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Hell's Angel: The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club Paperback – October 2, 2001

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (October 2, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060937548
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060937546
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (246 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #45,471 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

In this most intriguing and insightful look into the highly controversial, five-decade-old Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club (HAMC), Barger chronicles the formation, history, and colorful events that have led to the mystique and outlaw image of this free-thinking organization. In 1957, Barger (a technical consultant on several biker films, including Hell's Angels on Wheels and Hell's Angels '69) formed the Oakland chapter, which would become the foundation and serve as headquarters for the entire club. In his own words, Barger shares stories of pool hall fights, motorcycle runs, the importance of loyalty and honor, and relentless battles against the government efforts to destroy the HAMC. He also tells his side of the infamous 1969 Rolling Stones concert at Altamont Raceway. The many photos provide additional glimpses into this wild and dangerous American subculture. A most interesting book that is recommended for popular culture collections.DTim Delaney, Canisius Coll., Buffalo, NY
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Barger, king of the chopper pilots, road variety, is an American icon, and his life story is a history of the biker lifestyle. As president of the Oakland chapter of the Hell's Angels, he has seen and survived hassles with the police, peaceniks, and the Rolling Stones, with their "prissy clothes and makeup" --all of which he recounts. He notes fine points, such as the fact that it was Emmett Grogan, of the radical egalitarian Diggers, who suggested that the Angels work security at the Stones' ill-fated free show at Altamont, California. He nonchalantly admits to criminal acts, such as pulling a gun on Keith Richards onstage. Withal, however, he includes only somewhat more sex and violence in his life story than one encounters in most contemporary biographies. Certainly, specific expressions of Barger's biker attitudes may scandalize the squeamish; for instance, his explanation of why women engaged in group sex with bikers: "For a certain kind of chick, it was an honor to get fucked by a bunch of Hell's Angels." Even if such sentiments prove too straightforward and earthy for some, the book is a dandy cultural document. Barger paints an engrossing picture of a distinctive subculture that receives precious little literary attention. Yet bikers probably live in many a library's community. So read up on them, organize a booktalk on Hell's Angels, and some of them may well offer to bring the refreshments, not to mention some invaluable diversity. Mike Tribby
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Once I started reading this book.
The one thing this book really did was make me want to ride my bike that much more.
I truly enjoyed this book and hats off to Sonny Barger and the Hells Angels!
Timothy Case

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

122 of 135 people found the following review helpful By Chapulina R on July 16, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I remember a thrilling experience during my childhood in the mid-sixties: while driving to San Francisco, our family car broke down on the Bayshore (101) Freeway. My parents were startled when two long-haired, bearded, beSwaztica'ed patch-holders pulled up on their loud, chopped Harleys. The bikers spoke briefly with my dad, then performed some minor mechanical magic on our carburetor. They accepted no payment for their assistance, but left us a business card featuring their winged deaths-head logo and words to the effect: "You have been assisted by... the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club. When we do right, no one remembers. When we do wrong, no one forgets." At least one person has always remembered. Within a mere few years, I had a stripped-down Hawg of my own, and began acquiring tattoos and speeding tickets. While I was never a one-percenter, it seemed during that tumultuous era that *all* motorcyclists were judged "guilty by association" with the legendary Hells Angels. Whether describing doing right or wrong, HAMC president Sonny Barger minces no words in his hard-riding, fast-reading biography. Nor does he pull any punches. He explodes the myths perpetuated by grade-B biker-flicks and trashy "wannabe" publications, but unapologetically depicts the counterculture without romanticizing it. The Angels we meet in these pages are neither ravenous, rapacious Huns nor iron-steed-mounted rescuers of stranded citizens. Barger's raw writing style, anecdotes, and numerous photos give his book genuine, gritty, outlaw character. It should appeal to one-percenters, citizen-bikers, and even to the "cagers" who fear and loathe them.Read more ›
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43 of 45 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 20, 2003
Format: Paperback
I read it in a single day, a rarity for me. Couldn't put it down. Barger's honest and open telling of his own worldview and the detailed sketch of the culture of HAMC, along with the complete lack of apology, make it really compelling.
But he is a criminal, and the con in this book is the statement near the beginnning, to the effect of: "All I ever wanted to do was ride and be free." He proceeds to prove, through the rest of the book, that that is merely a justification for his lifestyle and (possibly) plea for fame and respect in the valuable cultural currency of 'freedom from oppresive powers' (he already has plenty of fame and respect on his own terms), but its not true. Barger likes to pick fights, bother innocent workaday people and locals, and be the center of attention wherever he goes. His quest for freedom required the abrogation of everyone else's freedom, not just the police and rival clubs as he seems to want you to believe.
"Hell's Angel" is most interesting, for me, in the depiction of his dynamic leadership and the need, so often suppressed, for men to band together and be unified in something. I envy him the brotherhood he founded and don't begrudge them the right to defend it's name, by violence if necessary, against fools who want to challenge it or steal it. But I don't believe for a moment that he wants to live and let live. He and his club steal, con, and completely disregard the wishes of the citizen's of any community they enter; in reality, it's power that they want, not freedom. Just admit that, and this account would be balanced. Its already very entertaining and valuable cultural history.
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75 of 94 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 18, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Back in the late 60's, I was a member of the Green Dragon'sMotorcycle Club in Houston. We were a linked brotherhood with theBanditos MC. During a rally in Dallas, some 50 or 60 Hell's Angels attended. To my pride I was able to meet Sonny Barger, he was at that time with the Oakland Chapter of the Hell's Angel.
He is nothing short of one classy, dedicated to bikes and bikers, and honest to the bone. This book, he brings IT ALL OUT. I was amazed to read how the Angels got started and managed to stay together dispite the law breathing all over them, the public have a definite attitude against them. It was Sonny who kept the brotherhood together. Yes, we all know of the legal problems with the ANgels as well as other biker groups, in this book Sonny is totally honest and forthcoming. He has some very funny stories on state rallys and of course the problem at Altamont. This book is a must read for all bikers and those who WANT TO BE A BIKER. A classic read by Sonny. May God Bless You Sonny and keep doing just what you are doing. Don't change one thing. "The Attorney" Green Dragons MC - Houston
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 14, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The motorcycle club subculture has been an important theme in Hollywood (from The Wild One to Easy Rider) and in recordings (the song, Leader of the Pack). Everyone who sees the Hell's Angels has an opinion about what is going on, yet few have had a first hand relationship with a member. This book gives you a behind-the-scenes look at what it was like for Oakland's leader of the pack, one of the first branches of the Hell's Angels.
I grew up in San Bernardino (Berdoo in the book) which was an even earlier branch of the Hell's Angels than was Oakland. Some people I went to high school with joined the Hell's Angels. We all heard many stories about the group, and what went on. We treated these people with extreme caution and gave them a wide berth.
The book brings out an ethos of freedom (the open road) combined with a masculine emphasis on being respected and being loyal to friends. At the same time, there is an underlying sense of the frontier marshall, wanting to clean up those who were challenging law and order. Behind that there is a disregard for the rules most of us follow, whether in speed, drugs, theft, or violence.
This book is filled with deaths, injuries, and destruction. The Hell's Angels live in a dangerous world, and that doesn't bother them. What would bother them is not following their code of ethics.
Having read about all of the things the Hell's Angels are supposed to have done in the last 50 or so years, it is interesting to hear it from the other side.
Although you probably won't want to emulate Sonny Barger in too many ways, you'll certainly never forget him. If you love motorcycles (as many of us do), you'll be moved by his loving descriptions of various bikes. He was truly the wild one at the head of the bike pack.
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