Quotes from Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga

Hunter S. Thompson ·  295 pages

Rating: (35.1K votes)


“The Edge... There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.”
― Hunter S. Thompson, quote from Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga


“All my life, my heart has sought a thing I cannot name.

Remembered line from a long-
forgotten poem”
― Hunter S. Thompson, quote from Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga


“It was obvious that he was a man who marched through life to the rhythms of some drum I would never hear.”
― Hunter S. Thompson, quote from Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga


“The highways are crowded with people who drive as if their sole purpose in getting behind the wheel is to avenge every wrong done them by man, beast or fate. The only thing that keeps them in line is their fear of death, jail and lawsuits.”
― Hunter S. Thompson, quote from Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga


“A man who has blown all his options can’t afford the luxury of changing his ways. He has to capitalize on whatever he has left, and he can’t afford to admit — no matter how often he’s reminded of it — that every day of his life takes him farther and farther down a blind alley…”
― Hunter S. Thompson, quote from Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga



“The Edge...There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over. The others-the living-are those who pushed their control as far as they felt they could handle it, and then pulled back, or slowed down, or did whatever they had to when it came time to choose between Now and Later. But the edge is still Out there.”
― Hunter S. Thompson, quote from Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga


“The Angels don’t like to be called losers, but they have learned to live with it. “Yeah, I guess I am,” said one. “But you’re looking at one loser who’s going to make a hell of a scene on the way out.”
― Hunter S. Thompson, quote from Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga


“As you were, I was. As I am, you will be.”
― Hunter S. Thompson, quote from Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga


“Indeed ... but no sand this time, so the lever goes up into fourth, and now there's no sound except wind. Screw
it all the way over, reach through the handlebars to raise the headlight beam, the needle leans down on a hundred, and wind-burned eyeballs strain to see down the centerline, trying to provide a margin for the reflexes.

But with the throttle screwed on there is only the barest margin, and no room at all for mistakes. It has to be done right ... and that's when the strange music starts, when you stretch your luck so far that fear becomes exhilaration and vibrates along your arms. You can barely see at a hundred; the tears blow back so fast that they vaporize before they get to your ears. The only sounds are wind and a dull roar floating back from the mufflers. You watch the white line and try to lean with it ... howling through a turn to the right, then to the left and down the long hill to Pacifica ... letting off now, watching for cops, but only until the next dark stretch and another few seconds on the edge ... The Edge ... There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over. The others -- the living -- are those who pushed their control as far as they felt they could handle it, and then pulled back, or slowed down, or did whatever they had to when it came time to choose between Now and Later.

But the edge is still Out there. Or maybe it's In. The association of motorcycles with LSD is no accident of publicity. They are both a means to an end, to the place of definitions.”
― Hunter S. Thompson, quote from Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga


“There is not much mental distance between a feeling of having been screwed and the ethic of total retaliation, or at least the kind of random revenge that comes with outraging the public decency.”
― Hunter S. Thompson, quote from Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga



“One of the worst incidents of that era caused no complaints at all: this was a sort of good-natured firepower demonstration, which occured one Sunday morning about three-thirty. For reasons that were never made clear, I blew out my back windows with five blasts of a 12 gauge shotgun, followed moments later by six rounds from a .44 Magnum. It was a prolonged outburst of heavy firing, drunken laughter, and crashing glass. Yet the neighbors reacted with total silence. For a while I assumed that some freakish wind pocket had absorbed all the noise and carried it out to sea, but after my eviction I learned otherwise. Every one of the shots had been duly recorded on the gossip log. Another tenant in the building told me the landlord was convinced, by all the tales he'd heard, that the interior of my apartment was reduced to rubble by orgies, brawls, fires, and wanton shooting. He had even heard stories about motorcycles being driven in and out the front door.”
― Hunter S. Thompson, quote from Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga


“My own acid-eating experience is limited in terms of total consumption, but widely varied as to company and circumstances ... and if I had a choice of repeating any one of the half dozen bouts I recall, I would choose one of those Hell's Angels parties in La Honda, complete with all the mad lighting, cops on the road, a Ron Boise sculpture looming out of the woods, and all the big speakers vibrating with Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man." It was a very electric atmosphere. If the Angels lent a feeling of menace, they also made it more interesting ... and far more alive than anything likely to come out of a controlled experiment or a politely brittle gathering of well-educated truth-seekers looking for wisdom in a capsule. Dropping acid with the Angels was an adventure; they were too ignorant to know what to expect, and too wild to care. They just swallowed the stuff and hung on ... which is probably just as dangerous as the experts say, but a far, far nuttier trip than sitting in some sterile chamber with a condescending guide and a handful of nervous, would-be hipsters.”
― Hunter S. Thompson, quote from Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga


“The difference between the student radicals and the Hell's Angels is that the students are rebelling against the past, while the Angels are fighting the future. Their only common ground is their disdain for the present, or the status quo.”
― Hunter S. Thompson, quote from Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga


