No Angel (NA) is a memoir by Jay "Bird" Dobyns about his undercover ATF work infiltrating the Hells Angels. Bird and a group of other ATF agents and informers made in-roads into the HA by setting up their own MC--a chapter of the Solo Angels. I am just going to throw it out there: I have several major problems with this book. It is poorly written with so much extraneous detail that it distracts from the actual story. Clearly the editor on duty let this one pass by without wielding an axe and cutting out a lot of stuff that didn't belong in the book. Do I need to know exactly how Bird makes tuna salad? No. BECAUSE IT ISN'T A FUCKING COOKBOOK. Perhaps it is because there is not an actual story to be told. The investigation and resulting arrests were a bust so not only do you have to suffer through Bird over describing the minutia that is his undercover life, at the end you are left without a real ending. Bird's ATF overlords tell him to take a vacation, the feds make arrests and that none of the charges stick. The End.
The other major problem I had with the book was Bird himself. What an asshole. From his general level of disdain for the Hells Angels (contrasted with Queen's respect for the Mongols) to his superjock-turned idiotic-adrenaline-junkie-control-freak, reading this book with Bird's voice in my head was like going for a month long root canal without any Novocain. And going back to the whole control freak thing: um yeah, he gets pissy when the house isn't spotless when he returns home for a visit with his family and then there is the time where his kid is practicing his handwriting over and over to get it right. Nice job there, daddy dearest. And how can I forget Bird's mantra: Jesus Hates a Pussy. Riiiiight. Because not only does that invoke the worst of the morally superior aspects of religion, it has the added bits of sexism and misogyny thrown in for extra measure. Bonus!
Finally, there is something about NA that just doesn't hold water or maybe I just skimmed over it. In Under and Alone Queen spends a lot of time describing the extensive background checks the Mongols ran on him before he began prospecting. There is none of that in No Angel. I'm going to go out on a limb here and speculate that at a minimum, the Hells Angels have to be at least as sophisticated. You don't get to be the big dog by letting just anyone in. My point is this: I don't think Bird infiltrated the HA as much as he would like to think he did. Put that together with the failure of the investigation and you come away with the feeling that Bird has over-valued his Hydroxycut taking, Red Bull drinking, Salem smoking self.
So, overall, skip No Angel. If you really want to know more about it, there is a 6 part series on YouTube that sums up the book and is a helluva lot less painful than actually reading it. If you must read it, then borrow it or buy it second hand. Hell, I'll even send you my copy so that not another dollar goes into Bird's pocket.
Under and Alone (UA) is a memoir by William Queen, an ATF agent who infiltrated the Mongols MC starting from being a lowly hang around, prospect, became a full patch member and ultimately treasurer of and vice president of the San Fernando Valley chapter. What I found very interesting about Queen's account of his undercover work was the extent to which the MC was highly organized, the lengthy application and due diligence process for Queen to become a prospect was impressive. It really suggests a high degree of sophistication and management prowess that runs in the face of the grubby, greasy biker gang. But before you think this is a management book, let me add that there is a lot of violence, drugs, alcohol, and general mayhem to make it an entertaining read. The thing about UA and Queen that really struck me was that I got the sense that he wasn't looking down his nose at the members of the MC. He didn't want to be one of them but he at least had a healthy sense of respect for what they valued. Queen's internal conflict between his mission and the brotherhood of the MC becomes very clear and poignant when the woman who raised him died. And, to give Queen his due, he really was alone unlike Dobyns who was surrounded by other undercover agents--it wasn't until warrants were executed that he realized how many agents were working on the case in the background. Overall, a good story that is well written, well edited, and a fast read.
So, where is Bird now? Well, he is suing the ATF and is trying out a career as a motivational speaker. Queen has sold the film rights to Under and Alone for a tidy sum.
Now, what could all of this mean for future seasons of Sons of Anarchy? Well, here goes:
- While both Dobyns and Queen worked as undercover ATF agents, SAMCRO hasn't been infiltrated. Yet. Sure, Agent Stahl has tried to get the guys to rat but she hasn't been running an undercover operation. Watch for that to happen.
- So, I know that I have blathered on about the management capabilities stuff but it seems like Sons of Anarchy has some elements of this. Clay seems very much like a CEO in Season 1 and SAMCRO seems to have a set of operating rules and by-laws. Maybe we will see more of this come in to play in Season 3 if/when the Belfast chapter is tapped to find Cameron and Able.
- Meth is present in both the books. SAMCRO won't abide by crank in Charming. For that matter, the fictional SAMCRO seems waaaay more concerned with place than the real life MCs as they are depicted in these books. With one exception: the bottom rocker. But I think in this case it is a matter of the colors and not protecting fictional small town charms.
- Both books comment on the influence that the military has had on MCs because of an abundance of returning war vets who were attracted to the outlaw life. Perhaps some of this might inform the backstory for John Teller in Season 3.