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Hell's Angel: The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club [Paperback]

Sonny Barger , Keith Zimmerman , Kent Zimmerman
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
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Book Description

21 May 2001

The autobiography – the dangerous life and wild times – of Sonny Barger, the legendary leader of the Hell’s Angels.

Sonny Barger is the Hell’s Angel of all Hell’s Angels, the motorcycle club that has been the scourge of America for over forty years.

Sonny was their de facto leader for much of that time, the man who Hunter S. Thompson immortalised in his 1965 classic Hells Angels, noting ‘Barger is nothing short of Winston Churchill when it comes to leading people’. He’s been called an American legend and he’s feared and revered by people on both sides of the law. From the club’s formation in the 1940s to the height of their notoriety twenty years later, from Sonny’s first-hand account of what really happened with the Rolling Stones at Altamont to his periods of imprisonment, from his fights with rival gangs and the police to his own battle with cancer, ‘Hell’s Angel’ sets the record straight.

Sonny Barger has ridden with the Angels for forty years, obeying no law but that of the HAMC. For the first time, this is his own – and their own – story.


Frequently Bought Together

Hell's Angel: The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club + No Angel: An Undercover Journey to the Heart of the Hells Angels + Under and Alone: Infiltrating the World's Most Violent Motorcycle Gang: The True Story of the Undercover Agent Who Infiltrated America's Most Violent Outlaw Motorcycle Gang
Price For All Three: £20.77

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; New Ed edition (21 May 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841153362
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841153360
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.8 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 26,065 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

"Probably the most powerful and well known outlaw motorcyclist in the country." So began one of Ralph "Sonny" Barger's many police rap sheets from the 1970s, and for good reason. Barger, immortalised in Hunter S Thompson's book Hell's Angels and star of the biker movie Hell's Angels 69 has, and to many people remains, the de facto "Chief" of America's Hell's Angels bikers. In Hell's Angel: The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club, the biker from hell finally tells the whole story of nearly 50 years riding at the head of the Angels.

Hells Angel is a very brutal, honest book, and isn't for the politically sensitive or those who want a romantic account of post-war American subcultural life. It is, however, a fascinating story of Barger's life and scrapes. Growing up in Oakland, northern California, Barger was kicked out of the army for enlisting underage, and then set up his own Hell' s Angels in 1957, with the sole intention "to party and ride". "As our membership grew, we began to look like an army", and the stories pile up thick and fast of the increasing controversy that gathered around the Angels from the early 60s onwards. The use of Nazi regalia, the fights, the booze, the parties and the "old ladies" of the 1960s give way to the darker side of the Angels, with charges of beatings, kidnappings, murders and drug dealing in the 1970s (all of which Barger has been charged with at some time or another, as his helpful appendix of arrests, "The Rap-Up"). The later stages of the book are as Barger admits "one big blurry court trial" as the police tried to nail him for conspiracy throughout the 1980s, but the most interesting moments come with Barger's vivid (and often scathing) accounts of Hunter S Thompson, Ken Kesey, Neal Cassady, Jack Nicholas, and Mick Jagger, during the infamous Rolling Stones concert at Altamont in 1969. Hell's Angel is quite a story, and told by quite a survivor. --Jerry Brotton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

The autobiography – the dangerous life and wild times – of Sonny Barger, the legendary leader of the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club.

Keith Richards walked over to me after finishing 'Love In Vain' and told me the band wasn't going to play any more until we stopped the violence. 'Either these cats cool it, man, or we don't play,' he announced to the crowd. I stood next to him and stuck my pistol into his side and told him to start playing his guitar or he was dead. He played like a motherfucker.'