“There is an important difference between the words 'losers' and 'outlaw.' One is passive and the other is active, and the main reason the Angels are such good copy is that they are acting out the day-dreams of millions of losers who don't wear any defiant insignia and who don't know how to be outlaws. The streets of every city are thronged with men who would pay all the money they could get their hands on to be transformed-even for a day-into hairy, hard-fisted brutes who walk over cops, extort free drinks from terrified bartenders and thunder out of town on big motorcycles after raping the banker's daughter. Even people who think the Angels should all be put to sleep find it easy to identify with them. They command a fascination, however reluctant, that borders on psychic masturbation.”
― Hunter S. Thompson, quote from Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga


“This wavering paradox is a pillar of the outlaw stance. A man who has blown all his options can't afford the luxury of changing his ways. He has to capitalize on whatever he has left, and he can't afford to admit-no matter how often he's reminded of it-that every day of his life takes him farther down a blind alley.”
― Hunter S. Thompson, quote from Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga



“The only way to write honestly about the scene is to be part of it. If there is one quick truism about psychedelic drugs, it is that anyone who tries to write about them without first-expierience is a fool and a fraud.”
― Hunter S. Thompson, quote from Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga


“There was also the fact that sending a penniless writer to get $135 worth of beer was — as Khrushchev said of Nixon — 'like sending a goat to tend the cabbage'.”
― Hunter S. Thompson, quote from Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga


“The point is valid: the difference between survival and wipe-out in a physical crisis is nearly always a matter of conditioned reflexes.”
― Hunter S. Thompson, quote from Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga


“It had been a bad trip ... fast and wild in some moments, slow and dirty in others, but on balance it looked like a bummer. On my way back to San Francisco, I tried to compose a fitting epitaph. I wanted something original, but there was no escaping the echo of Mistah Kurtz' final words from the heart of darkness: "The horror! The horror! ... Exterminate all the brutes!”
― Hunter S. Thompson, quote from Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga


“California, Labor Day weekend...early, with ocean fog still in the streets, outlaw motorcyclists wearing chains, shades and greasy Levis roll out from damp garages, all-night diners and cast-off one-night pads in Fricso, Hollywood, Berdoo and East Oakland, heading for the Monterey peninsula, north of Big Sur...The Menace is loose again, the Hell's Angels, the hundred-carat headline, running fast and loud on the early morning freeway, low in the saddle, nobody smiles, jamming crazy through traffic and ninety miles an hour down the center stripe, missing by inches...like Genghis Khan on an iron horse, a monster steed with a fiery anus, flat out through the eye of a beer can and up your daughter's leg with no quarter asked and non given; show the squares some class, give em a whiff of those kicks they'll never know...Ah, these righteous dudes, they love to screw it on...Little Jesus, the Gimp, Chocolate George, Buzzard, Zorro, Hambone, Clean Cut, Tiny, Terry the Tramp, Frenchy, Mouldy Marvin, Mother Miles, Dirty Ed, Chuck the Duck, Fat Freddy, Filthy Phil, Charger Charley the Child Molester, Crazy Cross, Puff, Magoo, Animal and at least a hundred more...tense for the action, long hair in the wind, beards and bandanas flapping, earrings, armpits, chain whips, swastikas and stripped-down Harleys flashing chrome as traffic on 101 moves over, nervous, to let the formation pass like a burst of dirty thunder...”
― Hunter S. Thompson, quote from Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga



“The New York power failure was not the first time the Hell's Angels have confounded the forces of decency and got off scot-free. They are incredibly devious. Law enforcement officials have compared their guile to that of the snipe, a wily beast that many have seen but few have ever trapped. This is because the snipe has the ability to transform himself, when facing capture, into something entirely different. The only other animals capable of this are the werewolf and the Hell's Angel, which have many traits in common. The physical resemblance is obvious, but far more important is the transmogrification factor, the strange ability to alter their own physical structure, and hence "disappear." The Hell's Angels are very close-mouthed about this, but it is a well-known fact among public officials. ... About halfway through our talk I got a strong whiff of the transmogrification factor, but I was hardly prepared for the mayor's special fillip on it. There were plenty of Hell's Angels at the riot, "but they escaped, " he explained, "behind a wall of fire." While he elaborated on this I checked my calendar to make sure I hadn't lost track of the days. If it was Sunday, perhaps he had just come back from church in a high, biblical state of mind. At any moment I expected to hear that the Angels had driven their motorcycles straight into the sea, which had rolled back to let them pass. But no, it wasn't like that. The mayor was not loath to give details of the escape; he wanted law enforcement agencies everywhere to be warned of the Angels' methods. Knowledge is power, he opined.”
― Hunter S. Thompson, quote from Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga


