The life story of Whitey Bulger should have the makings of a great book or at least a very interesting one - just unfortunately not by this author. This book is supposed to based on exhaustive research - but research of what exactly? This author seems to rely exclusively on third hand information regarding everything to do with his subject matter. Maybe he exhaustively researched newspaper articles and the official record but what appears clear (and I'm not even half way through the book) is that the author doesn't seem to have interviewed anyone remotely close to Whitey Bulger or the events that shaped his life at any stage.. There's no intimacy with the subject he's writing about and he tries to compensate for that by filling pages with details which have little or no relevance. Another reviewer here used the words boring and dull to describe this book and he was right. . - . . .
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I found the book fascinating on many levels the involvement of a member of the F.B.I. was shocking and begs the question how often this occurs. Overall a very good read about a very dark subject matter.
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39 of 44 people found the following review helpful
Read it and cry if you were in Boston at the time!19 Feb. 2013
- Published on Amazon.com
The authors hit it right on the numbers in this book. They capture a murderous Whitey Bulger, a villainous Bill Bulger and an FBI that was controlled in Boston by mob wannabes who thought ethnically and imprisoned Italian gangsters and let Irish gangsters intimidate, extort, steal, push drugs, run guns and kill with impunity.
I had the good fortune to find this book before it reached mass circulation. It is a long book but I read it in two sittings. Both of the writers are longtime journalists for the Boston Globe. The Globe, at the time Whitey Bulger was up to his most severe destruction was in a bind. On one hand you had writers like Lehr and O'Neill who were writing about the Irish Mob, corruption in general and endangering themselves. On the other hand, columnists like Mike Barnicle, who became a toy of the powerful, were writing favorable press about Whitey Bulger and his brother, Senator William Bulger the head of the Massachusetts Senate and the power behind Whitey's rise. In addition, many political heavyweights from South Boston circled wagons around their favorite mass murderer and against their "liberal" neighbor, the Boston Globe. Barnicle wrote of Whitey as if he were just a good old boy from the old sod who was misunderstood by those who might think murder and drug running were not part of St. Patrick's legacy. I laughed aloud when the writers discovered that these two patron saints of Irish blarney, the Bulgers, were partly of English Protestant heritage.
This is the book to read if you want to know this tragic story. These writers risked their lives to tell us the original story long ago. That is not an exaggeration. They have now completed the story and the turtles won against the corrupt hares. Congratulations to Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neill.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Incredibly well told story from the true experts on the insanity that is Whitey Bulger27 Feb. 2013
- Published on Amazon.com
Tremendous book. The authors of Black Mass (the original bible on the FBI/whitey alliance) have done it again. They don't just rereport the news but rather they connect the dots and take you on a journey from whitey's family immigrating to Boston, whitey's childhood and teenage years, his time in jail, his ascension to the top of Boston's mob, and then on the run for 16 years. They do so much work on trying to get us to understand why whitey turns into who he is - a maniacal controlling psychopathic killer who can charm and outsmart his friends/enemies when need be. The in depth reporting shines through with the stories of whitey's ancestors in new foundland, the teenage gangs of southie, the prison experiences and the LSD experimentation, and the santa monica hideout. I have read a lot about whitey over the years but learned so much more in this book -- I could not put it down. The made for movie story has sort of told itself over the years. It the incredible research and fantastic writing by these two authors make this book the one to get.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Wanted:Number One3 Mar. 2013
- Published on Amazon.com
Deborah Davis, the lovely, young girlfriend of Steve Flemmi got into her Mercedes convertible and drove to her death. She knew too much and talked too much and James Whitey Bulger wasn't having it. He killed her, had Flemmi pull out her teeth and bury her. There, that was the end of that problem. And, so, Whitey Bulger was protecting his life of crime, murder, greed and mayhem, nothing could touch him, now.
The authors, Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neill have followed Whitey, the Boston Mafia, the Winter Hill Gang from the beginning of their careers. This is the third in the trilogy of books where the life of Whitey has been highlighted. This book is the most detailed and gives us a fascinating look into the beginning of the Bulger family, their journey from Ireland to South Boston. Whitey is a name to be reckoned with in Southie, as it is in Boston, and across the US and the world after Whitey made his run and the FBI took a more than ten year look for him.
Along the way we meet the people Whitey invited into his life, his cronies, his men, his family, his women. We learn about his son by an early love. We meet the FBI who became part of Whitey's crew, the State Police who were paid handsomely to protect Whitey. All along Whitey's life there was always someone who stepped up to protect him. He did serve a long prison sentence for armed robbery, but he got out of one mess after the other with relative ease. We also meet up front and personal, the people he killed or had killed, nineteen people, died at the hands of Whitey Bulger. He either planned the deaths or caused the deaths, himself. He had a temper, and Whitey had to learn how to manage it. At one time in prison, Whitey took part in research trials with LSD, and he thought that might be a reason for his temper, his hallucinations and his bad dreams. But, it appears, Whitey is a psychopath, who has no regret for his actions.
