August 6, 2012

No Angel: My Harrowing Journey to the Inner Circle of the Hells Angels by Jay Dobyns

How can I say this other than to just come out and say it?


Page-turning narration, action-packed scenes, and complex characters:  These would all make for a great novel, yet this is a true story.   It is the story of how ATF Agent Jay Dobyns went undercover as Jay "Bird" Davis and, along with his partners, infiltrated the Hells Angels motorcycle club to bring them up on RICO charges.

Bird, along with ATF Agents "Timmy" and "JJ" (who played the part of Bird's old lady, or girlfriend), and "Rudy" and  "Pops", two guys who were not law enforcement but were helping them out for different reasons, became their own small club called the Solos Nomads, an unofficial charter branch of the Solo Angeles motorcycle organization out of Tijuana.  They set up shop in Arizona and saddled up very convincingly to the Hells Angels as peers of another outlaw motorcycle organization.  These guys looked every part the bikers they were pretending to be (photo of him below) and, after a while, Bird begins to fight with his conscious as he becomes more and more like Bird and less and less like Jay Dobyns, ATF agent, husband, and father of two.  

The tug of war going on between his undercover life and his real life become increasingly complex as he gets in deeper and deeper with some of the heaviest hitters in the Hells Angels.   He soon discovers that these outlaw bikers are more complex than he realized.  They may be involved in criminal activity, but they are a band of brothers and would take a bullet for any one of their brothers.  Not only does Jay come to realize that they are not "all bad", he comes to realize that he might not be "all good" either.

While the story is riveting, it is important to remember that these stories are about a distinct group of HA individuals.  Not every single member of HA is a criminal.  It is also important to note that most bikers are veterans and come home from war only to be ostracized and mistreated and, more than anything, misunderstood as they have been drastically changed by what they have encountered.  They don't really fit in to society anymore.  It is why the group was originally formed and that is still a large part of why men seek these groups out today.  It is also to be noted that this story is only told from the side of one man, and even though he does end up conflicted about the brothers, I am going to seek out books by Ralph "Sonny" Barger (the "founding father" of HA) and some others to get more perspectives.  I am certain that while much of it was true, much of it was also heightened to make a better story.

I got this book from the library but I think I will be buying it.  I know I will want to read it again.  I am pretty much fascinated with bikers.

SIDE NOTE: This book contains a few violently graphic passages, but nothing that you would not see in an R-rated movie.  Also, biker lingo can sometimes be crude, but again nothing that you would not hear in an R-rated movie.  


  1. bermudaonion (Kathy)August 6, 2012 at 2:16 PM

    This would probably fascinate me too.  I can't imagine being undercover in an organization like that.

  2. My boyfriend was in an "outlaw" motorcycle club for a few years. Yeah, those guys are tight and fiercely loyal. There is definitely both good and bad in those clubs. I like that this guy shows both sides.

  3. I also know someone who was once in a motorcycle club.  Nothing comes before the club.  And, yes, there is definitely some bad stuff that happens but a lot of it comes from prospects showing off as oppose to actual members and the prospects are usually what gets in the news and gives the bad reps.  I really recommend this book to you!

  4. Yea, it was pretty stressful for him!  He goes into how much his mind races and how he gets addicted to Hydroxycut trying to keep awake and energized enough for all of the biker stuff he has to do and then all of the daily reports and ATF meetings on top of that.  

  5. I loved this book too! One thing I loved about it was that I was able to pass it on to my cousin-in-law, a car mechanic, who was highly skeptical that I had any book that he would like, but he loved it as well! I pride myself on my personal recommendations and I count that one as quite a win.


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