“The truth is that The Wild One -- despite an admittedly fictional treatment -- was an inspired piece of film journalism. Instead of institutionalizing common knowledge, in the style of Time, it told a story that was only beginning to happen and which was inevitably influenced by the film. It gave the outlaws a lasting, romance-glazed image of themselves, a coherent reflection that only a very few had been able to find in a mirror, and it quickly became the bike rider's answer to The Sun Also Rises. The image is not valid, but its wide acceptance can hardly be blamed on the movie. The Wild One was careful to distinguish between "good outlaws" and "bad outlaws," but the people who were most influenced chose to identify with Brando instead of Lee Marvin whose role as the villain was a lot more true to life than Brando's portrayal of the confused hero. They saw themselves as modern Robin Hoods ... virile, inarticulate brutes whose good instincts got warped somewhere in the struggle for self-expression and who spent the rest of their violent lives seeking revenge on a world that done them wrong when they were young and defenseless.”
― Hunter S. Thompson, quote from Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga


“The Hell's Angels are very definitely a lower-class phenomenon, but their backgrounds are not necessarily poverty-stricken. Despite some grim moments, their parents seem to have had credit. Most of the outlaws are the sons of people who came to California either just before or during World War II. Many have lost contact with their families, and I have never met an Angel who claimed to have a hometown in any sense that people who use that term might understand it. Terry the Tramp, for instance, is "from" Detroit, Norfolk, Long Island, Los Angeles, Fresno and Sacramento. As a child, he lived all over the country, not in poverty but in total mobility. Like most of the others, he has no roots. He relates entirely to the present, the moment, the action.”
― Hunter S. Thompson, quote from Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga


“Far from being freaks, the Hell's Angels are a logical product of the culture that now claims to be shocked at their existence. The generation represented by the editors of Time has lived so long in a world full of Celluloid outlaws hustling toothpaste and hair oil that it is no longer capable of confronting the real thing. For twenty years they have sat with their children and watched yesterday's outlaws raise hell with yesterday's world ... and now they are bringing up children who think Jesse James is a television character. This is the generation that went to war for Mom, God and Apple Butter, the American Way of Life. When they came back, they crowned Eisenhower and then retired to the giddy comfort of their TV parlors, to cultivate the subtleties of American history as seen by Hollywood.”
― Hunter S. Thompson, quote from Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga


“When you're asked to stay out of a bar you don't just punch the owner--you come back with your army and tear the place down, destroy the whole edifice and everything it stands for. No compromise. If a man gets wise, mash his face. If a woman snubs you, rape her. This is the thinking, if not the reality, behind the whole Hell's Angels act.”
― Hunter S. Thompson, quote from Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga



“There is a beautiful consistency about Buzzard; he is a porcupine among men, with his quills always flared. If he won a new car with a raffle ticket bought in his name by some momentary girlfriend, he would recognize it at once as a trick to con him out of a license fee. He would denounce the girl as a hired slut, beat up the raffle sponsor, and trade off the car for five hundred Seconals and a gold-handled cattle prod.”
― Hunter S. Thompson, quote from Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga


“Justice is not cheap in this country, and people who insist on it are usually either desperate or possessed by some private determination bordering on monomania.”
― Hunter S. Thompson, quote from Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga


“The only problem with the Angels' new image was that the outlaws themselves didn't understand it. It puzzled them to be treated as symbolic heroes by people with whom they had almost nothing in common. Yet they were gaining access to a whole reservoir of women, booze, drugs and new action -- which they were eager to get their hands on, and symbolism be damned. But they could never get the hang of the role they were expected to play, and insisted on ad-libbing the lines. This fouled their channels of communication, which made them nervous ... and after a brief whirl on the hipster party circuit, all but a few decided it was both cheaper and easier, in the long run, to buy their own booze and hustle a less complicated breed of pussy.”
― Hunter S. Thompson, quote from Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga


“Now, looking for labels, it is hard to call the Hell's Angels anything but mutants. They are urban outlaws with a rural ethic and a new, improvised style of self-preservation. Their image of themselves derives mainly from Celluloid, from the Western movies and two-fisted TV shows that have taught them most of what they know about the society they live in. Very few read books, and in most cases their formal education ended at fifteen or sixteen. What little they know of history has come from the mass media, beginning with comics ... so if they see themselves in terms of the past, it's because they can't grasp the terms of the present, much less the future. They are the sons of poor men and drifters, losers and the sons of losers. Their backgrounds are overwhelmingly ordinary. As people, they are like millions of other people. But in their collective identity they have a peculiar fascination so obvious that even the press has recognized it, although not without cynicism. In its ritual flirtation with reality the press has viewed the Angels with a mixture of awe, humor and terror -- justified, as always, by a slavish dedication to the public appetite, which most journalists find so puzzling and contemptible that they have long since abandoned the task of understanding it to a handful of poll-takers and "experts.”
― Hunter S. Thompson, quote from Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga


About the author

Hunter S. Thompson
Born place: in Louisville, Kentucky, The United States
Born date July 18, 1937
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