Updated: Apr 28, 2019
Today we are talking true crime, and the book I want to talk about today is No Angel: My Harrowing Undercover Journey to the Inner Circle of the Hells Angels by Jay Dobyns and Nils Johnson-Shelton.
I remember seeing a special about this story with Jay Dobyns, on one of those crime talk shows, and when I saw this book I really wanted to pick it up and give it a try.
Jay Dobbins is a veteran undercover agent with over two decades of experience. In 2002, he became a part of “Operation Black Biscuit”, which was a two year undercover investigation to infiltrate the Hells Angels put on by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms(ATF)
Ultimately, the investigation lead to multiple indictments, but many were overturned due to in government squabbling and general lack of evidence. Which was, as you can imagine, extremely upsetting for everyone who was involved and risked physical harm while undergoing this case.
Honestly, I loved this book. Jay Dobyns is a fantastic narrator, and he does such a great job at transcribing his memories of the events on to the page, and I think that is in part to the other contributing author Nils Johnson Shelton.
Now, I will say I have no experience whatsoever in the bueracratic government, or working as an undercover agent. So, what I liked about this book was that you didn’t have to have any of that knowledge to understand what is happening. Dobyns does a great job explaining without turning it into a monologue.
So many things were interesting about his undercover experience in general. It’s easy to track how his mindset changed from beginning to end. He started off as a family man doing a job. He ended with this becoming an obsession in his life before the investigation ended. And you can really see that change happen as the book progresses.
Now, once again, as this is under the category of “true crime”, we have to question exactly how true this book was. I feel like, from Dobyn’s perspective, this book stays pretty close to the truth. He includes video and audio transcripts that do give it a feel of authenticity.
However, we do have to acknowledge the bias. Here, we have an undercover agent looking at these people and their lives, trying to find the absolute worst things about them in order to make this investigation successful. That is their job, to find out how they can send them to jail while making it seem like they are a reliable and trustworthy source.
Does that excuse any criminal activity on their part? Of course not. But, seeing them from Dobyn’s perspective limits them as people. We only really see them as one dimensional bad guys. I would have loved to know more about the actual Hells Angels that he interacted with. Their backgrounds, more information about the group as a whole, everything that would show that they are people isn’t here.
Looking at it from that perspective, the book is a little disappointing.
Overall, I think this book is interesting. I think that it is a great starting point for those who are interested in the Hells Angels. Another book that I would recommend is Hells Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga, which goes more into the organization itself and how it was founded.
So, I would love to know what you think of this book. Do you think that it’s an accurate portrayal of undercover investigations, or does it feel like it’s lacking something that other tell all true crime books have? I’d love to know your opinion in the comments down below.