Jerry Langton’s official blurb on the Macmillan Publisher’ website notes that the crime author has “spent a lot of time in sewers meeting with rats face-to-face.” Oops, he did it again. This time with HarperCollins and in collaboration with an ex-Hells Angel named Dave Atwell.
Langton, who used to work for the New York Daily News and now lives in Canada, has written five previous biker books including Outlaw Biker: The Russian Connection; Dead Biker; Biker: Inside the Notorious World of an Outlaw Motorcycle Gang; Showdown: How the Outlaws, Hells Angels and Cops Fought for Control of the Street;; and Fallen Angel: The Unlikely Rise of Walter Stadnick and the Canadian Hells Angels.
This one is called Hard Way Out: My Life with the Hells Angels and Why I Turned Against Them, and it is currently the 13th best selling book in all categories on Amazon. Atwell already anticipates making “a movie out of all this,” starring Bruce Willis and Tom Cruise. So this probably isn’t going to be the last time you hear about this book.
Atwell grew up in suburban Toronto. He became a bouncer and a bodyguard. He liked motorcycles and joined the Para-Dice Riders. When that club patched over to the Hells Angels Atwell came along with them. Eventually he became the sergeant at arms for one of the Angels’ Toronto charters.
Atwell and Langton describe his transformation into a spy like this:
“…after the patch-over, after I became a Hells Angel…. I had no career – unless you count being a criminal – I had been behind bars, I had disrupted the lives of everyone I cared about and I had to break up with a woman I really cared about because my being in the club had endangered her career. I had become a bum surrounded by bums. It wasn’t fun. I wasn’t rich. I had had enough.
“I wanted out. I knew it wouldn’t be easy. I couldn’t just quit. Then I would just be an ex-Hells Angel whose name had been in every newspaper. In the media, I was convicted. It didn’t matter that the charges were stayed. That might make looking for a job tough. I had no skills other than security, and nobody would hire me for that because of my affiliation with the club.”
“…a guy I knew and trusted from my security days introduced me to a pair of Mounties, and we set up a meeting. They told me they wanted me to inform for them. You know, tell them exactly how the club operated, who was selling dope, that kind of thing. I was surprised that they didn’t offer me a big cash reward, just a few hundred bucks here and there.
“They also pointed out that if I was arrested, they would not acknowledge any relationship with me, meaning that I was totally on my own. If the club found out I was telling the feds what they were up to, there would be nobody to come to my rescue. It was essentially a death sentence.”
Atwell cooperated, He claims to have been “the highest-ranking member in the world to co-operate with the law. He became part of a prosecution that led to 169 charges against 31 people.”
Atwell and the Angels were always a poor fit. He told Macleans magazine the other day, “My sponsors at the Para-Dice Riders had to vouch for me, or else I never would’ve been accepted. I don’t have what it takes to become a member of an established chapter of Hells Angels.” What it takes, according to Atwell is, “That predator instinct and natural criminality – people who can take advantage of things like the fentanyl epidemic in Canada. They’re feeding it.”
“You wake up every day and worry about two things,” Atwell told the Canadian news magazine, “ how not to get caught and how to stay a Hells Angel. Getting your patch is hard, but keeping it is harder. It’s so political. Guys start smear campaigns and try to get you kicked out over petty things. There’s jealousy between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots.’ Some of them were living in backyard sheds, some were making a fortune. You have to pay club dues to buy into the clubhouse and help sell the supporters’ gear, like T-shirts, which makes a lot of money. We drove all around the province, even in pouring rain, for mandatory parties. It was very corporate. There were chapter meetings with catering and high security. Someone took minutes. Within two years of the patch-over, it wasn’t about riding your motorcycle and partying anymore. It was about being a cog in a money-making wheel.”
If you want to read more you can buy Hard Way Out printed in either ink or electrons wherever true crime literary crap is sold.