Whitey ran a superb crime organization for many years in South Boston. He eliminated his competition, one by one. He usually killed them. He had an FBI informant, John Connelly, who would tell him when someone was after him. Connelly would warn him of traps by other police departments, and, in the end, he warned Whitey it was time to get out of town. Of note, John Connelly, was convicted of several crimes and is spending time in prison. As one reads this book, there was a time in Boston when it appeared that every type of police force that were hired to protect citizens, were in reality, protecting Whitey. Nothing was sacred.
Whitey Bulger left Boston with his long time girlfriend, Catherine Grieg. They ended up in Santa Monica, California, where they lived a life of seclusion as a couple with many different identities. They either bought or stole the identities. During the years, Whitey had hidden money all over the world, so money was no object. The FBI seemed lost in their old ways and the hunt for Whitey was not a number one priority. It was not until Osama Bin laden was killed, that Whitey Bulger moved his way to the top of the list, The Number One Most Wanted Man in the US, that things started to change. The hunt for Whitey and his capture is the most exhilarating, and I will leave that up to you to discover.
Lehr and O'Neill have written a fast paced, comprehensive, and compelling story of Whitey Bulger. As a native of New England, I have had a long fascination with Whitey Bulger. His capture was exciting. I had read the first two books of the trilogy about Whitey, and I thought I knew most everything about him. I was astonished to read about his forebears from Ireland and his life that led to the apartment in Santa Monica. This is a book not to be missed.
Highly Recommended. prisrob 03-03-13
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
"The Prince of Darkness is a perfect gentleman"--William Shakespeare20 Dec. 2014
J from NY
- Published on Amazon.com
Until his capture in 2011, Whitey Bulger was a distant figure, an untouchable enigma of the most malevolent kind, caught on a few surveillance videos here and there but otherwise...just him.
This book was hard to digest. Whitey Bulger could literally be equivocated with Satan, whether you read that literally or figuratively. The busing crisis in Boston was great for Bulger, to use an example: it encouraged racism and division. This in turn increased gambling, psychic tension, and overall violence. Bulger of course could have cared less about the actual issue, or the riots. He simply turned it to his own advantage using street theater.
His corruption of John Connolly, his FBI "handler"--among other "handlers" he's never discussed, probably imagining in his twisted mind that keeping a few secrets unto the grave doesn't make him an informant--was particularly awful. He smiled at his friend Steve Flemmi, a Vietnam veteran/ psychotic rifleman who did his bidding, when Connolly put the ring he'd stolen on his wife's finger. The FBI didn't own him; he owned the FBI. He was gentle and soft in public, even talking in prison about the other prisoner's lack of respect for "God, clean language, and womanhood". When a woman he impregnated started talking too much, he found her in an alley, strangled her and yanked her teeth out one by one. He operated in the dark.
His brother Bill Bulger is targeted as a villain by Lehr because he had a soft spot for Whitey. Whitey manipulated him by writing him occasionally and saying "You know I'm no angel, but I'm a good person deep down." Bulger's brother was brash and cocky, I have no doubt, but I'm sure when he learned the extent of his brother's crimes reality took on a different character. When captured with guns and lights shone on him with barking commands from the FBI to get down, he would not kneel and mockingly moved from side to side.
Whitey Bulger makes any Italian mobster--or any other criminal figure, really--look average at best. With our government's help, he made the history books.
Who is responsible for Whitey Bulger? Can he be said to be responsible for himself? He was aided and abetted by the structures that are supposed to hold civilization together. He could make a call and find out who an informant was and execute him within seconds.
A hard read, bordering on science fiction and all absolutely true.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Whitey versus Billy: An Oedipal split?10 Sept. 2013
Herbert L Calhoun
- Published on Amazon.com
This is the life story of one of America's most notorious and most vicious criminals, the story of a South Boston ( "southie") hoodlum -- from the age of eight to eighty -- named Whitey Bulger.
Without sentimentality, and without in anyway trying to glamorize or romanticize the life of Whitey Bulger, these authors present here "just the facts," the contours of which sweep out a canvas wide enough to give the reader perhaps the fullest, most detailed, most honest, and most dramatic picture of Whitey yet in print. And while there are many ways to see this carefully written narrative, I was surprised that it was not juxtaposed in relief against the life of the other famous Bulger brother, Billy Bulger, who took the straighter route to success and went directly from being a Catholic "Altar boy," to university student and then straight to the State House, eventually retiring as the President of U Mass. I have no doubt that had the question -- Why Whitey's life story rather than Billy's? -- been posed to these authors, they would argue that despite Billy's unhindered linear route to success, Whitney's life story was infinitely more interesting, due mainly in the way he corrupted all those who he touched -- from his family, to his girlfriends, to his confederates in crime, including most importantly, the FBI.
