Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs – Hunter S. Thompson (1966)


Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs is a book written by Hunter S. Thompson, first published in 1966 by Random House. It was widely lauded for its up-close and uncompromising look at the Hells Angels motorcycle club, during a time when the gang was highly feared and accused of numerous criminal activities. The New York Times described Thompson’s portrayal as ‘a world most of us would never dare encounter.’ It was Thompson’s first published book and his first attempt at a nonfiction novel. Hell’s Angels began as the article ‘The Motorcycle Gangs: Losers and Outsiders’ (reprinted here) written by Thompson for the May 17, 1965 issue of The Nation. In March 1965, The Nation editor Carey McWilliams wrote to Thompson and offered to pay the journalist for an article on the subject of motorcycle gangs, and the Hells Angels in particular. Thompson took the job and the article, published about a month later, prompted book offers from several publishers interested in the topic.  Thompson spent the next year preparing for the new book in close quarters with the Hells Angels, in particular the San Francisco and Oakland chapters of the club and their president Ralph ‘Sonny’ Barger. Thompson was upfront with the Angels about his role as a journalist, a dangerous move given their marked distrust of reporters from what the club considered to be bad press. Thompson was introduced to the gang by Birney Jarvis, a former club member and then police-beat reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle. This introduction, coming from an Angel and reporter, allowed Thompson to get close to the gang in a way others had not been able. … Hell’s Angels was the book that launched Thompson’s career as a writer. Though he had by then published numerous articles for various journals and newspapers and was recognized as a journalist, the book was his first true exposure to a national audience. ..”
Wikipedia
NY Times: On the Wild Side (January 29, 1967)
[PDF] Hell’s Angels, A Strange and Terrible Saga
YouTube: Hells Angels & Hunter S. Thompson, Hunter S. Thompson meets a Hell’s Angel, 1967 | CBC

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