Bloody Justice, by Anita Arvast is the third published book about the so called “Bandidos Massacre,” also known as “The Shedden Massacre,” in Ontario in April 2006. It was the largest mass murder in Canada since the 18th Century. Six men who yearned to be Bandidos murdered eight men who also yearned to be Bandidos in hopes of someday becoming real members of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club – and also because there was a bad moon that night. You can read The Aging Rebel’s coverage of the verdict here.
The architect of this crime was an edgy eccentric named Wayne Kellestine. Either Will Ferrell or Nick Nolte can play Kellestine in the inevitable movie. Kellestine seems to have thought the murders would help him become Presidente of all Canadian Bandidos. This was after the real Bandidos mother chapter in Texas had already told the club’s Canadian admirers to stop calling themselves Bandidos. A truthful movie would probably have both Ferrell and Nolte play the fool who would be king and feature at least a couple of scenes of Kellestine arguing with himself.
Arvast’s book was preceded by two instant books published days after the verdict. The Fat Mexican: The Bloody Rise of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club, was written by the reptilian, professional informant Alex Caine. (Read a review of Caine’s book here.) The Bandidos Massacre: A True Story of Bikers, Brotherhood and Betrayal by Toronto Star reporter Peter Edwards appeared the same day. (Read a review of Edward’s book here.) Of these three books, Arvast’s is by far the best. It was published last month by Wiley.
Arvast is a Professor of Literature and Cultural Studies at Georgian College in Ontario. She got sick of writing for an academic audience in 2008. Her previous published work includes titles like “A Post-Modern Exploration of Community College Formal Curriculum Reviews.” At the same time she, like most of Canada, was fascinated by the massacre. So Arvast began to examine that criminal case the same way a good scholar might examine anything – with skepticism and curiosity. She attended the trial, read the public documents and began visiting with the youngest of the accused, a man named Brett Gardiner, for whom she developed a genuine affection and sympathy. The result of all that, four years later, is this interesting book. The wonder is that her book was published at all. Now that it is in print her publisher seems to have written it off. You should not.
Ernest Hemingway remarked that the one thing any writer needs is the ability to smell bullshit. Arvast, who obviously has great gaps in her knowledge of the outlaw world, at least knows what police bullshit smells like.
I picked up the book skeptically. Arvast won me over in an early passage that reads:
“Nazi paraphernalia does not connote Nazi sympathies; the flags, symbols and songs serve to express a rejection of society and particularly its policing. Legal officials are systematically seen (by bikers) as soldiers of anti-civilian regimes, whereas bikers are freedom fighters. In fact, it (the motorcycle outlaw frontier) is in some ways a highly complex culture of civil libertarians that is ironically paramilitary, though it is rarely depicted as such by the media or understood as such by the general public.”
Granted, lightening bolts on cuts disappeared forever sometime in the mid-90s, but Arvast’s interpretation of those post World War II symbols seemed to me to be particularly astute for a woman who has probably never heard the phrase “the sheeple.” So I read on.
Arvast’s observations are so much more true than those of the usual, federally approved biker authorities – like Edwards, Caine, Kerrie Droban, Julien Sher, William Marsden, Billy Slow Brain Queen or Jay Bird Dobyns – that you should read a few of them now.
On press coverage of bikers Arvast writes “…beneath the headlines, beyond the sound bites, and between the reports, there are always stories that don’t get told.”
About the key snitch in the case she writes: “The jury members would not know about the many incongruities in (confidential informant) MH’s statements from his first accounts through preliminary trial to the final trial. Instead the jury members were overwhelmed with information throughout the trial. They would miss the nuances. They would not be given the opportunity to think through MH’s participation…. MH should have been with his brothers in that courtroom instead of facing them from the stand. He should have been facing eight counts of first degree murder instead of spinning tales. He should have been going to jail instead of getting a new identity and a paycheque every month. Love ya, bro. Get under the bus.”
She raises a question about Kellestine that nobody else has thought to ask. “Why hadn’t Kellestine taken the stand? As a biker in his mid-60s and with the certainty of death in the penitentiary either by the hands of time or other inmates, he could have admitted his culpability and saved a few brothers.”
It has become a convention for hacks who write about bikers to present themselves as heroes who faced great danger to tell their tales. Arvast is more honest than that. She writes, “Many friends have asked if I fear for my life at the hands of bikers. I do not. I have instead feared a system wherein those who come before it are assumed guilty and need to be proven innocent.”
Caine And Edwards
The Bandidos Massacre, which in fact involved not a single Bandido in good standing, fascinated the Canadian public because of its luridness. Citizens were particularly dumb founded by the lack of a plausible motive other than madness. So the other authors who have written about the case found a motive. In their books about this massacre, both Edwards and Caine, have stated that one of the would-be Bandidos had stumbled onto a cache of cocaine belonging to “the Hells Angels.” So, the killings either resulted from an attempt to make peace with the great, generalized “Hells Angels” or were actually committed by unnamed Angels.
Arvast reveals that this cocaine theft is an invention of Alex Caine. Caine was, among other things, an associate of Jay Dobyns in Bullhead City during Operation Black Biscuit. At the time Caine was calling himself “Q-Bob.” Caine was hired as an investigator by one of the defense lawyers in the Shedden case. Caine took his pay and made up another of his fantastic tales. And so in his 474 page book Edwards just assumes Caine must have been telling the truth. Arvast is the only chronicler of this case to question this drug theft motive.
She is sometimes wrong, particularly in her characterizations of the Hells Angels, but Arvast is right most of the time. Her book is an example of what happens when somebody bright takes a fresh look at outlaw bikers and what the criminal justice system does to them. You should oppose police propaganda and support the telling of truth by buying Arvast’s book. You can get a copy here.