'If it's a good ride, there's nothing like it ... you and the machine become one ... It gets to the point on the edge of a hard ride where there is a balance between taking your machine further and a fear of dying. Managing that space is real freedom.'
Riding like there's no tomorrow on the open road, the wind in your face, handling a powerful and responsive machine - you can't get that sort of freedom in a car. Bikies consider themselves 'the last free people in society', unconstrained by the regulations that rule ordinary citizens. And they guard their privacy jealously.
This book is sub-titled "Inside the Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs" and it reads as written by somebody who has sort of got inside the Outlaw Motorcycle clubs but isn't really. The author is an academic who has made a reputation studying Outlaw Motorcyle Clubs and as an "official" observer of their activities. He has performed this role as "official" observer on a number of major motorcyle runs - reporting on both the bikies and police activities.
Interesting as an observational report both from the point of view of the policing strategies used in various locations, and from the clubs who started out as on the fringes of "society" and now finding themselves increasing less influential as Outlaws.
UNDERBELLY 6 - Andrew Rule and John Silvester
I'm overdosing on the Underbelly series a bit at the moment, using them as fillers between some hefty Crime Fiction tomes, and why not. In Underbelly 6 the authors take you thought the disappearance of a wife, mother and ex-TV game show model, a bit about the stitch up of the Mickelberg brothers, the slow poisoning death of a husband in Bendigo, the inexplicable death of a policeman and a range of other snippets. The tongue in cheek style of the authors just appeals.
THE SOCIETY MURDERS - Hilary Bonney
Why was Melbourne so fascinated by the Wales-King murders. For the longest time, reporters went absolutely berserk, almost stalking the family for pictures and quotations. From the time the Margaret Wales-King and her husband Paul King went missing, the rumour mill went into overdrive and every utterance of anyone even remotely connected with the case was plastered all over the pages of every newspaper in town.
The reason I wanted to read this book is to see if Hilary Bonney answered this question, and ultimately, she asked the same question. As the author states in the conclusion to the book, there are 340 murders in Australia (on average). Twelve of these victims are parents killed by their children, of these, five are mothers.
At the same time that the Wales-King case was being plastered all over the newspapers, a nearly identical set of circumstances were being played out in Altona, when a 39-year old fitter and turner killed his Italian born mother and father, again for money. No major headlines, no intense media interest and no "walking tours of their Altona" as there were of Wales-King Armadale.
Makes you wonder about us doesn't it.
UNDERBELLY 9 - Andrew Rule and John Silvester
The UNDERBELLY series is a set of shortish books written by journalists Silvester and Rule covering various events in the criminal underworld of Victoria in particular.
Underbelly 9 covers the shooting of Andrew Veniamin by Mick Gatto, and Gatto's subsequent trial and aquittal, the case of a serial stalker, abalone poachers, the death of a woman and her daughter at the hands of her husband and a number of other stories.
All of these stories are told with Silvester and Rule's classic irreverant, tell it as we see it style.
HODDLE STREET: THE AMBUSH AND THE TRAGEDY - Peter Haddow
This was published some considerable time ago, but for some reason in the last few weeks I've been drawn towards some True Crime books. This was a particularly harrowing read, all about the events of Hoddle Street in 1987 - told as short snippets from the viewpoint of many of the people involved - the dead, the injured and the police desperate to get the manic situation under control. I think it was that method of telling the story that made it all the more stark. Excellent book to give you a true feeling for how the unimaginable and unexpected affects everyone.
PACKING DEATH - Lachlan McCulloch
This is the true crime story of (then) Detective Senior Constable Lachlan McCulloch and the undercover operation he ran to crack the notorious Pettingill family drug trafficking network in the immediate aftermath of the not-guilty verdicts handed down to members of that family for the execution style murder of two young police constables. McCulloch worked with two female informers over a long period of time, generating a lot of taped surveillance and drug deals to build up a case which resulted in over 15 major convictions. Underneath the flippant and light style of the writing is the story of a very very scary experience.
True Crime written by the real thing - an undercover cop with many many years of experience.
CULT KILLERS - Frank Moorhouse
In CULT KILLERS , Frank Moorhouse brings together a diverse group of killers all with connections to Satanism in its various forms. He tells their stories, from their childhoods to their eventual fate
Beginning with a short history of the characters responsible for the rise of 20th century interest in Satanism and the Occult , Moorhouse then visits the usual suspects: Charles Manson, David (Son of Sam) Berkowitz, The Chicago Rippers, and Richard Ramirez (The Night Stalker). These had me rolling my eyes and thinking that there was nothing in the book that couldn’t be found on the internet and that the author was simply rehashing what had gone before and trying to link them, often tenuously, with Satanism. Something the tabloid newspapers already do very well.
