pure drunken inaction of the revelers themselves, puts a fine point on the weekend adventure. But there are honestly disgusting and troubling aspects to the Angel's - their attitude toward women, sex, and rape is primal and tribal. But, I wonder, to what extent does their embrace of demeaning and owning women, beating them into submission, and forcibly raping them did not just give full articulation to the mores of the post-war American spirit? Not to mention their reactionary racism. While they seem to have no issue with individual blacks, they hate "the blacks" writ large. They fear retaliation after kicking the shit out of a young black guy in their bar. The white paranoia was conservative and unironically embracing the "law and order" tactics that are used to corral and harass them, as well. But the most embarrassing part of the book is when the Keasey/Ginsburg crowd adopts the Angels. I mean why wouldn't old Uncle Alan want to make it with some greasy smelling bears while quoting Whitman as he came? The Angels were made for his fiddling bits, the slumming would be delicious. He even wrote a four page nonsense poem about them - under the pretext of convincing them not to wail on his gentle anti-war protesting friends. Oh the wiles of the poet, his song weakening the brutal heart of the barbarian to spare the valley of the river nymphs!Bleck. HST's book is an artifact to a time when America was still outraged by the unkempt appearance of the Hell's Angels, before the "look" became ubiquitous. Now the sight of a bearded, shirtless, leather vested man's man roaring down the highway, spilling beer and flipping off the camera is used to sell watches to stock brokers, not to instill fear into the hearts of upstanding mom and dads.And maybe that is what the Trump supporters are most angry about. They are no longer feared and their existence considered outlaw. They are "forgotten" because their idea of outlaw culture is no longer outlaw.

  • Jake
    2019-05-12 04:46

    Who among us, in some secret moments, doesn't want to see society burnt to the ground? What separates us from the Hell's Angels, according to Hunter S. Thompson, is that most of the time we've got other options- where the average outlaw biker has none:Two dozen gleaming, stripped-down Harleys filled the parking lot of the bar called the El Adobe. The angels were shouting, laughing and drinking beer- paying no attention to two teenaged boys who stood on the fringe of the crowd, looking scared. Finally one of the boys spoke to a lean, bearded outlaw named Gut: "we like your bikes, man. They're really sharp." Gut glanced at him, then at the bikes. "I'm glad you like them," he said. "They're all we have."Which is not to say that "Hell's Angels" is an entirely sympathetic portrait. At times, it's the opposite- Thompson repeatedly describes these guys as gang-raping, boozed up bores, dead-end head-cases who, without their bikes, are just about the biggest losers around. But that doesn't mean they didn't serve as an important cultural signifier in the 1960s. At that time, in the middle of the Civil Rights movement and the beginning of Vietnam, they were a convenient symbol for the chaos that was about to be unleashed: "the first wave of a future that nothing in our history has prepared us to cope with." And Thompson wasn't the only person to pick up on this- what surprised me most was his unlikely account of the Hell's Angels becoming national media stars- giving press conferences, being asked for comment on the big issues of the day. That's not something that I'd ever considered: that even a phenomenon as supposedly real and horrifying as The Hell's Angels could be a somewhat fabricated creation of the media."Hell's Angels" came out in 1966, three years before the gang reached the nadir of their fame with the Altamont stabbing. So while this book has some pretty crazy scenes, including various gang-stompings, gang-rapes, and gang-parties at Ken Kesey's house, it has a quaint, almost sweet air about it once you consider some of the shit that went down later on. In the same way, Thompson's style isn't nearly as crazy as it would become in Fear and Loathing. He's often drunk here, and tossing back pills, but his writing is more New Journalism than Gonzo Journalism (though I doubt Joan Didion ever totaled a motorcycle at 100mph or got her ass kicked by a motorcycle gang.) NB. The actual biker club doesn't use the apostrophe in their name- from their FAQ online: "Should the Hells in Hells Angels have an apostrophe, and be Hell's Angels? That would be true if there was only one Hell, but life & history has taught us that there are many versions and forms of Hell."

