PERSONAL: Married; children: two sons. Education: Holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
CAREER: Writer, federal agent, police officer, lecturer, consultant, and undercover operative. U.S. Department of the Treasury, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, special agent. City of High Point, police officer; U.S. Border Patrol officer. Military service: U.S. Army, served in Vietnam; received Silver Star.
AWARDS, HONORS: Medal of Valor, Federal Bar Association, 2001, for undercover work; Director’s Award, U.S. Department of Justice; Robert Faulkner Memorial Outstanding Investigation Award, International Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Investigator Association; Distinguished Service Award, U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, for undercover work.
Under and Alone: The True Story of the Undercover Agent Who Infiltrated America’s Most Violent Outlaw Motorcycle Gang, Random House (New York, NY), 2005.
(With Douglas Century) Armed and Dangerous: The Hunt for One of America’s Most Wanted Criminals, Random House (New York, NY), 2007.
ADAPTATIONS: Under and Alone has been optioned for film by Warner Brothers.
SIDELIGHTS: William Queen is a former member of the U.S. Special Forces and a career law-enforcement officer who spent twenty years as a special agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. The recipient of numerous awards and decorations for his service, Queen specialized in deep and dangerous undercover work. In Under and Alone: The True Story of the Undercover Agent Who Infiltrated America’s Most Violent Outlaw Motorcycle Gang, Queen recounts his work in infiltrating the Mongols motorcycle gang, a notoriously dangerous and unpredictable group that was given a wide berth, even by the Hell’s Angels. The gang trafficked in drugs, stolen motorcycles, and illegal weapons to make their money, and a good time with gang members was to be had through random violent attacks, stabbings, or unprovoked murder.
Posing as biker Billy St. John, Queen became a full-fledged member of the Mongols’ Southern California chapter. During his two-year stint, he rose through the hierarchy of the gang to become treasurer and finally vice president of the San Fernando Valley chapter. At first suspected of being a cop, Queen had to prove himself through participation in a number of dangerous situations. Though he was able to avoid most of the illegal and harrowing membership rites, such as proving loyalty by stabbing a Mongol enemy, Queen’s personal demeanor and ferocity earned him the gang’s trust and, eventually, the infamous patch that identified him as a true Mongol brother.
In order to gain evidence of illegal activities, Queen would often wear a recording device, even though it would likely mean his death if it was discovered. He had to stand by while illegal activities were conducted, and do what he could to avert murders, assaults, and the abuse and degradation of women involved with the gang. The psychological stress of living the Mongol lifestyle was compounded by the necessity of playing the role of outlaw biker in confrontations with police, never able to identify himself as a fellow law-enforcement officer. While some undercover officers could hope to summon backup when needed, Queen was truly alone, and his outing as a cop would have likely resulted in his brutal murder.
Despite the stresses, Queen came to know the other members of the gang, and he developed deep, if profoundly conflicted, relationships with many of them, genuinely viewing them as friends. When the woman who raised Queen died, his Mongol brothers consoled him, while his friends in law enforcement didn’t even mention it. He felt the camaraderie that can only be developed by those who experience, and survive, a dangerous situation together. Still, Queen never lost sight of his ultimate goal: to gather evidence that would lead to the biggest bust in the history of motorcycle gangs.
“The rough language, constant drinking, and violence may put off some readers but are a natural part of this story,” noted John R. Vallely in Library Journal. “Queen steers clear of melodrama and captures both sides of his double life,” commented a Publishers Weekly contributor. “Ratcheted up by foreknowledge that Queen would eventually betray the Mongols… the narrative is unstoppable,” remarked Booklist reviewer Gilbert Taylor. “Queen is a natural storyteller and explainer,” stated a critic in Kirkus Reviews, the critic commenting that the book describes a “dark and twisted world, fully realized.” The gang members are “so three-dimensionally drawn,” noted Gregory Kirschling in Entertainment Weekly, that “it’s not so surprising to learn [Queen] sometimes loved his fellow Mongols like brothers.”
In a Menstuff.org Web site interview with Reid Baer, Queen offered an observation on the increasing problem of gang violence in the United States. “We’ve gotten away from basic traditions that held us together,” Queen told Baer. “The respect for individuals is not the same as it used to be, nor is there the same respect for our country. Gang problems go much deeper than the gang itself—it’s our entire society that contributing to it. I don’t necessarily think that people are getting meaner, but the gang activity is certainly getting more violent.”
In Armed and Dangerous: The Hunt for One of America’s Most Wanted Criminals, written with Douglas Century, Queen recounts the story of another notable case that brought him into contact with dangerous elements. Queen describes his involvement in the manhunt for Mark Stephens, a drug dealer, survivalist, and firearms expert who operated in Southern California. Stephens was well known to be unstable and dangerous, a thug who threatened and terrorized the lesser drug dealers who worked under him, then vanished back into the mountainous area where he lived. He was not only highly skilled at growing marijuana, he also had enough technical expertise to build his own machine guns. Stephens maintained a remote hideout in the rugged Southern California mountains, where his wilderness skills and weapons knowledge made him a particularly elusive and unsavory quarry. Throughout the book, Queen and Century describe the attempts by police to apprehend Stephens, the difficulties of the case, Queen’s efforts to obtain approval to go after Stephens, and the final standoff in which the renegade was finally taken into custody. Queen and Stephens possessed almost equal levels of skill in survival and tracking, and their “similarities greatly enliven the story of their conflict,” observed Booklist reviewer Mike Tribby. A Kirkus Reviews contributor noted that Queen is an “ideal protagonist for zesty tales featuring vile miscreants and the cool thrill of operational specs.” Tribby called the book a “ripping good manhunt saga, detailed and suspenseful.”
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 1, 2005, Gilbert Taylor, review of Under and Alone: The True Story of the Undercover Agent Who Infiltrated America’s Most Violent Outlaw Motorcycle Gang, p. 1120; July 1, 2007, Mike Tribby, review of Armed and Dangerous: The Hunt for One of America’s Most Wanted Criminals, p. 11.
Entertainment Weekly, April 8, 2005, Gregory Kir-schling, review of Under and Alone, p. 69.
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2005, review of Under and Alone, p. 110; June 1, 2007, review of Armed and Dangerous.
Library Journal, March 15, 2005, John R. Vallely, review of Under and Alone, p. 98.
People, May 2, 2005, review of Under and Alone, p. 47.
Publishers Weekly, March 21, 2005, review of Under and Alone, p. 49; May 21, 2007, review of Armed and Dangerous, p. 48.
Menstuff.org,http://www.menstuff.org/ (March 9, 2008), Reid Baer, interview with William Queen.
Random House Web site,http://www.randomhouse.com/ (March 9, 2008), biography of William Queen.*