William Queen’s Under and Alone: The True Story of the Undercover Agent Who Infiltrated America’s Most Violent Outlaw Motorcycle Gang knocked me right out. If you’ve never read a memoir before, you could do a lot worse than to start here.
Queen is a former undercover agent with the ATF who had worked many deep cover cases before he joined up with The Mongols–an outlaw biker gang so fierce that even the Hell’s Angels know to fear them. But the two and a half years Queen spent posing as the rough-and-tumble Billy St. John proved to be the most difficult and riskiest case of his career.
The Mongols are known for their predilection towards violence, gun running, murders with witnesses who refuse to talk, and willful misuse and abuse of theirs and other people’s women. They make no pretenses towards respectability like the Hell’s Angels, rather they encourage their reputation as outlaws by brandishing their colors openly and not giving two figs who sees them do their thing. They’re not in it for the profit, they’re in it just to do whatever the #@$% they want.
I should mention that the book is (bullet) ridden with profanity. Usually, I’m fairly well bothered by profanity. But, the way Queen presents it, it’s just part of the texture of the despicable world he inhabited in the name of justice. Queen endured a lot to bring down a sizable chunk of the Mongols organization (which he likens in size and scope to the Mafia), and somehow that made it easier for me to accept the frequently rough language his antagonists use.
The story is remarkable and thrillingly told. Queen knows how to reduce a story down to its bare bones and pace it in such a way that you absolutely cannot wait to see what happens next. As someone who prefers books that don’t get bogged down in detail, I appreciated his spare approach.
I probably wouldn’t have believed the story was true unless the cover told me so. Under and Alone reads like a page turning novel–which is just about the highest compliment I can give a memoir.