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Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga

3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  26,455 ratings  ·  948 reviews
"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 ...more
295 pages
Published 2000 by Robert Laffont (first published 1966)
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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeeThe Outsiders by S.E. HintonOne Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken KeseyCharlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald DahlA Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Best Books of the Decade: 1960's
95th out of 642 books — 871 voters
1984 by George OrwellThe Catcher in the Rye by J.D. SalingerAnimal Farm by George OrwellFahrenheit 451 by Ray BradburyBrave New World by Aldous Huxley
Cult Classics
97th out of 608 books — 769 voters

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Community Reviews

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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
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For one, it is cursorily interesting in how Hell’s Angels has quickly become outdated with references like, “Hell, eight dollars was a case of beer and
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 Polan
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 enoug ...more
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 curi
Kristina King
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
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 it's not totally devoid of point, but if you can track down the magazine article, maybe stick with that.

I also enjoyed the epilogue, during wh
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!
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-1 ...more
Kelly B
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 ...more
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.
Ismael Galvan
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
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. Fi
What a wild ride! I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I decided to read it because I love Hunter S. Thompson, whom I consider one of my favorite writers. But this is based solely on only reading ONE of his books, probably the most famous book of his Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I decided I wanted to read more of his work and realized this was Hunter's very first book. So many things I liked about it, but on a personal level, I live in the Bay Area of Northern California. I was born in Oakland, an ...more

Hell'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 illuminat
illiterate Inconsiderate
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jason P


I'm going to make this brief.

In my younger days I was obsessed with Hunter S. Thompson. I know where I was when he died - what I was doing. He was a big influence in my life, and his writing kept me going when life sucked. I have read most of his novels; Generation of Swine, The Rum Diary, Hey Rube, Proud Highway, and Songs of the Doomed to name a few. Each and everyone was so unique and his voice would jump off the page and slap you, he would sic his doberman on you, and to finish you o
I really should like Hunter Thompson more than I do, I mean he did ride a BSA and he is from my hometown of Louisville, Ky but to be honest he's always seemed kind of faggy to me with that gay filtered cigarette thing hanging from his mouth, plus there's that whole bizarre chapter he dedicated to finding a link between outlaw bikers and homosexuality. Hey what can I say, the guy sets my gaydar off. But I will give him credit, he did write a true classic in Hell's Angels. I've heard grumblings th ...more
Sep 11, 2007 Jessica rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Hunter Thompson fans or Hell's Angels members because they're the only ones who could appreciate it
Shelves: non-fiction, hatedit
Hunter Thompson was this crazy guy who threw himself into his research (literally). He spawned a movement called Gonzo journalism. We read this book in college and learned all about Gonzo. So in 1965 he gets the brilliant idea of joining up with the Hell's Angels. This is back when they were extremely violent. This book is all about his experience riding along with the them. I didn't particularly care for his writing style or the content, so needless to say I am not a fan of this book.

While pre
Chris Gager
I read a little bit of this as couple of days ago but will wait until I finish Anna Karenina before I start officially. Picked up from the town transfer station - of course!

I've started to get into this even though I'm not quite done with AK. I went on last night after feeling a bit burnt out with Tolstoy. So far I'm not all that impressed but he does make a good point about how the national media hyped up the whole Hell's Angels deal in to mini-mythic status in the culture. I ran into a biker c
This is the first Hunter S. Thompson book I was able to complete. The others just made me want to tune in, turn on and drop out. Well this one sort of did too, but not in the same way. I appreciate the Angels total lack of give a F&$%, however I don't need the tough guy, outlaw, pirate persona and identity that goes along with their set. I can see how it would appeal to certain types in their 20's seeking identity and clan in a world gone astray. However I guess I just chose to twirl in my 2 ...more
I can’t say that I was overly impressed with this book. However, this is most likely because the Hell’s Angel’s motorcycle club – or any motor cycle club – were never of any great interest to me. So it can be safely said that I do not fall into the target demographic of interested readers. I also find Hunter S. Thompson’s writing style to be utterly self-obsessed and pretentious, which is an advantage in novels like “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” where the subject is Hunter S. Thompson on drug ...more
Raegan Butcher
Probably Thompson's best written book aside from Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas.
Not a complete page-turner, and not nearly as brilliant as 'fear and loathing', this is none the less well worth reading, full of captivating hipster-language, and weird insights into the subculture of the Hells Angels.
Hunter S. Thompson is a brilliant investigative journalist both able to give a high-flying sociological analysis of the Angels, and at the same time (quite unlike most sociologists) able to blend in with them - ride bikes, drink and consume drugs with the best... "showing real cl
were it not for the presence of the unwashed and the half-educated, the formless, queer and incomplete, the unreasonable and absurd, the infinite shapes of the delightful human tadpole, the horizon would not wear so wide a grin --Frank Morre Colby, Imaginary Obligations

Thompson begins a chapter with this quote. I feel it is apt. This is a great piece of nonfiction, an exploration of the mythology of the Hell’s Angels. Men in California, descendants of a rabid Appalachian culture. Violent, dissoc
Nick Sweeney
Was this the book that started gonzo journalism? I had a copy for years, and never got round to reading it, and don’t know what happened to it. As you probably know, HST was a pop culture journalist who had some contacts with the Angels of the San Francisco area, and was soon hanging out with them. It is a good look at the HA lifestyle; they strip Harleys down and ride them, they hold parties, drink a lot and take drugs, they go on big runs across the state, they cause trouble if they’re in the ...more
So, what else to follow classic fantasy with but gritty 20th century gonzo journalism? It all hangs together so perfectly....

Much has been made about Hunter S. Thompson's effect on American culture and journalism. After his death, there were countless portraits painted of him, some calling him a brilliant innovator of the written word, others calling him an egotistical madman who cared more about himself than the story.

All I have to say is that anyone who actively pursues the company of men such
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 r
This was a quick read about a group that everyone has heard of but not many people seem to know much about. Thompson spent a year or so hanging out with the Hell's Angels, so the book includes a lot of his first-hand experiences. He also wrote about both the public perception of the Hell's Angels in the mid-60s and about how they viewed themselves.

It includes a lot of facts and stories, but they aren't overly sensationalized or romanticized. One of my favorite aspects was Thompson's criticism of
Jennifer Brearly
s Thompson aficionados are probably aware Hell's Angels is Hunter's first real foray into the sustained writing that would make us smile or be provoked to call for his head on a platter for the next forty years. Although the text clearly demonstrates that this is not a piece of `gonzo' journalism, as it later came to be known, one can see the outline of where he could be heading in this book on probably the most famous outlaw motorcycle gang in American history. The line between Thompson the rep ...more
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Hunter Stockton Thompson was an American journalist and author, famous for his book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. He is credited as the creator of Gonzo journalism, a style of reporting where reporters involve themselves in the action to such a degree that they become the central figures of their stories. He is also known for his promotion and use of psychedelics and other mind-altering substanc ...more
More about Hunter S. Thompson...
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas The Rum Diary Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time (The Gonzo Papers, #1) Kingdom of Fear: Loathsome Secrets of a Star-Crossed Child in the Final Days of the American Century

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