Boston Herald reporter Carr tracks a pair of Beantown siblings along a twisted trail of extortion, graft, murder and other crimes that overran even the FBI.
Making it clear that he will not be unduly obsessed with journalistic objectivity here, the author describes his behavior during Billy Bulger’s testimony at a 2003 congressional hearing: “In full view of the CSPAN camera, I periodically grimaced, made faces, stuck out my tongue, rolled my eyes, and grabbed my throat when I thought Billy was being less than forthcoming.” Carr goes on to document that Billy’s reputation as “the good brother” was as misleading as his congressional testimony. He follows Billy’s ascent from Boston’s notorious Southie neighborhood (which he served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives to his eventual presidency at the University of Massachusetts. Big brother Whitey Bulger was in Carr’s estimation a fulltime, nonpareil crook, possibly the model for the hit man in George V. Higgins’s celebrated Boston crime novel, The Friends of Eddie Coyle. For nearly three decades, the author contends, Billy worked inside the system while Whitey worked outside the law; the crux of Carr’s thesis is that they cooperated in buying and corrupting whomever they could not intimidate or, in Whitey’s case, permanently remove. Among those bought, the author asserts, was FBI agent Zip Connolly, another Southie boy; it was a congressional investigation of corruption in the Boston office of the FBI that finally cost Billy his job at UMass. Billy’s eventual disgrace tainted an associated host of Boston political hacks and bureaucrats, but he still draws a state pension; Whitey remains at large, reportedly sighted in locales as disparate as Thailand and Portugal.
A classic, seamy portrait of widespread moral turpitude, conveyed with crackling Boston-Irish sarcasm.