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No Angel: My Harrowing Undercover Journey to the Inner Circle of the Hells Angels Hardcover – February 10, 2009

4.1 out of 5 stars 328 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this white-knuckler, ATF agent Dobyns infiltrates a chapter of the Hells Angels to show that, aside from much of the romance surrounding the group, it is indeed a violent gang. His investigations lead him through a fascinating cast of crystal meth-heads, gun runners, gang rapists and frauds. Dobyns and co-writer Johnson-Shelton tell a bracing story in straightforward prose that doesn't dilute any aspect of the toll his undercover act (a sprawling long-term investigation that penetrated deeper into the gang than any other) took on his life. A family guy who frequently finds himself taking calls from his worried wife while in the middle of an operation, Dobyns is brutally honest about how far his assignment takes him into the dark side and leaves the impression at the end that it's highly unlikely he will ever be able to totally return to undercover work (Hunter S. Thompson was beaten up while writing his 1967 take on the gang in Hell's Angels). From the medieval desert clan gatherings to breakneck-paced highway odysseys and high-noon showdowns, this is the real deal from an agent whose knack for the job and ability to transform it into elucidating reading recalls the story of Joe Pistone, aka Donnie Brasco. (Feb.)
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From Booklist

This story of a two-year undercover investigation of the Arizona Hells Angels begins at the end and then backs up to tell the whole story. Dobyns, an officer with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, developed an addiction for the adrenaline rush after being shot and nearly killed during an arrest. In a harrowing first-person account, Dobyns describes his double life as family man and gun trader during the two years he spent undercover investigating the Hells Angels motorcycle gang. As he advanced within the club, eventually earning a “full patch,” he became more estranged from his family and more enmeshed in the violence of his persona, “Bird.” Feared and respected, the Angels were granted free drinks, sex, and drugs but held to a high level of conformity within the club. Dobyns details the “time, commitment, trust, risk, and money” it took for the ATF to penetrate a highly closed group populated by violent felons—some, like him, with families and day jobs. A fascinating look at the Hells Angels and the price one man paid for infiltrating the gang. --Vanessa Bush
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; 1St Edition edition (February 10, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307405850
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307405852
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (328 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #272,401 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I remember thinking, years ago, when I first heard about this case, "Man, that'd make a heck of a good book!" And it did.

I'm not going to rehash the plot line, several of the other reviews have covered that nicely. What I will say is that the book holds your attention through every page, only slowing down as you realize that the case is coming to an end. I read the whole thing during one Saturday spent waiting for my daughter to finish her dance lessons - it is that interesting a book.

What always amazes me in these true stories (I'm in the middle of reading William Queen's Under and Alone) is how these hyper-paranoid outlaws are repeatedly infiltrated by guys who, essentially, just show up and hang around. If I were looking to setup an OMC (outlaw motorcycle club) I'd have a hard-rule: you must commit a serious felony in our presence - one arranged by the club. They'd still get infiltrated, it'd just be a little harder.

And another point it's not always clear to me is what exactly the 81's are doing that amounts to serious big time crime. I understand that they're violent, use drugs, work hard at being social outcasts, etc., but in this story, most of the crimes depicted amount to selling one or two guns at a time, some drugs and random acts of violence. After having read of the massive and profitable drug operations mounted by the Hells Angels' Canadian chapters I'd expected some of that here.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Captivating from the first page, NO ANGEL thrusts the reader into the inner world of the outlaw motorcycle gang, the Hells Angels. This is the story of an obsessed man, who with the all-or-nothing mentality in his makeup becomes the first undercover law enforcement agent to penetrate this notorious group.

The story is conveyed with brutal honesty. Jay Dobyns, using the alias "Bird" relies not only on his memories of the two year ATF case known as "Black Biscuit," but also on surveillance tapes and transcripts. They help provide detailed dialog between the operatives and their suspects. He puts you in the dark rooms, smoke-filled clubhouses, beer-soaked bars and inky tattoo parlors as you witness his transformation from a sandy-haired football star and all-American dad to a scary looking dude with a braided goatee. He becomes Bird.

He also becomes a patched Hells Angel, sacrificing everything dear to him in the process: his family, his friends, and nearly his soul. In a moment, however, just before the case shuts down, he experiences a revelation. It's not merely about the good and evil among the Hells Angels or in himself, it was the basic understanding this "brotherhood" was "nothing more than a support group for misunderstood loners held together by hate and money." Immersed in this HATE for so long, he ultimately casts it aside for everything he LOVES, and expresses this personal epiphany with tremendous humility. In spite of a disappointing outcome for Black Biscuit and his exposure as an undercover agent, this makes Jay a hero, and makes NO ANGEL a story worth reading.

There are many characters on both sides of the law and a slew of unfamiliar terminology and acronyms, but photos, glossaries maps and lists are provided to guide the reader. Very well done.

Michele Cozzens is the author of Irish Twins
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Format: Hardcover
This is a good book written from the first person perspective of undercover ATF Agent Jay Dobyns. The operation "Black Biscuit" was a lengthy and vastly expensive attempt to infiltrate the Hells Angels in Arizona. The operation was a success from the operative's perspective, but in reality it was a huge waste of tax dollars, which became evident when the case fell apart during prosecution. The most interesting aspect of the book was the internal struggle within Dobyn's life as he tries to balance his undercover role with that of a career law enforcement officer and family man. Dobyns also struggles with the fact that he identifies with and truly likes many of the Hells Angels he is targeting and deceiving everyday. Dobyns does not try to paint himself as a hero and admits to many mistakes, which gives the book credibility.
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Format: Hardcover
The book paints a very different picture than the documentary about the same investigation. The documentary interviewed the bikers and naturally their views and memories were different than Dobyns. The documentary states that the huge investigation netted little in the way of convictions and prison time, something the book seems to gloss over.

Its obvious Dobyns has a very high confidence level, which is required in undercover work. Its also obvious he liked the biker lifestyle more than his real life. I think the writing leaves a lot to be desired, many parts read like a cheap detective novel in particular when the author(s) are describing what someone ate and the manner in which they did so.

On the positive side, its an interesting subject. An entertainnig an quick read. I would have like more details about the Laughlin bloodbath since Dobyns and other people in the book were there. I thought Under and Alone was a far better book though.
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