Rat Bastards

Rat Bastards

3.5 14
by John "Red" Shea

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You've met the Italian mob
in The Godfather, now welcome
to the real-life world of Irish
America's own murderous clan
of organized crime

The man who has remained silent for more than a decade finally speaks, revealing the gritty true story of his life inside the infamous South Boston Irish mob led by the elusive,

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You've met the Italian mob
in The Godfather, now welcome
to the real-life world of Irish
America's own murderous clan
of organized crime

The man who has remained silent for more than a decade finally speaks, revealing the gritty true story of his life inside the infamous South Boston Irish mob led by the elusive, Machiavellian kingpin Whitey Bulger, who to this day remains on the lam as one of the world's Ten Most Wanted criminals, second only to Osama bin Laden.

John "Red" Shea was a top lieutenant in the South Boston Irish mob, rising to this position at the age of twenty-one. Thus began his tutelage under the notorious Irish godfather James "Whitey" Bulger. An ice-cold enforcer with a legendary red-hot temper, Shea was a legend among his Southie peers in the 1980s. From the first delivery truck he robbed at thirteen to the start of his twelve-year federal sentence for drug trafficking at twenty-seven, Shea was a portrait in American crime -- a terror, brutal and ruthlessly ambitious. Drug dealer, loan shark, money launderer, and multimillion-dollar narcotics kingpin, Shea was at the pinnacle of power -- until the feds came knocking and eventually obliterated the legendary mob in a well-orchestrated sweep of arrests, fueled by insider tips to the FBI and DEA.

While Bulger's other top men turned informant to save their own hides, Shea alone kept his code of honor and his mouth shut -- loyalty that earned him a dozen years of hard time even as the man he was protecting turned out to be, himself, a rat. For in the end, in a remarkable show of betrayal, Bulger turned out to be the FBI's "main man" and top informant -- tipping off the feds for decades while still managing to operate one of the most murderous and profitable organized crime outfits of all time.

In Rat Bastards, Shea brings that mysterious world and gritty urban Irish American street culture into sharp focus by telling his own story -- of his fatherless upbringing, his apprenticeship on the tough streets of Southie, and his love affair with trouble, boxing, and then the gangster life. In prose that is refreshingly honest, personal, and surprisingly tender, Shea tells his harrowing, unflinching, and unapologetic story. A man who did the crime, did the time, and held fast to the Irish code of silence, which he was raised to follow at any cost, Shea remains a man of honor and in doing so has become a living legend. One of the last of a dying breed, a true stand-up guy.

Shea expects no forgiveness and makes no excuses for the life he chose. His story is intense, compelling, and in your face.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Shea-who at age 20 was the drug boss for South Boston Irish mobster James "Whitey" Bulger and later served 12 years in federal prison for drug trafficking (yes, he was given the opportunity to rat, but, "like a man," he didn't)-gives gangster honor a bare-knuckled workout in his memoir, a slick read dripping with the underworld holy trinity of sex, drugs and violence. Born in 1965 into a "fucked up family" in South Boston, Shea traded a foundering boxing career for a gig making $4,000 a night selling cocaine and marijuana. Before long, Bulger took him under his wing and, being a tough and honorable guy, Shea ascended the ranks and had a crew working for him before he was busted and did his time. To hear Shea tell the story, he's about the only guy in South Boston who can keep his trap shut-including Bulger, who turned rat and is now in hiding-once the cuffs are on. And though his unrelenting swagger can wear thin and the writing has lackluster moments, Shea's story is a bawdy page-turner in the Iceman tradition that true crime fans will enjoy. 16 pages of b&w photos. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Boston Herald
“...dish-a-thon on Whitey Bulger.”
The Improper Bostonian
“...the only memoir told from the perspective of a mobster who refused to betray the code of silence.”
Liz Smith
“...the hottest Irish-American mob story of all time.”

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Rat Bastards

The Life and Times of South Boston's Most Honorable Irish Mobster
By John Shea

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 John Shea
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060837160

Chapter One


I walked out of federal prison on August 7, 2002, into a perfect summer day. The first thing I noticed was the air -- it was clean and warm, like fresh laundry just out of the dryer. After being in the joint for so long, where all you smell day after day is sweat and vinegar and bad food, I felt the air hit me like the most beautiful scent. And this is New Jersey we're talking about. Fort Dix, my home sweet home for nine long years. Good-fuckin'-bye.

