cover image RIDIN' HIGH, LIVIN' FREE: Hell-Raising Motorcycle Stories

RIDIN' HIGH, LIVIN' FREE: Hell-Raising Motorcycle Stories

J. Richard Gott III, Sonny Barger, , with Keith and Kent Zimmerman. . Morrow, $24.95 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-06-000602-0

The latest literary effort from Hell's Angels chieftain Barger is "a collection of true stories, modern myths, and biker tales" submitted to him by other bikers. As such, few of them actually involve the legendary Barger. Barger selected and rewrote the stories himself (with help from the Zimmermans). He concedes that some are true while others are apocryphal, and it's up to the reader to decide which is which. Depicting fairly unspectacular hell-raisers—including characters like DOA, Loaded Linda, Freewheelin' Freddy and One-Armed Paul—most of the 38 tales are too uneventful to be mistaken for myth, leaving one to wonder if Barger is holding back the good stuff or whether he used up most of it in his earlier memoir, Hell's Angel. Some of the stories are engaging and even informative, such as the profile of an African-American motorcycle club and the piece detailing singer David Crosby's biker connections. But most meander toward abrupt endings, closing with a trite moral or clunky shoutout to the story's principal character. Barger illustrates a kinder, gentler rider; his characters are certainly not above wreaking a little havoc, but they're also quick to help a fallen biker or spread the word of God. The book works best when describing the simple pleasure of cruising through the American landscape at sunrise. (May)