Sonny Barger is the Hell's Angel of all Hell's Angels, the motorcycle club's de facto leader for nearly thirty years, the man immortalised by Hunter S. Thompson in the classic Hell's Angels as 'nothing short of Winston Churchill when it comes to leading people'. He's feared and revered by people on both sides of the law. Now Hell's Angel sets the record straight – from the club's formation in the 1940s to the height of their notoriety twenty years later, from Sonny's first-hand account of what really happened with the Rolling Stones at Altamont to his lengthy periods of imprisonment, from his fights with rival gangs and the police to his own battle with cancer. Sonny Barger has ridden with the Angels for forty years, obeying no law but that of the HAMC. For the first time, this is his own – and their own – story.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good book, but not a nice guy! 21 July 2001
By EFMOL
Format:Hardcover
On recent holiday, I read this book - partly as a holiday read and also because I ride a Harley-Davidson. I read a lot of biographies and many times get inspiration from the main characters; I always look for something in someone to take with me when I've finished the book.
Sonny Barger's "party and ride" approach to life seems to have been at the expense of everybody else - however, he tells it as it was and his no holds barred approach is at least honest if not commendable. He's no Heaven's Angel - that's for sure. I felt that throughout the book, Sonny should somehow apologise for his drug-using, police-hating, brawling, bullying lifestyle - but I knew we wouldn't get this. I think the only thing he regrets is smoking so many Camels.
I found the book jumped around a lot and also assumed that the reader already knew a lot about HAMC (which I didn't). Many characters made brief appearances and it was sometimes hard to follow whom they were. There is genuine sadness at the loss of so many of his comrades.
I would recommend this book to others who want to get inside the mind of hell raisers like Sonny.
As for taking something from this book? In a fight, Sonny is definitely the kind of guy you want on your side. If he is your "brother" - then your enemies are his, doesn't matter what the cause of enmity is about. The Army probably blew its chances of winning the Vietnam War when they kicked him out!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
This book comes accross as being a true account of the times and events and what it was like being not only a member of the HAMC but a leader of the HAMC. If a total outsider was to read this book I find it hard to imagine that they would understand the way that bikers look after their own kind, there is no other culture on this planet that has the same commitment to looking after each other and if you can try to understand that at least a little bit, then you would understand the passion that the people in the book had about their life style and their bikes. The subject is very serious but it's been put over in a way most people can understand and smile at, if you have an open mind and let people get on with their lives when they are doing you no harm, then I think you would enjoy the book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 81 ways you will like this 13 Oct 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a great dycotomy of the life and times of a Hells Angel told by the grandfather of this great brotherhood. Although at times it seems a little too 'American gung ho' it is a superb book and well worth the read though I confess that I preferred Sonny's "Credos - Freedom of the Road" better though that is more of a handbook on how to live your life by a moral code whereas this is a history of the Hells Angels. If you are at all curious or support the Red & White then buy it, you won't regret it.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Setting the Pace 13 May 2004
By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
You will hear the throaty roar and feel the vigration of a good road machine as you cruise past these pages about a real life leader of the pack.
The motorcycle club subculture has been an important theme in Hollywood (from The Wild One to Easy Rider) and in recordings (the song, Leader of the Pack). Everyone who sees the Hell's Angels has an opinion about what is going on, yet few have had a first hand relationship with a member. This book gives you a behind-the-scenes look at what it was like for Oakland's leader of the pack, one of the first branches of the Hell's Angels.
I grew up in San Bernardino (Berdoo in the book) which was an even earlier branch of the Hell's Angels than was Oakland's group. Some people I went to high school with joined the Hell's Angels. We all heard many stories about the group, and what went on. We treated these people with extreme caution and gave them a wide berth.
The book brings out an ethos of freedom (the open road) combined with a masculine emphasis on being respected and being loyal to friends. At the same time, there is an underlying sense of the frontier marshall, wanting to clean up those who were challenging law and order. Behind that there is a disregard for the rules most of us follow, whether in speed, drugs, theft, or violence.
This book is filled with deaths, injuries, and destruction. The Hell's Angels live in a dangerous world, and that doesn't bother them. What would bother them is not following their code of ethics.
Having read about all of the things the Hell's Angels are supposed to have done in the last 50 or so years, it is interesting to hear it from the other side.
Although you probably won't want to emulate Sonny Barger in too many ways, you'll certainly never forget him.
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By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
This was an interesting read and yet somehow dissapointing. You get the facts in a dicursive manner as though you are reading the transcripts of a series of interviews. What is overwelming is the destructiveness and the inconsistency. Self detruction and the destruction of those in anyway involved. Inconsistency in Barger's "true American" stance. It is interesting that the Angels only exist in western liberal democracies. On the big questions the final chapters really make you wince as there is an attempt to address God and the state of the world. The only answer is that there are no answers here. I am pleased I read it but doubt I'd bother twice.
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