BLACK MASS by Dick Lehr


The Irish Mob, the Boston FBI, and a Devil’s Deal
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An eye-opening true-crimer that recounts a cooperative arrangement in which two Boston mobsters, in exchange for acting as informants for an FBI agent and his supervisor, were permitted to take over most of Boston’s organized crime.

Boston Globe reporters Lehr and O’Neill can be forgiven some of their caustic bitterness in their second book about Boston’s organized crime. Their first, The Underboss (1989, not reviewed), portrayed FBI Agent John J. Connolly Jr. as a sharp-dressing South Boston scrapper whose audacious bugging of a Mafia headquarters ended the Italian mob’s control of Boston street crime. Unknown to the reporters, Connolly and his boss, Dick Morris, were relying on information about the Italians from James “Whitey” Bulger, an Irish “Southie” street punk with a penchant for rape and robbery who was also the older brother of rising political star William Bulger (who would go on to become president of the Massachusetts Senate, is currently president of Massachusetts State University, and has maintained that he has no involvement with his brother’s criminal life). In 1975 Connolly recruited Whitey and fellow hood Steve Flammi. Connolly and Morris then shielded their informants from a federal racetrack-fixing indictment; in return, Whitey fingered competing crooks and possibly saved the life of an undercover FBI agent who had infiltrated a truck-hijacking ring. For the next two decades the FBI made many publicized arrests while Whitey Bulger reigned as Boston’s organized crime boss until 1995, when he escaped arrest and has been missing ever since. In a sensational 1999 corruption investigation, the disgraced Morris admitted to taking bribes from Whitey and, with Connolly’s alleged assistance, aided and abetted criminal activities involving narcotics, extortion, and murder. Connolly, now a lobbyist currently awaiting trial on this matter, has maintained his innocence.

With enough unanswered questions for two sequels, the authors offer a pile of evidence that (in South Boston at least) politics is all too local. (photos and illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: June 1st, 2000
ISBN: 1-891620-40-1
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: PublicAffairs
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2000


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