The second half of the book, however, was much more interesting. This deals with more recent murders where the killers were nearly all troubled teenagers. Yes, we all know about Manson, but how about Vard Vikernes (Count Grishnackh), a young Norwegian man who was deeply involved in the Black Metal music scene? And have you ever heard of Hendrik Mobus? Another Black Metal enthusiast. There is also the vampire-obsessed Nico Claux convicted of murdering a gay man in Paris and suspected of murdering even more. Claux served his time and has now forged a career for himself painting serial killers. He even has his own website http://www.nicolasclaux.com/ Charming! .
The last few chapters in the book are more tragic than frightening. They deal with teenagers who seemed to have little chance in life but whose fate took them down the path to killing. The final biography features a troubled young Scottish man, Luke Mitchell, whom the author feels was a victim of media and community hysteria. He isn’t completely convinced of the young man’s guilt.
In the final chapter Moorhouse offers his thoughts on what has happened in society to create these teenage murderers. He blames a number of things: the politics of greed, globalisation and the subsequent closure of high-employment industries. This puts more pressure on already struggling families. Then there is the erosion of wages and conditions forcing parents to work longer and longer hours . Add to that the gradual cutting in funding of education etc which has cut-off one way of escaping their situation. He admits that isn’t the whole picture, but feels it goes some way to explaining the phenomenon of teenage killers.
After a slow start I found CULT KILLERS a fascinating look at the dysfunctional world of many teenagers in today’s society. It does offer explanations for some of the killings and perhaps some solutions, but whether there is the political will to change things is another question entirely.
CONNECTIONS - Bob Bottom
Race fixing, illegal gambling, wildlife smuggling, drugs, shoplifting, phone taps, money laundering, murder and corruption. Our convict past is not far away!
CONNECTIONS as a copyright notice in it of 1985 so that makes it over 20 years old, so what made reading this particularly startling is the way that whilst some things have changed, many many others haven't. This book takes you back through some of the standard methods of operation of Organised Crime figures in Australia, along with an outline of the big "crime" families that were around in those days.
Sure sending drugs into invalid addresses via Australia Post, so that your accomplice on the inside can grab the envelopes might not be so easy these days, as is wholesale smuggling out of wild birds, many many of the standard activities of the crims are still around, slightly modified for today's climate but the routs, crimes and killings go on.
Interesting read from an historical perspective if nothing else.
THE DEVIL'S JUMP - Peter Doyle
An Australian crime writer with spunk, Peter Doyle takes us to Billy Glasheen's early days in post war Sydney. An apprentice luck merchant, Billy's boss disappears leaving him holding the bag ... and leading him into the seedier, dirtier side of Sydney life. Peter Doyle is the author of the Ned Kelly Award-winning novels Get Rich Quick and Amaze Your Friends and this is another smart, bold and sassy crime thriller.
Another book from the local books pile that I've been catching up on lately - The Devil's Jump is from the same author that wrote GET RICH QUICK (which won the Ned Kelly for Best First Crime Novel in 1997) and AMAZE YOUR FRIENDS (which won the Ned Kelly for Best Crime Novel in 1999).
THE DEVIL'S JUMP is set in Sydney at the end of the Second World War - in fact the blurb on the book says "The war in the Pacific is over... The war on the streets has just begun". It's the story of Billy Glasheen - local lad and (in the author's words) apprentice lurk merchant. Billy's not exactly a bad lad, but he is inclined to find the easiest path. Never part of the Armed Forces (bit of a medical problem) Billy's been mixed up with a local hood for a while now. Returning Servicemen, including his brother, looking to settle down into civilian life, get a job and get on with life the right way, doesn't really appeal to him - if there's a bit of a scheme going on and some easy money to be had, Billy just can't help himself. When his boss, Toohey goes missing it seems that a list of members of a slightly questionable Political group is being offered around for sale, and Toohey is the last person known to have the register. Given that Billy has sort of stepped into a lot of Toohey's activities since his disappearance a lot of people decide that it's only logical that Billy has the register. Only he doesn't.
THE DEVIL'S JUMP has a really realistic post Second World War feel to it - from the characterisations (Robert Menzies even makes a cameo appearance), the terminology, the lurks that Billy gets up to (in this case lurk is a slang term for pursuit / goings on / avocation legal or illegal, such as in the phrase 'that's a good lurk' ;) ) Of course, for some, the terminology could create a slight air of confusion but if anybody's watched Dad's Army it should be a doddle :)