Under and Alone
William McQueen

Before reading Under and Alone by William McQueen, I thought the Hell’s Angels was the baddest of the bad ass outlaw motorcycle gangs. It turns out that beginning in the 70’s a 17-year turf war was waged between the San Bernadino based Hell’s Angels and a gang of East L.A. Chicano bikers known as the Mongols. The Mongols kicked the Angels’ asses.

The Mongols became associated with arson, theft, drugdealing, shake-downs, and above all, violence. It was hard to make any charges stick because witnesses developed amnesia or disappeared, as did evidence in the custody of police, (bought off by the Mongols).

Enter Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Fire arms agent William McQueen, who had worked for the bureau in under cover operations before. In an investigation that would last 2½ years, McQueen was able to infiltrate the Mongols’ World as biker Billy St.John, drinking, fighting and riding shoulder to shoulder with them first as a pledge, and eventually as Treasurer of the California chapter.

The life of a pledge is worth little or nothing to the Mongols. Failure to perform any request from a brother Mongol, let alone if there was any suspicion of the pledge not being who he said he was resulted in, at the least, a beating and expulsion from the club, or—the final solution—a bullet in the back.

This could have been just another undercover story but this is what kept this book on the New York Times Bestseller List for several weeks: Agent McQueen puts us in his shoes. You feel the fear he lived with every day for 2½ years. You also feel the loneliness of the under cover agent. He could talk only to Agent John Ciccone, his contact at the Bureau who had his back.

He eventually lost his girl friend because of neglect, and his sons and ex-wife had to be entered into the witness protection program and be moved half-way across the country.
We also feel the acceptance and camaraderie of belonging—even if it was to an outlaw motorcycle gang. Seeing all those Harleys lined up for a run, hearing the roaring thunder, being part of something bigger than himself-we see it all through his eyes.
When the woman who raised McQueen passes away, it’s the Mongols, not the ATF agents, who hug him, offer him condolences, and who understand his loss.

This is just one of many reasons why the lines between where his duties lie becomes blurred. At the end of 2½ years, he is tired. He still has to keep up the lie every day, or be killed. Yet he feels a kinship, a brotherhood in the Mongols, that he doesn’t with the ATF agents. He also knows that the Bureau is pressing for results.

At the New Year’s Day run, lined up with 100 or so Harleys, going on the annual ride, biker Billy St. John feels like he could just ride off with them and never look back.
He realized then that it was time for Agent William McQueen to call an end to the operation.
Fifty-four convictions resulted from his undercover operation. The Mongols placed a bounty on his head. He went into seclusion for several months, but now is making the rounds of the talk shows and has signed a deal for the book to be made into a movie.
Some will read this as a tale of bravery above and beyond the call. Others will read it because of our perennial fascination with outlaw motorcycle gangs. I recommend this book as a good read dealing with the eternal struggle between the difficulty of choosing good over the seduction of evil


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