When I was writing both Wing of Fear and Shattered Sky I did a fair amount of research to ensure the books were not only topical but factual. Both books have themes I feel strongly about so it was important to make sure not only were the scenarios and plots realistic, but the background detail had to be accurate as well.
My interest in Outlawed Motorcycle Gangs (OMG – and that’s not ‘oh my god’ but it could be considering some of their activities!) began when we moved to Cairns. A high profile trial of two bikies accused of murdering one of their own was being held in the Cairns Court. Near where we lived was an open space that had once been a footie field but had fallen into disrepair. I used to walk our dog there and say g’day to a middle aged lady walking her dogs. It turned out that she was high up in the hierarchy of this particular OMG. It made me realise that people from a broad cross section of the community were involved in the clubs and it wasn’t easy to distinguish them from the rest of my neighbours. From there I started to pay more attention to the make-up of the clubs and the crimes attributed to them.
When I came to write Shattered Sky I already had a reasonable understanding of the crimes, the networks and the growing ethnic diversity of OMGs. Since then I’ve been following the recent arrests of members of the Sydney Hells Angels for mortgage fraud. The first time I saw the details of the arrest I smiled. How ludicrous it seemed that a bike riding, badge wearing, tattooed bikie was involved in finance fraud! But that’s the reality of OMGs. They are a long way from the stand over boys dealing arms and drugs. They aren’t the Dazzas and Jackos nor do they necessarily live in working class suburbs, ride only motorbikes and smoke dope.
Similarly the police investigating them are using different avenues to target them. In the current case it’s the Fraud Squad doing the work unravelling a case that involves earthmoving equipment, motorcyles and a trendy townhouse – and maybe a couple of dead bodies on the side.
I see it as a sign of the times. Everyone’s upwardly mobile and aiming to be more sophisticated – even the OMGs. There was a recent exercise in ‘branch stacking’ that saw a mass defection from one club to another (major political parties should take note – $100,000 was the going rate per defection – I’m open to offers…)
It will be interesting to see if the judge grants the Hells Angels recent application for leniency from the $100,000 bail conditions imposed on their chief. The price seems just about right to me!