Hell's Angels : The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs by Hunter S. Thompson
New York : Random House, 1967. Fourth printing. Hardcover. 278 pages ; 21 cm. $4.95 dust jacket with unmarked pages and firm binding.
Roll em, boys... 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. The Menace is loose again, the Hell's Angels ... wearing the winged death's-head on the back of their sleeveless jackets and packing their "mamas" behind them on big "chopped hogs." They ride with a fine unwashed arrogance, secure in their reputation as the rottenest Motorcycle gang in the whole history of Christendom.
The run war was on... Outlaw motorcyclists rolled in pacKS toward their annual July Fourth outing, a time for sharing the wine jug, pummeling old friends, and generally terrorizing the populace. One non-Angel rode with them: Hunter Thompson, who in a year of close association had earned the exclusive right to be their "writer in residence," on a basis of temporary security from being stomped or chain-whipped. What do outlaw motorcyclists do, closed off from every decent citizen, in an orgiastic camp surrounded by thrill-seekers, uneasy highway patrolmen, and Army recruits ready to be bugled out of bed and issued bayonets?
From this beginning, Hunter Thompson goes not only behind the scenes at the run, but back through the drama of the menace being born: How did a gang of local motorcyclists become nationally infamous, with storm warnings going up all across the country at the mere rumor of their approach? Backing up his own experience of the Angels with official reports, newspaper write-ups, eyewitness accounts and unpublished letters, Mr. Thompson arrives at the disturbing fact that until now almost everything printed about the Angels is pure fiction: born of a national rape mania, story-hungry editors and the actual impossibility of knowing what went on. Mr. Thompson re-creates the transformation: hoisted on the shoulders of fantasy by the awesome power of the press, an almost defunct motorcycle club was transformed into Dillinger-style villains.
The story began for Hunter Thompson in a sleazy San Francisco dive, where he met some of the Angels, but from there it took unpredictable shifts as he personally became more and more involved with violence— finally pushing his luck too far. The book reads like a novel, with exciting tales and life-size characters: Charger Charley the Child Molester, Big Frank who jerks out eyeballs, the woman who feels a faint burning in her nerves every time she hears a motorcycle; Tiny, the Angels' "enforcer," who earns his living as a bill collector; latent homosexuals, runaway virgins, Mama Lorraine, auctioned off for twelve cents; and a mind-spinning finale of hired private gunmen, country toughs, a giddy chamber of commerce, capacity crowd of bystanders, detectives, vigilantes, and fired-up cops.
This book is part of a broad comment on the modern tendency to violence. But it is also a book to read for pure entertainment-written with energy and the intensity and excitement of a man who can't slow down. And neither will the reader, as the outlaws sweep past "like a burst of dirty thunder..."
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