Bikes, brawls, babes ­ all in 196 pages

If you purchase only one supermarket biker action-suspense paperback this fall, make it “Dead in 5 Heartbeats” by Ralph “Sonny” Barger.

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Like all the best supermarket paperbacks, “Dead in 5 Heartbeats” has everything. It’s 196 pages of nonstop action with outlaw bikers, brawls, babes, a drug-addled federal agent who hangs out in a Bay Area porn palace and, of course, treachery, intrigue and murder.

Plus, this fast-moving tale of high-octane homicide is written by Sonny Barger, longtime president of the Oakland Hells Angels, a man who knows of what he writes as opposed to some beady-eyed guy who rides a Moped and pens all his biker novels from the safety of an ivy-covered cottage in Iowa Falls.

Co-authored by Keith and Kent Zimmerman, “Dead in 5 Heartbeats” tells the story of one Patch Kinkade, a veteran member and former president of the fictional Infidelz motorcycle club in Oakland.

Patch, once a feared and respected leader of the powerful club, has decided to get out of California with its gun laws and helmet laws and sort himself out in Arizona. He’s got a lot of, like, angst.

Patch is no social butterfly. He doesn’t have much of a family other than the Infidelz, and his best buddy is a wickedly curved skinning knife called Sharpfinger.

Knives like Sharpfinger, Patch reflects, are your true friends. They never jam or let you down.

Credited with having brought peace to California’s warring motorcycle gangs, Patch is hoping to build a new life along Arizona’s Carefree Highway – just him, his knife, his Harley and a black cat.

But there’s trouble brewing back home. A young Infidelz member named Marco is riddled with bullets following an otherwise mundane motorcycle brawl – probably rating an eight out of a possible 10 – at a Hayward roadhouse.

Admittedly, sometimes people get killed during roadhouse brawls between fun-loving but notoriously short-tempered bikers, but there’s something strange about Marco’s death.

Marco wasn’t participating in the brawl – in fact, he’d just arrived in the parking lot – and the Infidelz weren’t among the clubs involved.

What’s going on?

Patch, urged to investigate by Ahab, the current president of the Oakland Infidelz, is at first reluctant to return to his home turf, but things get weird in a hurry.

A short time after Marco’s murder, Handsome Hank and Reload of the 2Wheelers motorcycle club are mysteriously gunned down as they ride near the Oakland Estuary prior to the big Tribal Casino Poker Run.

Old rival gang tensions begin to escalate and Patch decides to step in before the fragile peace he helped build disintegrates into deadly chaos.

Will Patch be in time? Will he be able to find out who’s behind the string of killings? And will the Harley-loving anti-hero really accept a helping hand from a bunch of Ducati-riding maniacs called the Bushido Blades?

There’s only one way to find out, amigos. Head out for the paperback aisle of your favorite supermarket and get your own copy of “Dead in 5 Heartbeats.”

Originally published October 31, 2004