No Angel (Dobyns)

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

As soon as I saw this book on the net, I knew I had to read it. Here’s a capsule review. First, it has perhaps the most vulgar language of any book I have ever read. It made the worst cursing I heard in the Marines seem like a Sunday school lesson. If you are easily offended, definitely don’t read it. (Even the table of contents would be enough to get the book an R rating if it were a movie!) There’s a funny comment on Dobyns’ blog in which an 11-year-old complains that his dad won’t let him read the book, to which Dobyns responds “Your dad is correct. You can’t read No Angel until you’re 30.”

Second, the author is clearly as crazy as an outhouse rat. Infiltrate the Hells Angels? Why not do something less crazy, like jumping off a bridge with an anvil duct-taped to your head?

Dobyns recounts his early career in the Bureau of Tobacco, Alcohol, and Firearms and explains how his personality led him to seek risky undercover assignments. When he sees an opportunity to attack the Angels from within, he has a hard time convincing his superiors, but eventually wins them over through a combination of persistence, solid evidence gathering, and missteps by the Angels that make them seem like a bigger danger to public order than they might actually have been. If anything, I was surprised by how trusting the Angels leadership was, but that’s as much a testament to Dobyns’ skill as an undercover officer as it is to their desire to quickly expand throughout Arizona.

Dobyns (and his ghostwriter) tell a fascinating story in vivid detail. It’s clear throughout that Dobyns respects many aspects of the Angels culture, like their sense of brotherhood and honor. That doesn’t mean that he’s willing to excuse their actual criminal behavior, and he makes that clear as well. The story itself is fascinating; Dobyns starts by creating a fake chapter of a Mexican motorcycle gang and uses it to establish credibility with Angels leaders, culminating in their invitation to “patch over” and join the Angels. Along the way, hijinks ensue: there are beatings, gun sales, boozy motorcycle rides, and testosterone galore. (I don’t want to be more specific so I don’t spoil any surprises!)

At the end of the book, I couldn’t help wondering whether the sacrifices he and his family made were worth the eventual outcome of the case, in which internal squabbling amongst the prosecution team resulted in lower sentences and the dismissal of charges against a few key players. (As a bonus, now Dobyns has a lawsuit against the ATF claiming that they are failing to protect him and his family from reprisals.)

Highly recommended for those with thick skins and strong stomachs.

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1 Comment

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One response to “No Angel (Dobyns)

  1. Tim

    I’m almost done with it and I’m loving it, too!