Straightforward account of the transnational rise of outlaw motorcycle gangs since the 1980s.
British true-crime author Thompson (Reefer Men: The Rise and Fall of a Billionaire Drug Ring, 2007, etc.) relies on interviews with Daniel “Snake Dog” Boone, a British member of the Warwickshire Pagans, a small club eventually absorbed by the Outlaws, one of the “big 3” along with the Banditos and the Hell’s Angels (the Outlaws’ bitter foes). Boone’s personal story forms Thompson’s primary narrative, but he also provides a broader journalistic canvas to explain how these clubs evolved from “an innocent throwback to the sixties” to criminal gangs involved in drugs, prostitution and violence. Yet, Boone claims that they were merely a group of jovial motorcycle-riding tough guys until they became involved in a bloody turf war. Simultaneously, the Hell’s Angels were steadily increasing their influence in Canada, Australia and elsewhere by persuading smaller clubs to “patch over.” Instead, the Pagans and other small English gangs formed a confederation, which they called the Outlaws; Boone disingenuously asserts that they failed to consider that this name alone would guarantee war with the Angels. Years of hostilities in Europe followed, including notorious bombings and shootings, leading the “American Outlaw Association” to offer an alliance. Boone and his associates learned of the benefits reaped by the major gangs, including profits from drug trafficking and from sponsoring purportedly mainstream motorcycle rallies. However, Thompson also documents their descent into vicious criminality, assaulting any rival gang member on sight or arranging drive-by shootings; he even includes a chapter on the bikers’ unsavory fondness for sexual assault. Overall, Thompson’s approach is more lucid and less fevered than other recent books on this topic, but this only underscores the depraved nature of this otherwise romanticized subculture.
Will satisfy true-crime buffs wondering what seamy secrets lie behind the bikers’ vows of brotherhood and silence.