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Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  42,489 ratings  ·  1,529 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. Thompson's vivid a ...more
295 pages
Published 2000 by Robert Laffont (first published February 17th 1966)
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Average rating 3.97  · 
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Petra-X
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
...more
Kinga
Oct 19, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pub-1966
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 Pola
...more
Jonathan Ashleigh
Oct 07, 2014 rated it it was ok
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.
Brett C
Jul 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime

"By the middle of summer 1965 I had become so involved in the outlaw scene that I was no longer sure whether I was doing research on the Hell's Angels or being slowly absorbed by them.", pg. 46

This strange and terrible saga tells the tale of the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club. Thompson was able to ride, hang out, party, and observe the Angels in their natural habitat of Northern California in 1965, where Oakland Chapter President Sonny Barger ruled and called shots for all Angels, pg. 42. The boo
...more
James
Apr 13, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Mike

Far from being freaks, the Hell's Angels are a logical product of the culture that now claims to be shocked at their existence...for twenty years they have sat with their children and watched yesterday's outlaws raise hell with yesterday's world...and now they are bringing up children who think Jesse James is a television character. This is the generation that went to war for Mom, God and Apple Butter, the American Way of Life. When they came back, they crowned Eisenhower and then retired to the
...more
Brandon
Nov 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
P.E.
Nov 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: testimony, low-life
A well rounded survey of the gang in their forrays, their ramblings, their symbols, their coverage, and their blunders too.


Matching Soundtrack :
Peasantry Or 'Light! Inside of Light!' - GSY!BE
Cbj
Feb 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
***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 illus
...more
R.K. Gold
Mar 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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 th
...more
Kate
Sep 06, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Louise
Oct 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Andy
Mar 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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!
Alex
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 s
...more
David Sarkies
Apr 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like Gonzo Journalism and Criticism of Modern Society
Recommended to David by: Jason Hayes
Shelves: sociology
Drinking with the bikies
21 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 know
...more
Still
Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Hunter Thompson Junkies
Recommended to Still by: I needed this hardback edition

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.
F
Mar 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: famous-people, usa
LOVED
Even though it must be taken with a pinch of salt
Kristina King
Jan 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Mat
Dec 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Gentlemen, start your engines.
An absolutely stunning debut for any writer.

Thompson writes with knife-like precision and an eye for detail that pegs him as a born journalist but an ingenuity and original style that puts him in a league of his own.

Sometimes he writes like a scientist, or like David Attenborough, describing a new rare species of gorillas that he has suddenly come upon in the jungle as in the following lines...

"Probably the most universal common denominator in identification of He
...more
Thomas
Sep 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have to admit, I am amazed. I got this book on sale and I didn't know what to expect. I thought that it might be an interesting little side journey into a part of the human experience I know very little about. I never figured that a fifty-year-old book about the world's most famous biker gang could be this fascinating and fun. It holds up beautifully after all this time. This is the first book I've read by Mr. Gonzo Journalism and I'm certainly open to it not being the last. He really was a he ...more
Guillermo Galvan
Sep 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Jason
Jan 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2016
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 spe
...more
Eric
“To see the Hell’s Angels as caretakers of the old ‘individualist’ tradition ‘that made this country great’ is only a painless way to get around seeing them for what they really are - not some romantic leftover, but the first wave of a future...The Angels are prototypes. Their lack of education has not only rendered them completely useless in a highly technical economy, but it has also given them the leisure to cultivate a powerful resentment, and to translate it into a destructive cult which th ...more
Ensiform
Dec 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Nick
Feb 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Review

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
...more
John
Jul 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
"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 en
...more
Piker7977
This is an important book. For one, it gives an insider's account of a counterculture, soon-to-be criminal group right during the epoch of this transition. Another cause for praise is the writing of Thompson. This is not the hyperbolic writings of his Fear and Loathing works. This is fairly straight forward, funny, and mixed with facts, statistics, and headlines to provide an overall picture of the outlaw motorcycle culture embodied by the Hell's Angels.

Last, and most noteworthy, Hell's Angels
...more
Pete daPixie
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, raci ...more
Lucy
Mar 02, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
such a systemic racism and rape culture perpetuating piece of 'literature'. at one point the author says "women are terrified of rape and yet in the back of every womb there is a nerve that twitches with excitement at its mention" or something extremely similar but I refuse to pick up the book to check so. the author frequently (particularly in the beginning of the book) used disgusting figures of speech "they're not Arab whores" (in reference to their old ladies I reckon) (can't remember the ot ...more
Abigail
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
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Hells Angels 2 49 Jan 17, 2013 08:56AM  
Book Review 1 20 Feb 12, 2012 01:12PM  
Akins Hollis Engl...: SSR 1 3 Dec 02, 2011 08:07AM  
Akins Hollis Engl...: Hell's Angels 1 2 Nov 18, 2011 08:02AM  
Akins Hollis Engl...: The Hells Angels 1 1 Oct 21, 2011 07:50AM  
Fantastic Letters re the Book 5 27 Sep 30, 2011 09:34AM  

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9,733 followers
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

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