  • Peter Mcloughlin
    2019-05-01 07:48

    He who makes a beast of himself doesn't have to feel the pain of being a man. -Quote from Samuel Johnson found in the book. I read Thompson when I was younger and could afford to indulge more dissipative appetites. I read fear and loathing in Las Vegas and on the campaign trail 72 required reading for a neo-hippie of the 80s. Never got around to Hell's Angels until this week after reading an article in the nation magazine claiming Hunter S. Thompson saw Trumpism coming in his expose of the Hell's Angels. So I decided to revisit the author of my youthful haze to see if indeed he was a prophet of the age of Trump and the ethic of total retaliation. Reading about the surface tale of debauchery and violence you can see that Thompson saw in the postwar biker gang the people who were to be shut out of the rising hi-tech service economy and they were pissed. Working class dudes who instinctively knew that future was going to shut them out. They unlike their rebel cohort on the campuses at the time were not going to be able to get a haircut and degree and get a high-status job with a modicum of effort at college. Behind the hedonism celebrated by both groups at the time, these biker dudes had a real gripe with the world that shut them out and it fueled their visceral violent nihilism and their ethic of total retaliation. They were the vanguard of the angry white male of the 90s and the Trump voter of today. It is easy to get distracted by the colorful and violent antics of Angels and miss the core of what Thompson was saying. The book closes in the end with Angels stomping on Vietnam protestors they weren't on the hippies' side at all but precisely the opposite. They were a burgeoning nihilistic rightwing populist contingent that we have finally come to recognize.

  • illiterate Inconsiderate
    2019-05-21 03:00

    Well, Mr. Thompson I have to say that as a piece of investigative gonzo journalism, I think I finally feel a little let down by your critique of the Hell's Angels. I do appreciate the submersion you endured within the novel. However my major contensions are with how the hell's angels are never pressed or asked about obvious racist patches the adorn themselves with, such as iron crosses and swastikas. Instead you try to show how they sling around the word "nigger" and have members of different races without accepting their differences, and "white washing"their ethnicity. While it's shown, it seems like you observe and report instead of pressing so the reader could understand. Instead we just sort of have to accept. For instance the mention of the black cyclist club in San Francisco meeting the hell's angels for mutual meeting, where tensions were high. Another matter that disturbed me greatly was the misunderstanding of all of the supposed tongue in cheek attitudes about rape. It is explained slightly but never critically. I understand this was a period of free love, but unfortunately after reading it I have a feeling of excusing behavior like "women were asking for it by hanging out with those hooligans." A large part of this work is a critique on the press, while hanging out with the Hell's Angels however, I feel this oversight is inexcusable. I kept reading thinking you were going to really lay into the biker's for the rape accusations, however it never really got beyond "they were never convicted" or "maybe they intimidated witnesses". Mr. Thompson I just don't get it...

  • Scott
    2019-05-10 07:49

    I recently read Ancient Gonzo Wisdom, which is a collection of all of the interviews HST ever gave, going all the way back to when he was barely a writer at all. Most of the early pages of AGW are devoted to his new book Hell’s Angels, and the trouble he got into toward the end of it. Long story kinda short: Hunter was a broke magazine writer that wrote an article about the Hell’s Angels. Some publisher wanted him to write a book about them and gave him some money to do it. This was in the mid-1960’s. At that time most of the Hell’s Angels were less than 30 years old and they were all from just a few places in California. The book starts off as Thompson has embedded himself with the Hell’s Angels on a wild Labor Day weekend run. Thompson is quite the journalist as he spends many pages illustrating the context of the weekend playing out against a largely false media hype surrounding the Angels due to a recent California Attorney General report on the Angels that the local and national news media was currently running wild with. Things get very tense but ultimately nothing much happens as a result of the Labor Day ride. A bunch of bikers get drunk, and the town is not raped and pillaged. All of the really terrible stories are just small anecdotes told after the fact. The books reads more like 6 or 7 really long magazine articles on the same subject matter. I prefer his later works.

