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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This Isn't Your Typical Thompson
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...
Published on July 19 2004 by G. W. Loftis

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3.0 out of 5 stars I wanted more...
...first hand accounts of Dr. Thompson's personal dealings with the Angels. Much of the book is written as an essay on the topic of the Hell's Angels. It includes many facts and quotes of everyone involved, from the Angels themselves, to quotes of police officers and politicians. Included throughout are Hunter's analysis of press coverage of the Angels and how the...
Published on Aug. 12 2003 by B. Convery


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This Isn't Your Typical Thompson, July 19 2004
By 
G. W. Loftis "Dr Toast" (Weston, FL United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga (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. Hunter recognized this transformational quality in his own profession: if other reporters, from respected national magazines, could make up stories or at least embellish them enough to freak people out, he could do it better! What you will find in Hell's Angels is great reporting, an unflinching look at real wildness and personal risk, and the genesis of what would become Hunter's trademark style.
If for no other reason, fans of Tom Wolfe, Ken Kesey, or the "Beats" (including the real "Dean Moriarty" from On the Road, still alive at the time, still driving, and hanging out with the Pranksters) should read this book for the legendary Acid Test at Kesey's place at La Honda when Hunter and the Angels showed up (by invitation, as Kesey was burning to meet them). In a singularly rare occurrence, we find two journalists just before they became instant icons writing about the same private party, rather than, say an inauguration, or awards ceremony, or some other public spectacle; the "public" was definitely not invited to La Honda. Compare Hunter's account of that weekend with the one that appears in the Electric Kool Aid Acid Test; you might just be surprised by who is the more "legitimate" writer.
I obviously love this book and highly recommend it, but again, it isn't FEAR and LOATHING WITH THE HELL'S ANGELS; it's far too serious a situation for that, as you will discover upon reading it. (And if that idea somehow still escapes you, watch Gimme Shelter, the great Maysles brothers' documentary of the Stones free concert at Altamont; if THAT doesn't do it, go down to your local biker bar and kick over a few choppers; you'll deserve what you get.)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hells Angels Review, May 24 2009
By 
Bruce Martin (Nova Scotia, Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga (Paperback)
I have read and re-read this book since the late '60s and have been greatly influenced by it. While the book is ostensibly about the Hells Angels, in reality it is a stinging condemnation of American society of the time. It skewers the complacity, small-mindedness and uniformity that was prevalent then and may be even worse now. It also offers interesting snapshots of developing counter-cultural trends and personalities, movements that now seem like dead-ends.

Hunter S. Thompson uses the Hells Angels to personify a group that had been left behind by the American dream and knew it. By extension, they represent all the losers and misfits that could not find a place in the greater or "Great" society of the time. During the period in which the book was written, the Angels had not yet become the criminal force that they now are. Is it possible that the way they were marginalized contributed to their increasing viciousness and lawlessness?

Elements of the author's self-centredness and over-the-top behaviour are revealed in the book but there is nothing of the egomania and self-destructiveness of his later works. He had not yet adopted, in print at least, the kind of persona that would ultimately lead to his death by suicide.

