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Book Review: The Brotherhoods: Inside The Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs by Arthur Veno

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Believe it or not, those mean, bad-ass outlaw motorcyclists that scare the piss out of middle America are referred to as “bikies” in Australia. I think if you went up to a member of the Hell’s Angels in the U.S. and called him a “bikie” you would get your ass whipped pronto. But that is about the only difference between the biker gang member down under from any of his brothers around the world.

Professor Arthur Veno has been studying the outlaw bikie phenomenon since 1981, and has been granted remarkable access by the Aussie clubs over the years. His new book The Brotherhoods: Inside The Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs is the result of his research, and provides a fascinating insight into their world.

The obvious comparison would be to Hunter S. Thompson’s 1966 Hell’s Angels: A Strange And Terrible Saga. But they are two fundamentally different books. Where Thompson got inside the club out and rode with the Angels, Veno takes a different approach. Although it is obvious that he has gotten to know some members well enough to be trusted with certain things, he is always an outsider.

The Brotherhoods certainly does not shy away from the subjects that make the outlaw bike culture so dangerously intriguing. With chapters such as “Bombs And Bastardry,” “On The Nose: Clubs And Drugs,” and “Chicks And Ol’ Ladies,” there are plenty of examples of outrageous behavior. The book has a definite voyeur appeal. While most of us do not wish to live the life, it is fascinating to view from a distance.

The look of The Brotherhoods is particularly appealing, for it is filled with pictures. It is so beautifully put together, with a faux leather cover, and tons of photos as to make a great coffee-table book. The tea and crumpets crowd would probably salivate over it too.

Ever since The Wild One film, and the emergence of the Hell’s Angels, the outlaw bike culture has seemed to be a strictly American affair. The Brotherhoods shows us that the lifestyle has permeated every corner of the globe. It is a captivating study with some amazing photographs, and definitely worth a look.

About Greg Barbrick