A Review of Hell’s Angels

Hell's AngelsHell’s Angels by Hunter S. Thompson

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I read this book was Hunter S. Thompson’s first book and I think you can tell. No real sign of “gonzo” journalism here, other than traveling with the Hell’s Angel’s on runs for a year. It seems very much like straight journalism, like he’s right out of journalism school.

I couldn’t finish this book, because in one word, it’s BORING! Yes, that’s right. A book about the Hell’s Angeles is boring. It shouldn’t be. The problem is, Thompson goes so far overboard, so out of his way, to portray this motorcycle gang as the biggest menace America has ever faced, that it’s ridiculous and repetitive. And annoying. Okay, these guys are slugs. Big deal.

Hell’s Angels, written circa 1966 — before Altamont — describes America’s total fixation and fear about this perceived menace. And reading it now in 2013, it just seems somewhat quaint. Almost silly. Motorcycle gangs? We’re talking about maybe, maybe 500 motorcycle gang members. Want gangs? Try L.A., where there are tens of thousands of gang members. Want a real menace? Try the punks with guns that are killing the hundreds of people dying each year in cities like L.A. and Chicago. The most trouble a Hell’s Angel ever got into was a bar fight or two, with few exceptions. The subtitle is “A Strange and Terrible Saga.” Frankly, it doesn’t seem very strange and terrible at all. Try terrorism. That’s strange and terrible. I guess the nuclear family going into the 1960s was scared to death of people who weren’t straight laced, but it’s kind of pathetic and the book drones on and on about how menacing these guys were, when they were just big punks. Big damn deal. Get over it. Now I assume if Thompson were still alive and he decided to re-write the book, it would read quite differently, but it’s a disappointing book without much allure to it and I just couldn’t finish it. Pity.

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