Read it and weep.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Hog Wild, April 21 2004
By 
cortright Mcmeel (baltimore, md United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga (Paperback)
Roll up your sleeves boys and girls, if you read Hell's Angels the Doctor is going to inject you with a dosage of Outlaw Reality and Hog Rage as it were. The Hell's Angels are the last vestiges of the American Outlaw, 1%'s they're called, outside the outside, committed to a life of Freedom, punctuated by violence, booze, barbituates, indiscriminate sex and of course cruising the Amercian Wastelands on their Great Metallic Steeds, stripped down Harley Davidson's known affectionately as Hogs. Hunter S. is in his own right a one percenter. This book shows the Dr. of Gonzo's journalistic zeal, as he braves the world of the Angels, driving not a Hog as he should but a Dark Shadow. This is only too perfect as Hunter is the dark specter following the dastardly deeds of these bastard bikers. This book displays Hunter's ballsy journalism, as well as allowing him to focus on a central theme that would go on to pervade his other works: the outlaw and his importance to American society, a society that is dredged to the hilt with phonies, gutless wonders, souless greedmongers, hypocrites, cowards, politicians and other scum, capitalisitc, bureacratic, pig-like and otherwise. Hell's Angels is the journalistic calm that precedes the storm of hallucinagenic brilliance that was Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. So one way or the other let the Doctor of Gonzo vaccinate your mind from the mindless surge that makes up the money grubbing, TV watching majority of this Great Country of Ours. (...)
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3.0 out of 5 stars I wanted more..., Aug. 12 2003
By 
B. Convery (US) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga (Paperback)
...first hand accounts of Dr. Thompson's personal dealings with the Angels. Much of the book is written as an essay on the topic of the Hell's Angels. It includes many facts and quotes of everyone involved, from the Angels themselves, to quotes of police officers and politicians. Included throughout are Hunter's analysis of press coverage of the Angels and how the press nearly glorifies criminals. Too much facts. When I bought the book, I was hoping to learn of the Angel's reputation not by reading someone's studies (because anyone could do research), but by living it through the author's eyes. Hunter makes it clear that he studied/mingled with the Hell's Angels for about a year. Where are all the crazy stories? There were a couple personal accounts sprinkled here and there, but there he also a lot of general statements in the piece without giving me the experience I was hoping for.
For example, he'd say something to the effect of... and no one wanted these modern day Huns coming into their town, raping, pillaging, and chain-whipping anyone in their path. Did the Angels actually do these sorts of things? Did they go through towns ravaging and raping everything in site? After reading "Hell's Angels" I still can't answer these and similar questions.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat Dated But Still A Good Read, July 8 2002
By 
Ken Cook (Chelmsford, MA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga (Paperback)
This book was written in 1966 so if you are looking to read about such things as the infamous incident involving the Hell's Angels at the Rolling Stones concert at Altamont, you will be disappointed. However, this book is a fascinating snapshot in time of the outlaw motorcycle gang just as they were gaining national notoriety. Hunter S. Thompson, who would later achieve much wider fame as a "gonzo" reporter for Rolling Stone, actually hung out with the gang for about a year or so while he was writing this book. This is not HST at his best - he would get much better later on - but nevertheless this book makes for compelling reading.
The Hell's Angels in the mid-1960s were the scourge of America. Just a rumor of them coming to town would cause mass hysteria. Most of the natives would cower in their homes and many of the men would load their weapons and gather at the town square. Police would throw up roadblocks and attempt to discourage them by citing them for any violation they can think of and throwing them in jail, if they can find a good enough reason (such as an unpaid traffic ticket).
But according to Thompson, the Hell's Angels didn't go out of their way to terrorize people and they just wanted to be left alone. Sure, the Angels got a kick out of "spooking the squares" with their loud choppers and their menacing dress and mannerisms but they wouldn't go out of their way to harm anybody. If you decided to lock horns with them however, all bets are off. The Angels have a code in which if you take on one Angel, you take on them all. Give any one of them some lip in a bar and you will find yourself surrounded by a dozen of them wielding chains, monkey wrenches and whatever else they can find that can serve as a lethal weapon.
Also discussed is the real story behind the alleged "rapes" committed by Hell's Angels. I was amazed to read of how women would willingly "throw themselves" at the Hell's Angels in spite of their reputation for "gang-raping" any female who willingly enters their midst. Once the Angels started making the papers, groupies started coming out of the woodwork everywhere. I think Thompson does a good job explaining the circumstances behind the notorious "rapes" and when you hear the whole story, you will no longer wonder why nearly every rape charge leveled against a Hell's Angel was thrown out of court or ended in acquittal. Rule of thumb to would be Hell's Angel groupies: Don't stick your hand in a hornet's nest unless you intend to get stung many times!
Don't get me wrong, I'm not making the Hell's Angels out to be nice guys. These are true outlaws who have virtually no respect for decency or law and order. Some parts of the book will gross you out (if Hunter is telling the truth). For example, when you are initiated and wear your "colors" for the first time, a pail of feces and urine is dumped over you and you are required to wear those same clothes unwashed until they fall apart.
No question this is one wild bunch and this book makes fascinating, if voyeuristic reading. One gets the sense that Hunter Thompson was never really accepted into the club. Supposedly Thompson "wimped out" during a riot by locking himself in his car trunk (not mentioned in the book). This may be why he ended up being beaten to a pulp by them towards the end of the book. Also, Thompson is said to have welshed on the deal he made with the Angels for writing his book. Supposedly he offered to buy them two kegs of beer when the book was written and he never delivered. Many years later, he offered the beer but his offer was refused by club president Sonny Barger. Once you get on the wrong side of the Angels, it is for life!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Strange and Terrible indeed, Dec 4 2001
