Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Riding with the Hells Angels... Not a Bullshit MC

No Angel
My Harrowing Undercover Journey to the
Inner Circle of the Hells Angels

Jay Dobyns

I'm a fangirl over three things: Harry Potter, U2, and Sons of Anarchy.  I'm going to assume that if you're reading this, you know what Harry Potter is, and that love or hate them, you've heard of U2. But Sons of Anarchy may be new to you.  If you don't know, Sons of Anarchy is Kurt Sutter's FX Network drama about an outlaw motorcycle club based in the fictional Charming, CA.  Since I love this show, it is no surprise that No Angel caught my eye when I was browsing through Barnes and Noble.

In 2002, undercover ATF Jay Dobyns took on the case of a lifetime, infiltrating the most notorious outlaw motorcycle club, the Hells Angels.  This was an incredibly dangerous assignment. If discovered, any retaliation short of death would only leave Dobyns craving said death.

The story is told simply from Jay's perspective.  He wanted the case to work.  But he took his role almost too seriously. He was so  immersed in the culture that not only did he almost become a fully initiated member of the Angels,  he nearly lost his wife, family,and self in the process.

The outlaw MC's, the "one percenters" as they are known, may operate outside the law, but they strictly adhere to their own code. Loyalty to the club is at the top of that list. Betrayal of that loyalty means almost certain death.

The book was an easy read, and a fascinating look into a world most of us will never know.  It takes the romance of a TV show like Sons of Anarchy and exposes the seamy underside of the life.  What do I mean? Well, with Sons, you truly care about the characters and although they are criminals - sometimes quite vicious ones- you feel understand their motivation and root for them, because underneath it all, most of them are good guys.

The reality - at least from what Dobyns experienced- is that most MC members are thugs. And while he genuinely liked and cared for some of them, he didn't gloss over what he saw. Most of the people he encountered were tweaking on meth or other illegals, and quick to violence. Still, there's something to be said for the intense loyalty of the club. That was the thing I couldn't get away from. Knowing that the club business is illegal, I can still appreciate the bond that the club brothers have, the respect for the cut and the life and I can see how Jay was sucked into it.

While a show like Sons of Anarchy gives us the bad ass Gemma Teller and Tara Noles, life for women in an MC is hardly glamorous.  Women are truly second class citizens in this world, at the beck and call of their "Old Men" if they ever make "Old Lady" status.  And they earn their place in part through sex- with whomever, whenever. 

What I found most fascinating about this books was Dobyn's complete immersion into the culture.  He became his alter ego, Bird, finding it hard to turn off his MC persona when he spent time with his family.  The Angels were relatively quick to trust Jay and the manufactured MC Charter he was a part of, a true testament to their ability to walk the walk.

The book includes an epilogue of what happened to all the key players in the years following the case, as well as  glossary of the terms unique to the MC world.  Recommended for anyone who wants a glimpse into this group that exists just outside the bounds of society.  It is indeed a unique brotherhood.


  1. This sounds really interesting..great review!

  2. Thanks. It was a really interesting read. Amazing insight into that world.