While I was inhaling all books by the great one, Kristen Ashley, I also had time to try out a couple of autobiographies. Understand, this is a big deal for me. I’m a fiction girl. My non-fiction reading usually doesn’t go past a Wikipedia page, but as I finished up a couple of Motorcycle Club romances, I decided I should find out what a real outlaw MC was like. Once decided, I quickly found two on Amazon that looked interesting: Under and Alone by William Queen and Hunter Thompson’s Hells Angels. Truthfully, I’ve only read Queen’s book so far, but, WOW, what an eye opener.
Queen, an ATF special agent, spent two years undercover with the Mongols, an outlaw MC in California. In that time he not only investigated them, but became a fully patched member, going through every humiliating task they set for him. From what I’ve gathered in my research, it’s pretty damn hard to become a full member of this MC. The humiliating tasks aside, it’s the illegal and immoral sexual acts that make this a daunting endeavor. That Queen accomplished this while lying about who he was is amazing. The book chronicles club activities, both legal and illegal. Queen tells of how often he feared for his life when it seemed his cover was blown. He glosses over most instances of illegalities and never mentions whether he “earned” any of the special rockers members wore on their cuts after committing a sexual act, which could include rape (though he does mention the close call he had when the potential for rape occurred). He partied with murderers and drug addicts, gun and drug runners.
He had almost no contact with his family (divorced, two young sons). In the end he got the ATF 40 convictions and the Mongols got national notoriety. For me, the thing that humanized Queen for me, is that he recognized that after 2 years with this group of men he had built a brotherhood and felt heartache at his “betrayal” of them. He was able to convey that with his words throughout the book, drawing the reader in, resulting in empathy for these men for the trust and brotherhood they gave to him.
Of course, Under and Alone is just one example of life in an MC. I recently read a quote that said (paraphrasing) “There’s being an outlaw and then there’s lawlessness. An outlaw lives outside the law, but still has a code. Lawlessness is just that: without law.” I thought this highlighted the difference between what I saw in Under and Alone versus the tales of brotherhood and love that I read in MC romance.
My other great love in romance is the Rock Star/Rock and Roll sub-genre. I had recently watched History of the Eagles (self-explanatory) and fell in love with the story of their journey. One day while wandering the aisles of my local used bookstore (frequent event) I came across It’s So Easy and Other Lies by Duff McKagan. As I was married by 1988 and never really got into punk rock or 80s rock, I had no idea who McKagan was, but bought the book anyway. The bass player for the infamous Guns N’Roses, McKagan is a fantastic writer among many other talents. His tale of rock and roll hell is one I’ll never forget.
Honestly, I had no idea how absolutely insane and out of control GN’R was. I knew their songs Paradise City and Sweet Child of Mine, but that was it. These guys partied hard, rocked hard, and screwed up better than anyone I’ve ever read about. McKagan was a self-professed alcoholic from a young age, alcohol the only way he knew how to deal with his chronic panic attacks. He tried drugs for the first time while still in middle school. He was playing in bands and in front of audiences before he turned 16. He was at the heart of the 80s music scene in L.A. and saw it all. He lost good friends to heroin and developed a recipe for a vodka-cocaine combo that would get him through every performance. And, as GN’R imploded, his addiction became worse, ending with his pancreas exploding shortly after he turned 30. It saved his life.
McKagan’s writing style is easy to read and leaves the reader truly feeling like they know him. As someone who has suffered from terrible, life-altering experiences that changed my life for the better, I could easily relate to his experience. More so, I found that the way he handled himself following his low point to be inspirational. If you’re searching for a good look into the music industry (he covers everything from writing music to the business end) I’d highly recommend It’s So Easy.