This review is from: Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga (Paperback)
A fortifying piece of pure American gonzo literature, no doubt about it. In this one year epic of HST's dealings with the vile, wretched, destruction mongers of the world; a consequential admiration seems to develop for the "mutants" that Thompson brings to life. Social degenerates, too legit for extermination yet so malicious that fear itself would never discover the Hell's Angels(Only their unfortunate victims). Blessed with such a cast as Terry "the tramp",Ralph "Sonny" Barger and hundreds upon thousands of willing destructionites the Angels were certainly at the forefront of idealistic individuality by way of sheer brutality. Armed with strength in numbers, a general disregard for societies norms and an unwavering sense of self righteousness the Angels ran roughshod over the meek 99%ers that make up the establishment. The general dicontempt of press held by the Angels scared many an ambitious journalist away but not Thompson. In rechanting this grotesque yet entertaining account of America's most notorious congregation, HST displays his gusto for getting to the heart of the story as well as a true grit in the face of personal injury. In cliche; An insightful look into the habits of an outlaw motorcycle gang's rise to American media fame. Truly, the most recommendable piece of reading material for any of HST's admiring fans and a sick and twisted look into the 1%er way of life{...} "The Hell's Angels...blood, gang rape...glance over at your wife, your children in the back seat, could you protect them against a gang of young toughs gone wild on booze and drugs?...remember those pictures? Big ugly street-fighters not even afraid of police, loving a fight, swinging chains and big wrenches, knives - no mercy at all".
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not his best work, Aug. 12 2000
By 
Forest W Seal (VA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga (Paperback)
As good - and compelling - a writer as HST later proved himself to be, 'Hell's Angels' is a let-down. Far from the hilarious and often insightful candor of 'Fear and Loathing', Thompson serves up a flat and frankly overly-sensationalist treatment in 'Hell's Angels'. Yet 'Hell's Angels' is an important book, not for any light it might shed on the club itself (which is dim at best) but as a glimpse into 1960's counterculture, of which the Hell's Angels were one expression. That 'mainstream' America accepted all of the horrors HST 'reported' with such acceptance is in and of itself telling. Just as telling is his neat sidestepping of any issues which might cloud the story (such as many of the Hell's Angels being veterans and saddled with regular, day-to-day jobs just like the rest of us). The problem with 'Hell's Angels' is that HST never really brings any authority to the tale. In fact, he often comes across as a bit pedantic - and strikes one as being quite out of his league (he is rather vague about how much time he really spent with the men he is assesing). That he elected to put an exclamation point on the story by getting himself beat up at the end is, for lack of a better word, embarrasing. I rated this book at three stars only for its value in any HST collection - for the casual reader, or anyone interested in a reliable account of the Hell's Angels, this is not worth buying (scour your local library for it instead).
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating look into an underworld, Aug. 8 2000
By 
William A. Marsh (Middletown, DE USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga (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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3.0 out of 5 stars NOT BAD, NOT GREAT, July 20 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga (Paperback)
Hunter Thompson's adventures with the notorious cycle gang lasted about a year and yielded some fine, exciting stories.
However, the bulk of this book is actually kind of dull. I'm not sure how he did it, but Thompson actually wrote a book about the Hell's Angels and made it pretty boring.
One gets the feeling that either the Angels didn't trust or like Thompson well enough to truly let him into their cirle or Thompson was (understandably) too afraid to get close. Either way, there is too much pedantic, researched information and statistics (do we really want statistics in a book about the Hell's Angels?) to make the book exciting.
The Angels come across as truly monstrous, vile people. Kind of latter-day Vikings. They literally do rape and pillage and assault innocents. Not only that, but they see no harm in it. A foul bunch, to be sure. Even Thompson, at the end, flat out condemns the group as brutes who deserve extermination. This, of course, after receiving his legendary, near-death beating from a group of five Angels.
If you want a really good book about a journalist getting in and detailing life with a bunch of hoodlums, check out "Among the Thugs", by Bill Buford(sp?). It's about British football hooligans. They're just as dangerous as the Angels, but a lot funnier and more entertaining. Buford also is a better writer than Thompson and he really makes the personalities come alive.
Interestingly enough, "Thugs" also ends with the author receiving a vicious beating. Although in Buford's case it was during a riot, and his attackers were Italian police wielding billy clubs.
Check it out. It's much better than Angels. More viceral. And truly exciting.
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3.0 out of 5 stars not one of his greatest, July 11 2000
By 
Rusty Roberts (Bristolville, Ohio United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga (Paperback)
the summery of this story says its about the year hunter s. thompson spent with the hells angels, which anyone who read any of his later works would definatly want to read. unfortunatly this was written before hunter started using his sort of insane, chaotic style of journalism. its a pretty serious piece, and pretty dry i thought. Thompson seems to go over the same material over and over again (probably because he had to meet some sort of deadline but didnt have enough material). theres only a handfull of parts in the book where Thompson actually describes, in detail, his actuall experiences with the hells angels. The first half of the book is him just describing events that happend to the hells angels, without much of him in it. In the end it does pick up with him writing about actual parties and such that he was at. But overall id say this book is rather dry, and redundant. But if your not a thompson fan at all and just want to learn something about the angels, go ahead and read it.
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Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga
Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga by Hunter S. Thompson (Paperback - Sept. 29 1996)
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