I first read Hunter S Thompson when I was 17, riding a Vespa PX125 (with a 180cc big bore) on learner plates around Leeds and beyond. I was introduced to his books by Matt Heslop, who ran a record shop in the back of a goth and alternative clothes shop on Call Lane in Leeds. The shop was pure goth, with a bit of Liquid Gold poppers thrown in, but the record shop sold garage punk, shoe gaze, hardcore punk, riot grrrl, grebo, goth and Nick Cave, then grunge when that came along with a wave of Sub-Pop and Sympathy For The Record Industry.
Anyway, Matt was a big influence on me. He didn't own the record shop for long, but we still talk now and go out, with our wives, and also to watch Leeds United with our kids. He introduced me to me to HST, the beats, Bukowski, lots of B Movies and 60s TV shows.
I'm pretty sure I read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas before Hell's Angels, but I devoured them both one after the other (a snap of my original copies is below). If you haven't read any HST, start with Fear and Loathing. You can pick it up for pennies and you'll finish it quickly. Even if you haven't read a single page of it, it might seem familiar because it's been ripped off and used as inspiration for about 50 years.
For a while I was sympathetic to some of what HST described that the1960's outlaw bikers stood for, or said they did, but not much of it. Before long I just couldn't see past them being bike thieves, and openly admitting it, so any lingering admiration died there and then, before I was 18.
Which brings us to this great new animation of a very old interview with HST recorded just after the publication of his seminal book Hell's Angel's: A Strange and Terrible Saga. He explains that he was 'stomped' by some HA after the publication, though the motorcycle club say they just roughed him up and bit and he made more of it that it deserved. Whatever, it all added to the mythology of the book, the club, the author, the time.
Thanks to The Vintagent for the recommendation.