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Hell's Angel: The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club Paperback – 21 May 2001

4.4 out of 5 stars 90 customer reviews

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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: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 44,682 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"The hombre who gave you motorcycle culture.The biker style that Barger originated remains timeless." -- Chicago Tribune

"Maybe the baddest man on two wheels." -- Rolling Stone

"A ripping good read.as gripping a tale as you would expect from the most famous pack of all time." -- New Times Los Angeles

"One of the best books of the year." -- Maxim

"Not your ordinary book.A peek at another side of America." -- Tulsa World

One of the best books of the year. --Maxim

"The hombre who gave you motorcycle culture...The biker style that Barger originated remains timeless."--Chicago Tribune

"Maybe the baddest man on two wheels."--Rolling Stone

"Hell's Angel chieftain Ralph 'Sonny' Barger has led one interesting, bad-to-the-bone life."--Seattle Times

"Barger's autobiography is about as subtle as a kick in the groin, and that's what's so refreshing about it."--San Francisco Chronicle

"Not your ordinary book...A peek at another side of America."--Tulsa World

"A ripping good read...as gripping a tale as you would expect from the most famous pack of all time."--New Times Los Angeles

"Barger paints an engrossing picture of a distinctive subculture that receives precious little literary attention."--Booklist

"One of the best books of the year."--Maxim

Maybe the baddest man on two wheels. --Rolling Stone"

Hell s Angel chieftain Ralph Sonny Barger has led one interesting, bad-to-the-bone life. --Seattle Times"

Barger s autobiography is about as subtle as a kick in the groin, and that s what s so refreshing about it. --San Francisco Chronicle"

One of the best books of the year. --Maxim"

The hombre who gave you motorcycle culture The biker style that Barger originated remains timeless. --Chicago Tribune"

Not your ordinary book A peek at another side of America. --Tulsa World"

A ripping good read as gripping a tale as you would expect from the most famous pack of all time. --New Times Los Angeles"

Barger paints an engrossing picture of a distinctive subculture that receives precious little literary attention. --Booklist"

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

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 13 May 2004
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An interesting and entertaining little book that teeters a fine line between "I'm not really a bad man, honestly guvnor" and "Nobody f**ks with me, because I'm a c*nt". But it does leave you with more questions than answers.

It's not as free flowing and truthful as other autobiographies, like "Broadmoor" by Charlie Bronson for instance, where he's already paid the price and so can speak freely.

Barger comes across as someone who has got away with a lot more than he's letting on, and so can't say as much as he would like to, for fear of being called to account.

I don't wholly believe a lot of what Barger claims, and still question how a *club* whose only proclivity is to ride and party could support millions of dollars in legal costs, fighting a RICO case without a substantial source of combined income.

What the book lacks most is emotional depth. It's an almost mechanical recounting of situations and circumstances, with very little about how Barger felt or what drove his decisions and actions beyond a crude kind of teenage revolt that he should have outgrown long ago.

He comes across as a bit of a childish, petulant bully. He refers to himself as a "warrior" and a vet because he happened to be in the services, despite having managed to avoid the draft and having never seen any action at all.

The picture he paints is of a group of frightened, hopeless young men who band together to feel safe, never fight one-on-one and do everything they can to create an aggressive and intimidating image so that no one will ever mess with them. Genuinely tough people don't need any of this. No wonder brotherhood is so important.

It's definitely worth reading alongside Thompson's book for a broader picture - both sides are clearly underplayed, exaggerated and embellished in different places for different purposes.
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