In 1967, Hunter S. Thompson was a relatively unknown 30-year-old journalist who had just published his first book, Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga. To write the book, Thompson spent a year embedded with a chapter of the Angels, and Blank on Blank’s latest installment animates a lively discussion the author had with Studs Terkel about the experience.
It was during his time with the Angels, a notoriously insular motorcycle club, that Thompson first honed his “gonzo,” highly subjective style of reporting, which would come to define his career. As he tells Terkel, while he was studying the Angels’ ways he often saw “a very ugly side of myself” rise to the surface, and that hidden, lurking anger became the real subject of the book. It also got him into a fight or two: After offhandedly insulting one of the Angels, Thompson was “stomped,” a tradition in which several club members beat the offender senseless. Needless to say, Thompson’s relationship with the club deteriorated significantly after the book’s publication.