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Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga Paperback – September 29, 1996

4.2 out of 5 stars 380 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Thompson has presented us with a close view of a world most of us would never encounter. His language is brilliant, his eye remarkable."
--The New York Times Book Review

"Superb and terrifying."    --Studs Terkel, Chicago Tribune

From the Inside Flap

"California, Labor Day weekend . . . early, with ocean fog still in the streets, outlaw motorcyclists wearing chains, shades and greasy Levis roll out from damp garages, all-night diners and cast-off one-night pads in Frisco, Hollywood, Berdoo and East Oakland, heading for the Monterey peninsula, north of Big Sur. . . The Menace is loose again." Thus begins Hunter S. Thompson's vivid account of his experiences with California's most no-torious motorcycle gang, the Hell's Angels. In the mid-1960s, Thompson spent almost two years living with the controversial An-gels, cycling up and down the coast, reveling in the anarchic spirit of their clan, and, as befits their name, raising hell. His book successfully captures a singular moment in American history, when the biker lifestyle was first defined, and when such countercultural movements were electrifying and horrifying America. Thompson, the creator of Gonzo journalism, writes with his usual bravado, energy, and brutal honesty, and with a nuanced and incisive eye; as The New Yorker pointed out, "For all its uninhibited and sardonic humor, Thompson's book is a thoughtful piece of work." As illuminating now as when originally published in 1967, Hell's Angels is a gripping portrait, and the best account we have of the truth behind an American legend.


"From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 273 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1st Ballantine Books trade ed edition (September 29, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345410084
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345410085
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (380 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,667 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I'm always surprised when fans of the great Doctor tell me they haven't read Hell's Angels. Sure, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is probably his most humorous work, and some say it is the most profound. Fair enough. But Hell's Angels has much more substance, and it has a sort of historical significance about it for Thompson fans. It is the story not only of the famous biker gang, but, on a less obvious level, the events that shaped the character of Hunter S. Thompson and made him a true master of modern literature. It also shows what a gutsy journalist can do (and become) when he throws himself into a story. I've been a journalist going on 12 years now, and I blame Thompson for my sorry fate. Reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas when I was a high school senior led me to this "low trade," as the good Doctor would put it, but reading "Hell's Angels" several years ago reminded me why I chose this field and gave me the guts to stick with it, despite having to work for a wimpy newspaper publisher who eventually fired me for stirring up too much trouble with businesses owned or controlled by his millionaire friends. Thanks, Hunter. You bastard
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Format: Paperback
The Hell's Angels and the outlaw biker gang phenomenon have always made for interesting discussion. One needs only to recall some of those B movies made in the 1960's about the Hells Angels and how many "ordinary" folks fantasized about living the life of a biker gang memeber. This book was written as sort of an expose'into the lives of "typical" biker gang members. It follows the history of the group from the end of World War II up to about 1966. I found it an enjoyable, easy read when I first read it 20-some odd years ago. I think the reader will come away with the understanding of why some individuals find the biker lifestyle an expression of total freedom, albeit within the seedier side of society. Anyone with an interest in the subject matter would find this a good book to buy.
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Format: Paperback
Hunter holds himself back and lets the story tell itself. That's is both good and bad. I am a big fan of his Gonzo-style and must admit I missed it. In "Hell's Angels" his writing style was supplanted by the lifestyle he adopted for a year in order to journalize the "trips" of the notorious California Motorcycle gang. Unless you were previously exposed to some (true) stories of the Hell's Angels, much of this book will be eye-opening for the gang did and didn't do. I hadn't been and only knew the myth perpatrated by the media. Hunter does his best to expose the NY Times, Time Magazine and others for their taget-picking, fear-baiting, if-we-printed-it-it-must-be-real style of reporting and de-myths many of the groups exploits. Hunter focuses his story of two or three "runs" the Angel's take. He captures the anti-social attitudes and behaviors of the gang without judging and relates the booze, pills, sex and thuggery stories without embellishment (or so it seemed to me). Read this book if you've ever wondered what the gang life was like for this group of misfits '60's drop-outs. Read this book if you enjoy HST and his eye for the real story.
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Format: Paperback
I expected this book to be exciting and trippy like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I was surprised to find that it is actually a pretty serious book about what really happens when the Hell's Angels hit the road and bring their version of Brotherly Love to a town near you. The ideas and beliefs of the Hell's Angels are far from the mainstream and Thompson tells about them in a way that is easy to understand. Thompson portrays the Hell's Angels not as heroes or villans, but as a disorganized rabble of people who are basically losers. People who need a group to get along in this world. This book helped me get a perspective on just a piece of the turmoil that was the 60's.
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Format: Paperback
Having read Hell's Angels, A Strange and Terrible saga at least eight times starting in 1968, I never cease to be amazed at the criticisms leveled against it in the ensuing years, the major one being that it's not a Fear and Loathing book. I'm pretty sure it was originally a (very) long article written for The Nation magazine. The Nation ain't Rolling Stone, kids. If you are coming to this book expecting Hunter's usual blend of fact, fiction, and hallucinations, you will be sorely disappointed. "Gonzo journalist" though he is, the operative part there was journalist. He had, after all, developed a rather strong food habit since birth, and had no desire to kick it. He explores the Angels' mystique by letting them provide the history, their then current attitudes, and their lives as outlaws outside the system. He then blends research and his observations gleaned from riding with them for the better part of a year into the mix, producing a riveting book.
Since the recent death of Marlon Brando, his movie The Wild One has gained a new audience; it is in fact based on an incident Hunter chronicles in this book, the Rape of Hollister. Oddly, nothing remotely similar to the movie happened there, and some other legendary "motorcycle riots" such as the one at Laconia, New Hampshire, weren't initially riots at all, and certainly didn't involve the Angels, though the media portrayed these events as the brink of Armageddon and gave middle America yet another "dangerous group running wild in their midst," something else to freak over in addition to Communists hiding under every rock.
The Angels became, over time, what people expected them to be.
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