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Hell's Angel: The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club Hardcover – May 16, 2000


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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.

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
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1 edition (May 16, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688176933
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688176938
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (286 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #221,956 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 56 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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129 of 143 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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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Jack on October 7, 2009
Format: Paperback
I generally like "biker" books, and was excited to start reading this one on the infamous Hell's Angels. However, it didn't take long to realize that this wasn't so much a book about the Hell's Angels, as it was a book about Sonny Barger. In fact, a more appropriate title for this book would have been "Sonny Barger: Why I'm so Great".

Barger is definitely not the greatest writer, though I doubt anyone would buy this book expecting him to be. But even trying to cut him a little slack for being a biker and not a professional writer, it was still hard to get through this book.

He is SO self-centered and egotistical and he tries to take credit for everything under the sun. For instances, he says the cops liked the guns (i.e. AR-15) that the Oakland Hell's Angels were carrying at the time, so they (the cops) started carrying them too. (Please.) He also takes credit for the way law enforcement does their police funeral processions now (I'm sure that was all because of Sonny Barger - right), and so many other things that just seem outrageous. I thought he was actually going to take credit for grass being green by the end of the book.

Anyway, I was DONE with the book about 2/3 of the way through because I think anyone with half a brain can figure out that this is not a true depiction of the Hell's Angels (unless you really believe that they are just a bunch of guys who like to ride bikes and only occasionally get into a couple fights, but otherwise are pretty good guys). All the REALLY good stuff (which is what I was hoping to read about) is glossed over or completely left out. I did finish the book, only because it was like a train wreck that I had to see out to the end. But in the end, I was totally disappointed.

Avoid the same disappointment and don't buy this book. There are better ones out there.
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