Whitey: The Life of America's Most Notorious Mob Boss

Whitey: The Life of America's Most Notorious Mob Boss


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Whitey: The Life of America's Most Notorious Mob Boss by Dick Lehr, Gerard O'Neill

From the bestselling authors of Black Mass comes the definitive biography of Whitey Bulger, the most brutal and sadistic crime boss since Al Capone.
Drawing on a trove of sealed files and previously classified material, Whitey digs deep into the mind of James J. “Whitey” Bulger, the crime boss and killer who brought the FBI to its knees. He is an American original --a psychopath who fostered a following with a frightening mix of terror, deadly intimidation and the deft touch of a politician who often helped a family in need meet their monthly rent. But the history shows that despite the early false myths portraying him as a Robin Hood figure, Whitey was a supreme narcissist, and everything--every interaction with family and his politician brother Bill Bulger, with underworld cohorts, with law enforcement, with his South Boston neighbors, and with his victims--was always about him. In an Irish-American neighborhood where loyalty has always been rule one, the Bulger brand was loyalty to oneself.
Whitey deconstructs Bulger's insatiable hunger for power and control. Building on their years of reporting and uncovering new Bulger family records, letters and prison files, Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neill examine and reveal the factors and forces that created the monster. It's a deeply rendered portrait of evil that spans nearly a century, taking Whitey from the streets of his boyhood Southie in the 1940s to his cell in Alcatraz in the 1950s to his cunning, corrupt pact with the FBI in the 1970s and, finally, to Santa Monica, California where for fifteen years he was hiding in plain sight as one of the FBI's Ten Most Wanted. In a lifetime of crime and murder that ended with his arrest in June 2011, Whitey Bulger became one of the most powerful and deadly crime bosses of the twentieth century. This is his story.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307986559
Publisher: Crown/Archetype
Publication date: 08/27/2013
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 621,015
Product dimensions: 7.70(w) x 5.20(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

DICK LEHR is a professor of journalism at Boston University and a former reporter at the Boston Globe, where he won numerous awards and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for investigative reporting. He is the author of The Fence: A Police Cover-up Along Boston's Racial Divide, which was an Edgar Award finalist and a Boston Globe bestseller. He is the co-author of several other books, including the national bestseller and Edgar Award-winning Black Mass: Whitey Bulger, the FBI, and a Devil's Deal

GERARD O'NEILL has won the Pulitzer Prize in journalism as well as many other national journalism awards. He was the longtime editor of the Boston Globe's award-winning investigative team. He co-authored Black Mass and also, with Lehr, The Underboss, as well as Rogues and Redeemers (Crown 2012), a political history of the Boston Irish focusing on the city's most famous mayors.

Read an Excerpt


September 17, 1981

At ­mid-­afternoon on a dying late summer day, the stunningly beau­tiful Debra Davis climbed into the snazzy, ­two-­seat Mercedes con­vertible that her boyfriend had bought for her and drove away from the home they shared in the suburb of Randolph, Massachusetts. She headed north, her destination South ­Boston--­East Third Street, to be exact, to a house located on the eastern side of the compact neighborhood shaped like a finger sticking out into Boston Harbor.

Her boyfriend, Stevie Flemmi, wanted to show her ­something--­at least ­that's what he'd said on the telephone. He wanted to give her a tour of the ­Cape-­style house he'd bought for his parents. The closing was earlier that very same day, and Stevie had paid the full purchase price of eighty thousand dollars, an act of generosity so that his parents would not be saddled with a mortgage.

Debbie exited the interstate. She began snaking her way through the streets of a community known as mostly ­Irish-­American, insular and famous for its "Southie Pride." While she was familiar with the neighborhood, able to navigate the grid of narrow streets, many of which were ­one-­way and dizzying to outsiders, if Stevie had been at the wheel he would have been able to make his way blindfolded. Stevie Flemmi had grown up in another part of Boston but Southie was now a key venue for his business ­interests--­ever since 1974, when he signed on with a gathering force in the ­city's underworld: the legendary boss of Southie's Irish mob.

Debbie and Stevie had been together for that long, too. She was a teenager in late 1974 working behind the counter at a jewelry store on Beacon Street in Brookline when he'd spotted her. Stevie was significantly older: Debbie was nineteen; he was forty. Stevie had liked what he ­saw--­the flowing blond hair, the blue eyes, the glamour of a ravishing young ­thing--­and decided she was for him. He paid for her divorce from a brief mistake of a marriage, and the two were off and running. But at her age seven years was a long time to be in a relationship. Debbie had met someone else and wanted out. Stevie ­didn't think so; he wanted in, now and forevermore. An unmistakable tension had surfaced between the two.

Making her way down East Third Street, Debbie pulled up to the curb outside the house numbered 832. She could see that the ­one-­ and-­a-­half-­story Cape Stevie had bought was positioned oddly. The front of the house did not face the street the way most houses do; it sat sideways. And it stood opposite another house that was its mirror ­image--­two houses facing each other with only a small, shared yard separating them. Someone standing at the kitchen sink of one house could practically reach out to hand a cup of sugar to the neighbor standing at the window of the other.

