Hell’s Angels: The Strange And Terrible Saga Of The Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs

Hunter S. Thompson’s book covers two years in the lives of the Hell’s Angels, a motorcycle gang with a strong presence in California. The book focuses on the San Francisco and Oakland chapters of the larger gang. He talks on how the media’s coverage of numerous violent crimes propelled them to unexpected national prominence, as well as their overall roots and background. Thompson then describes an adventure ride to a certain location.

In his pursuit of the Hell’s Angels, he joined in on their celebrations. The final section of the text examines the Hell’s Angels in a broader social context and offers some thoughts on what makes them who they are.

Hell's Angels: The Strange And Terrible Saga Of The Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs

The Hell’s Angels are a Notorious Biker Gang With a Bad Reputation.

They are just one of many groups like them, and they like to congregate in places like Oakland and San Francisco, where motorcycling is popular because to the mild climate. The original members of motorcycle gangs were American dropouts and vagrants who came together after World War II.

In 1950, a group of motorcycle enthusiasts established the Hell’s Angels in the San Bernardino, California, area. They persisted as a separate gang until about 1964, by which time there were perhaps eight or five members across multiple chapters. The largest and most well-run group was led by Ralph “Sonny” Barger.

In 1964, two young women claimed that members of the Hell’s Angels group raped them viciously. Many were arrested, but the charges were eventually dropped. However, the incident was covered by national media.

The subsequent storm of notoriety catapulted the Hell’s Angels to the vanguard of the biker underworld. Citizen indignation necessitated a response from law enforcement, and numerous reports detailed the Hell’s Angels’ criminal activity over the previous few years. Repeated reports of new outrages flooded the national media, and law enforcement officials began laying a disproportionate amount of blame on the Hell’s Angels.

By 1965, the Hell’s Angels had become the undisputed head of all motorcycle gangs and were making the transition into an ostensibly recognised power centre inside the liberal counter-cultural movement. A lasting chasm opened up between the motorcycle gangs and the liberal Berkeley crowd within a few of months, and it has yet to heal. Gang members were not educated intelligentsias fighting against the war or politics.

Last Words

The Hell’s Angels were the subject of a brief newspaper story by Hunter S. Thompson in 1964. A few members of the Hell’s Angels eventually presented themselves to him, and he was even given a book contract about the organisation. He started hanging out with the biker gang more and more, eventually buying a bike and spending countless hours with the Hell’s Angels on various excursions.

In just a few short months, he had won the trust of the traditionally media-averse Hell’s Angels and was considered a permanent member of the gang. This book chronicles his first-hand experience with the Hell’s Angels, as well as his thoughts and feelings on the group and the part it plays in American culture at large.