If you live in Boston, as I did for a few years, the name Whitey Bulger is as resonate as Jimmy Hoffa. Both were men feared by some and idolized by others. Both had no qualms about victimizing those who feared and idolized them. Both were seen by some as the guy like them who managed to stand to the Establishment. And both disappeared. But nobody thinks Whitey is buried at Gillette Stadium.
Whitey Bulger was a mythic figure in Boston, especially his old neighborhood of Southie, the gangster who always managed to slip out of the hands of the law.But even Southie little boys and girls grew up dreaming of becoming FBI agents. Chances are their dreams didn't involve having gangster over to the house for dinner. John Connolly, another son of Southie, dared to have this dream and in pursuit of it he pretty much turned the Boston office of the FBI into Whitey Bulger and his Winter Hill gang's own little intelligence squad.
Make no mistake about it, James "Whitey" Bulger and his partner Stevie "The Rifleman" Flemmie were crooks, thugs, murderers, and all around low lifes. One could spend hours cataloging their many crimes. Oddly, they fail to get the credit they deserve for their pioneering work in the field of bromance. Any law enforcement agent can have an informant. Any crook can become a snitch. But it takes real imagination to turn it into quite evenings at home with your snitch/handler at the home of the handler's boss enjoying a home cooked meal the handler's boss has prepared. Candles, wine - champagne on occasion, steaks and the occasional visit from Whitey's powerful politician brother to share the latest family pictures. Just another night at Chez Agent Morris. Special dinners away from the cares of work aren't enough to keep a bromance alive, either. You need to show your bro that you care. Really care. Don't be afraid to give him a give now and then. A bottle of wine, a tasteful silver champagne bucket or a very special belt buckle says "I think you're the best" more than words ever can.
This is one mind-bending story and Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neill are perfectly suited to the task. Their journalistic style is spot on in terms of original research and the kind of prose that doesn't get in the way of illuminating facts. Lehr & O'Neill know when to let these looney-tunes speak for themselves as in this line from murderer Stevie Flemmie that actually made me laugh out loud:
"I received a sweatshirt from (Agent) Nick Gianturco."
The next time you're wondering what to get that special multiple murderer in your life, look no farther than your local sporting goods store. I kept hoping it was some sort of demented joke about giving a fleece to a thief but no, ethically challenged FBI Agents John Morris and John Connolly and their pals thought this made sense.
This is an entertaining, well-researched, well-written book. The only flaws are that it drags in the final chapters when they provide perhaps a bit too much detail about the grand jury proceedings that ultimately brought this sordid business to light and that the books begs to be updated to cover Connolly's recent convictions. Aside from that, this is as smart a book about the mob as any True Crime fan could hope for. Highly recommended for any True Crime fan, anyone interested in the Mafia and anyone from Boston.