Louise's Reviews > Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga

Hell's Angels by Hunter S. Thompson
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it was amazing
bookshelves: 1960-s, social-commentary, crime, zre-read

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.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
October 3, 2014 – Shelved
October 3, 2014 – Shelved as: 1960-s
October 3, 2014 – Shelved as: social-commentary
October 3, 2014 – Shelved as: crime
October 3, 2014 – Finished Reading
December 29, 2014 – Shelved as: zre-read

Comments Showing 1-1 of 1 (1 new)

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Louise This book covers Thompson's experience with the Angels over the course of a year... probably 1965. At that time they had gotten the attention of the national media and the celebrity was changing their dynamics. Other motorcycle clubs wanted to be affiliates and use their name.

According to the book while there was no application system, they scrutinized the clubs, only wanting the meanest and baddest to be part of them. In CA if you used the name w/o their consent, bad things could happen to you.

I'm not sure how it works now, but the name is like a brand... I doubt that anyone enforces that brand when people steal the name.

Thompson is singular. I got back into him after reading The Footloose American: Following the Hunter S. Thompson Trail Across South America. I'd like to find a good bio. I read the memoirs last month, but they were more like everything else he writes than a bio.


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