The houses were in fact built as a pair in 1965. A year later a ­thirty-­two-­year-­old state representative named Bill Bulger bought one. Ever since, Bill, his wife, and their growing family had lived at 828 East Third Street. When the twin house came on to the market in 1981, Stevie made his move. He'd talked to Debbie about wanting his parents to be nearer to him and to be safe. They'd recently been mugged in Boston. The house for sale at 832 East Third Street, situated in his South Boston stomping grounds and next to the home of Bill Bulger, a rising power in Massachusetts politics, certainly satisfied Stevie's idea of a safe haven.

Debbie Davis waited in her Mercedes. The day that began in bright sunshine was...

Table of Contents

Note to the Reader ix

1 September 17, 1981 1

2 Riverhead 10

3 Old Harbor 19

4 "Where's Jim?" 29

5 The Smile and Swagger 39

6 AWOL: 1949-53 54

7 Packing Heat: 1953-56 66

8 The Informer: 1956 83

9 "I'm No Angel, But…" 94

10 Acid Head: 1957 107

11 Ringleader 123

12 The Rock: 1959-62 137

13 The End of Time 153

14 Chandler's Summit 167

15 Go and Talk 184

16 My Own G-man 195

17 Wild West Broadway 212

18 Whitey Rules 220

19 Categorical Bill and the Tulsa Trilogy 237

20 Gravediggers 250

21 Thirty-Two Words 268

22 The Band of Brothers 284

23 Travesty 305

24 No Stone Left Unturned 317

25 Charlie and Carol 330

26 "Charlie Will Meet You in the Garage" 345

Epilogue 368

Acknowledgments 383

Sources 387

Notes 394

Photo Credits 427

Index 428

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Whitey is the definitive word on the whole sordid saga of the Bulger mob. Expertly crafted, beautifully told."  - Dennis Lehane, author of Live by Night

 “Having first uncovered the terrible Bulger story, Gerard O'Neill and Dick Lehr have now brought it full circle - a true circle of hell. Exemplary journalism, high drama, and, for Bulger's victims, an ongoing tragedy: rarely has a book mattered more.”  - James Carroll, author of An American Requiem
Black Mass, also by Lehr and O'Neill, was the definitive book on the corrupt relationship of the Boston office of the FBI and the notorious gangster, Whitey Bulger. Whitey will stand right next to it as the most in depth portrayal yet of the life of the man who ruled the South Boston underworld by terror and duplicity. In this ground-breaking, intimately researched work, we learn how he became the person who was feared by so many. Once you start reading, you don't want to put it down."  - Bill Bratton, former Boston and NYPD Police Commissioner and LAPD Police Chief
"Lehr and O’Neill have outdone themselves. Whitey isn’t just a chilling biography of a monster—it’s also a vivid portrait of Southie, a blood-spattered history of Boston mob wars, and a searing indictment   of the corrupt FBI agents who literally gave Whitey Bulger a license to kill. Full of new information about Whitey’s prison stint as a young man and his life as an elderly fugitive, this is the definitive account of one of weirdest and most sordid chapters in the history of American crime." – Tom Perrotta, author of The Leftovers  

“Whitey is a masterpiece of investigative reporting that unravels a tension-filled tale of murder, treachery, and abuse of power.” — Ronald Kessler, author of The Secrets of the FBI and In the President’s Secret Service

“Dennis Lehane and Martin Scorsese: take a seat. Nobody knows the twisted saga of Whitey Bulger and his gang; covered this story of criminal savagery and official corruption with more courage, or tell the tale now with such élan as Gerard O'Neill and Dick Lehr.” – John Farrell, author of Tip O’Neill and the Democratic Century

“So much has been written about Whitey Bulger, including by Lehr and O’Neill, but this book is different. It is comprehensive in its scope tracing Bulger’s family, his own journey from Southie, to Europe, from Leavenworth and finally, to the Princess Eugenia Apartment in Santa Monica, California. Lehr and O’Neill have culled material far and wide – transcripts, old prison records, official documents, interviews, books and clippings. But best of all, they’ve woven it all in a narrative that is extraordinary, compelling and impossible to put down.” — Nancy Gertner (Retired, U.S.District Court Judge) and author of In Defense of Women

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Whitey: The Life of America's Most Notorious Mob Boss 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
wolfgangnh More than 1 year ago
I grew up in Boston back in the 60's. southie was a place where you needed to understand where you were and who you were with. Where ever Whitey was I made sure that I wasn't. Very interesting how much the FBI aided Whitey. The trial will be revealing.
CoryCH More than 1 year ago
I lived in Boston in the 70's. Southie was just around the corner and across a bridge from where I lived. We used to go to a great tavern on Broadway. I found this account of Mr. Bulger's life to be horrifying and fascinating. Who knew?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a quick and easy read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Book kept me interested, you felt like you were with him throughout the decades of the crimes he committed, great read
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