Maybe it is true that Whitey's life was infinitely more interesting, but it nevertheless raises an equally interesting sociological question: How can these authors make a special plea for Whitey's wayward turn as being caused in part because he was poor, an ethnic outcast, and took place during the Great Depression -- when he had at least one brother from the same family, with the same values, living in the same era and in the same roach-infested Boston Projects, who managed to get out and succeed in spite of these same adverse circumstances?
It is the counter narrative that rides along in the subtext that gives us a deeper psychological clue pointing to the answer as to why, Whitey, a genetically predisposed psychopath (which south Boston turned into a full-fledged combustible sociopath) -- may have taken a different fork in the road than his younger brother. It is this counter narrative that explains how Whitey used a different impetus and a different calculus for becoming a successful criminal, while his brother, Billy, became a normal upstanding successful citizen. I believe that a large part of the difference between them was how the two brothers subconsciously viewed their one-armed father as a responsible and adequate father figure.
It was not well-known that James J. Bugler senior, "father Bulger," had lost his arm at an early age as a young punk (like his son Whitey was to later become), trying to return home by hopping a train, after having run away a week earlier. He slipped and got his arm crushed under the train wheel. Having a lost arm during the war years, was worse than having lost a phallic. For that is basically what having a missing arm amounted to in the early 1940s: When all the young virile boys were volunteering to go fight Hitler, James J. Bugler senior, "daddy Bulger," was already "damaged material:" a "military reject" and never went to any war, never even was able to hold down a full-time job, and never did anything else manly, but lay around the house drinking beer and beating his wife and children. Whitey claims to have received the brunt of his father's savagery. In fact, the senior James Bulger's handicap became such an embarrassment to the family that they invented a more heroic version of how he had lost his arm. As the "cleared" family story goes: he had been working as a train brakeman and got his arm crushed while connecting trains.
Since the book does not make clear how Whitey's siblings viewed their father's violence and his diminished capacity to provide for them, a family of seven, we can only guess that they adjusted to it and treated him like a normal father. However, not so for Whitey. With the impetus of a thinly suppressed but seething Oedipal complex, Whitey viewed his crippled old man with utter disdained and as an embarrassment. As a result, he carefully went about the business of rebelling against him -- a symbolic way of undermining his authority and eventually would prove to be the way of replacing him as head of the family.
Throughout his criminal life, Whitey stressed his masculine ability to be ruthless with men and charming with women. Life for Whitey, even before entering adulthood, had become a struggle for power; and crime was the instrument he used to acquire it. He eventually replaced his father "in fact" by being better able to support the Bolger family on the earnings from his life of crime. Whitey thus was seen by both his mother and siblings, as taking on his father's responsibilities. For this he maintained the family's loyalty to the bitter end of a 30-year blood-drenched criminal career.
Rebellion, ruthlessness, criminal savvy and savagery, leadership abilities, courage, and high-octane drives coupled with fitness, being a confirmed racist, and charm with the ladies, would become Whitey's signature calling card. With his schoolboy good looks and ability to take on anyone in a fight, Whitey first became a leader of boys (as in small groups of teenage thugs), then a leader of men (as in gangs of adult criminals), and finally, with the FBI running interference for him all the way, became the self-anointed head of his own Boston version of a home-grown crime syndicate headquartered in South Boston.
This biography tracks the evolution of Whitey's criminal career, from a juvenile delinquent in the 1940s (defiant to authority, resentful, hostile, destructive, self-centered, impulsive and refusing to take responsibility for any of his own actions), to a cold-blooded killer in the 1960s, to an unchallenged crime boss during the 1980s -- who had used his southie charm, connections and accumulated power to corrupt the FBI -- to being a fugitive from justice in 1995, to his capture in an apartment building in June of 2011 -- fingered by an Iceland beauty queen on vacation in Santa Monica, California.
Anna Bjornsdottir's off-handed positive comment about President Barack Obama, sent whitey into such a rage that she began to investigate who this "Charlie Gasko" really was, discovering to her surprise that he was none other than James J. Bulger Jr. himself, on the lam. Thus thanks to Whitey's racist outburst, she was motivated to discover who he really was, and once she did, she conveniently "dropped a dime" to the FBI and returned home to Iceland a cool two million dollars richer. Four stars