  • Ensiform
    2019-05-16 07:49

    The book that cemented Thompson’s reputation as the premier journalist of the crazed, and deservedly so. Thompson rode and hung with the Angels for a couple of years, and he presents them, at the height of their notoriety, through his own cynical, paranoiac freak prism. So we see the Angels as bearded, drooling, vicious outlaws ready to rape or stomp anything and anyone who crosses their path, but we also see them as tired old goons, knowing full well that they’re losers, and just trying to hang on to the little they have that separates them from total ruin.Another journalist, one less inclined toward exaggerated menace, might have told a more straightforward story. One with more facts, and more intent on capturing the human angle on the Angels. But then, that book, ironically, probably would have been a skewed and misleading picture, for the Angels wouldn’t have allowed it. Thompson’s wild ride includes a lot of scary stuff – the Angel who likes to pull out victims’ teeth with a rusty wrench is a particularly effective picture – and ends with violence. But for all his Gonzo madness, he actually deflates the Angel image more than he contributes to it. Twenty-five years later, though its subject may have waned, this book still stands out as effective and vivid journalism. [read twice]

  • Guillermo Galvan
    2019-04-29 02:59

    Rape, lead pipe to the teeth, gang bangs, LSD, motorcycle outlaws roaming across California. Nobody is better qualified, or crazy enough, to live and ride with the Hell's Angels for two years. The result of Hunter's "strange and terrible saga" was his book Hell's Angels and a savage beating stopped just short of having his head caved in with a massive rock. Luckily, he was not brained.The book reads like a massive magazine article, spattered with person experiences, and occasionally graced with socio-philosophical insights. Despite the drug induced mania, Hunter upheld his integrity as a reporter. He never resorted to sensationalizing his story and made it point to denounce government and news agencies that reported exaggerations to a fearful public. Even the most heinous acts of sex and violence are written with cool objectivity.As an example of traditional journalism, it is a failure. Hunter became too immersed. The outlaw motorcycle culture was starting to consume him. His justifiable paranoia gnawed him into desperation. Yet, the book is a supreme illustration of Gonzo journalism--disregarding all boundaries except honesty (within reason).

  • Erik Graff
    2019-05-12 09:04

    I first saw this book after reading Thompson's Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail in a little bookstore on the street paralleling the east side of the Red Line here in East Rogers Park, Chicago. It was this edition. It wasn't cheap. I didn't buy it--a regret ever since. Finally, years later, after reading some more of Thompson's earlier work, I did get around to the thing and thoroughly enjoyed it--not just for the author's luridly over-the-top writing style, but also for the angle it threw on events which I'd otherwise only read about from the perspective of Tom Wolfe or the New Left.

  • Donovan
    2019-04-26 04:02

    Motorcycles! Booze! Violence! Debauchery! Coming to a Southern California town near you! I could only read two thirds of this, but what I did read was super well written and very intense. As non-fiction, which I have a bias against and don't find all that interesting, it tends to get a little newspapery and repetitive. While Hunter probably writes the best journalism ever it is still journalism, so thank god it's gonzo. Worth checking out for serious fans of HST and biker gangs.

  • Stephanie
    2019-05-01 03:05

    Definitely didn't enjoy this as much as Fear and Loathing, but it was still a really good read. I love his writing style. Although he seems to make it hard to discern between fact from fiction, but he still has a way of presenting you all the facts that's often humorous and also bizarre. I also really enjoyed reading about the Hell's Angels in general. He was able to leave nothing out and described them as the raw and grimy people they were and I'm assuming still are.

  • Raegan Butcher
    2019-05-16 05:47

    Probably Thompson's best written book aside from Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas.