Tuesday, June 14, 2005

18. Hell's Witness by Daniel Sanger

Hell's Witness book pictureI met the author of this book at a book-signing for another book. It turned out that he worked with my sister at Saturday Night and also wrote the article that really motivated me to watch FUBAR. He's a big FUBAR fan and we had a good conversation about that. He's also an investigative journalist who wrote an award-winning article about the biker wars in Quebec. That article, specifically about Dany Kane, the informant who mysteriously killed himself when his information led to a massive sweep of biker arrests, turned into this book.

Hell's Witness is structured around Danny Kane, his struggle to rise in the Hell's Angels and his relationships with the RCMP. It's written in a very straightforward style and structured basically in a straight line. Despite the details of biker excess, it's written with such a sober, journalistically legit style that I found a lot of it a bit dry. There isn't a lot of life breathed into these characters. On the other hand, that approach lends it a lot of credibility and there is no exaggeration or hyperbole, something I'm sure a lot of true crime books suffer from.

He spends a lot of time looking at the behaviour of the various police forces and they do not come off well. They seem to get so caught up in their missions that they lose sight of their real role. The money they spent on Kane compared to the results they got is questionable at best and Sanger does a great job of laying out these weird and complex situations where the RCMP is actively working against the courts to get a murderer acquitted or his case dismissed because he's the main key to their larger case.

Also, if you, as a western canadian, ever had the sense that french-canadians are wimpy, this book will break down that stereotype. Most of the Angels are french-canadians and they are more than just badasses. They really seem just nuts. They are constantly calling hits on each other and are quite creative with their methods. Bombing, hammering, chopping off body parts, all part of a day's work to these guys!