Last time I'd been a free man, I was dressed in an Armani suit, a Calvin Klein shirt, and Bally shoes. I even had Armani underwear. That was nearly twelve years ago, when I checked in to the federal prison in Milan, Michigan. Now, one welcome transfer later, my time was up. I got sentenced to twelve and I did my twelve, technically for drug trafficking. In truth, I did my time because the feds wanted Whitey Bulger, the boss of the South Boston Irish Mafia. Because I was Red Shea, Whitey Bulger's young apprentice, I was supposed to be the weak link, the kid, the guy who would flip. They were dead fucking wrong. I was never going to be rat. I'd rather be dead. So they hit me with some heavy time for afirst bit.

An Officer Kennedy -- a nice guy, a good guy, he showed me respect: How ya doin', Shea? What's goin' on? How're your Red Sox doin'? and so forth -- led me out of the administration building and down toward the checkpoint. Dix isn't your average prison, being a former army base, with checkpoints and whatnot, not to mention softer bunks. I wasn't in Armani no more, but Levi's and new sneakers sent me by the guys.

I said to Kennedy, "Smell that?"

He said, "What's that, Shea? You like that?"

"Yes I do, Officer."

I took some deep drafts of it. Even though I was looking at a perimeter scarred by barbed wire and fences and double fences and was walking on dusty ground, I could look up: "Nothing but blue skies, motherfucker."

"Watch your language, Red," he said "And your ass. It's bumpy out there."

I shook his hand. My eyes were watering, from the smells. I had just turned thirty-seven years old, and I'd gotten my life back.

Beyond the checkpoint were some familiar faces waiting in a car: George and Michael Hogan, sons of one of the guys I'd been indicted with, and my attorney and friend, Fran Hurley. Handshakes and a quick hug all around. We were Southie Irish guys, not given to a lot of emotional stuff. But we were Irish, and the Irish have a sentimental streak for sure, going back to the Famine, I guess, and having to leave the Old Country. The old Partin' Glass and whatever. They were happy to see me, and I sure as fuck was happy to see them. I sat in the front seat. We talked about the Red Sox -- they were sucking in August, no pitching whatsoever after Pedro and Derek Lowe. I turned the radio off -- in no mood for gangsta rap, no offense. The traffic was bad, and soon the smell of paradise gave over to the smell of the turnpike and, like Springsteen says, the swamps of Jersey. We could see a waterfront with containers stacked high just like in Southie. Newark, I guess, with tall ship-container cranes soaring over everything, which prompted a discussion about work.

"There's the longshoremen," said Frannie. His dad had been a longshoreman back in the day when they did most everything by hand and guys got maimed and killed regularly. Either from the work or from the fights during and after work, with the metal hooks they all carried. Most of the longshoremen were either from Southie or from Charlestown. Frannie, as always, was trying to be helpful in his gentle way. He was suggesting I work the Boston waterfront. George mentioned all the construction going on in downtown Boston. And, also as always, the Big Dig. Work, work, work.

"Fuck you guys!" I finally had to shout. I wasn't boiling over or nothing -- but first the joint, then the fucking union hall? Give me a break. The only thing I wanted right now was a good fuckin' meal.

"You're right," said Frannie. "We've got better things to do." He popped in a CD. Van Morrison, Moondance. The guys laughed, and so did I. Frannie finally found the tunnel to Manhattan.

They'd booked a suite at the Hilton on Fifty-third Street -- living room, little kitchen, big fucking bed, and an attached bedroom. We checked in, and I was starving, so I said, "Let's go to Smith & Wollensky's," my favorite steak house in New York. Back in the day, when I was on top, I got used to the best -- in Boston, New York, Montreal, Miami Beach. I stayed in the best, ate like a king. Two-, three-hundred-dollar bottles of wine. I ordered a steak that night, rare, with baked potato and creamed spinach. We had some wine. Rothschild. We got mellow. We didn't talk about work anymore, thank God.

"How's my mother?" Frannie said she was good, doing well, she was living in an elderly apartment complex just off the expressway in Dorchester. It's only a short bus ride to her job at a Southie nursing home. My mother was getting on in years. I knew from phone calls and letters that she was as feisty as ever and hanging in there. She's a tough woman. She raised me and my three older -- much older -- sisters, with no man around, my father having been thrown out just after I was born. She did everything she could for us. She worked two, three jobs at a time. Cleaning homes, anything she could to make ends meet. But she was harsh, very harsh. I'd see her as soon as I got back.


Excerpted from Rat Bastards by John Shea Copyright © 2006 by John Shea. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Liz Smith
“...the hottest Irish-American mob story of all time.”

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