From the father of 'gonzo journalism', Hunter S. Thompson's research for Hell's Angels involved more than a year of close association with the outlaws who burned a path through 1960s America, resulting in a masterpiece of underground reportage published in Penguin Modern Classics. 'A phalanx of motorcycles cam roaring over the hill from the west ...the noise was like a landslide, or a wing of bombers passing over.
Even knowing the Angels I couldn't quite handle what I was seeing.' Huge bikes, filthy denim and an aura of barely contained violence; the Hell's Angels could paralyse whole towns with fear.
But how much of that reputation was myth and how much was brutal reality?
Only one man could discover the truth about these latter-day barbarians; Hunter S.
Thompson, Dr Gonzo himself, the man who saw the fear and loathing at the heart of the American dream.
Determined to discover the truth behind the terrifying reputation of these marauding biker gangs, Thompson spent a year on the road with the Angels, documenting his hair-raising experiences with Charger Charley, Big Frank, Little Jesus and the Gimp. Hell's Angels is the hair-raising result: a free-wheeling, impressionistic counter-culture classic that made Hunter S.
Thompson's name as the wild man of American writing. Hunter S. Thompson (1937 - 2005) began writing as a sports columnist in Florida.
He has worked on newspapers and magazines, becoming South American correspondent for the National Observer.
His novels include: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, 1972 and The Great Shark Hunt.
If you enjoyed Hell's Angels, you might like William S.
Burroughs' Junky, also available in Penguin Modern Classics. 'Excellent documentary non-fiction' Time Out 'There are only two adjectives writers care about any more - "brilliant" and "outrageous" - and Hunter has a freehold on both of them' Tom Wolfe 'The first rock-star writer' Guardian
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 288 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
- Publication Date: 01/05/2003
- Category: Regional studies
- ISBN: 9780141187457
Showing 1 - 1 of 1 reviews.
Review by edwinbcn
The Penguin Modern Classics series publishes Hunter S. Thompson's first novel simply as Hell's Angels, a much shorter version of the novel, aka Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs. It is a non-fiction novel about the legendary band of motor riders, known as the Hell's Angels.In 1966, the year Hell's Angels was published, the genre of the non-fiction novel was brand new. The genre came into existence during the preceding decade, while Truman Capote's novel In Cold Blood, published in 1965, is its most well-known example. With Hell's Angels Hunter S. Thompson is identified as having initiated the genre of Gonzo journalism, i.e. the style of news reporting that allows for fictional elements, without the attempt of objectivity.1965/66 was not the time the Hells Angels emerged, but it was a moment the club achieved notoriety. In fact, at that time, the Hells Angels were not the only organized band, that was characterized by a sub-culture and cult of violence. However, the Hells Angels, through their high degree of organization, and the luck of having been led by a number of smart people, and their ability to tie in with contemporary Beat-culture, outlasted most of the other gangs and clubs.In Hell's Angels Thompson sketches a very accurate portrait of the Hells Angels, their lifestyle and their cult. It is probably the most readable sociological introduction to the phenomenon. To obtain first-hand experience and knowledge of the Hell's Angels, Hunter S. Thompson joined their ranks. Thus, he was able to experience their culture very close-up. In Hell's Angels he describes many of the Club's typical elements, but also provides detailed explanations about their membership, and less savory details, such as the Angels habit to wear the same outfit without ever changing it, as it stiffens into a harness from dirt, piss and vomit, not even necessarily all their own.A weakness of the book is seemingly that despite the fact that Thompson joined the angels, the book is heavily reliant on newspaper reports, and, since the book describes a very short period, it is thereby also very repetitive. The author is barely able to hold the reader's attention, as the full-length book becomes a bit tiresome, and a shorter version would possible be much more powerful.Nonetheless, Hell's Angels makes for excellent reading, and forms a remarkable piece of sociological writing on the side-lines of Beat culture in the mid-1960s.