A well-researched book claiming to be “the first complete and authoritative account” of the life of criminal James “Whitey” Bulger.
From his Boston childhood to his current home in a prison cell, Boston Globe reporters Cullen and Murphy follow their subject through every documented moment in his life. Bulger is a true “Southie” character, his name well-known to residents of the mostly Irish neighborhood before gentrification. After starting as a petty juvenile criminal, he moved quickly to auto theft and then bank robbery, landing himself in prison. Bulger even did a stint in Alcatraz before earning enough good-behavior time to end his sentence more than a decade early. When he returned to Boston, the criminal underworld was ripe for the picking; rather than going straight, he went to the top of what some called the Irish mob—with the support of the FBI. The authors can’t quite decide if they want to let the story become personal. They work hard to refer to themselves in the third person but make it clear what they think of their subject and his accomplices. Maintaining distance was a mistake, as personalizing their involvement could make the book stronger, with more palpable tension and the consequences of attracting Bulger’s attention more real. Still, Bulger’s crimes and partnerships are so compelling that the pages almost turn themselves. Moments of insight into his mind make the book sparkle—e.g., the scene when he’s finally caught and refuses to kneel. The authors explain, “Whitey’s biggest concern, he later said, was that there were oil stains on the garage floor where he was standing.”
Solid writing, remarkable details and the addition of Bulger’s fairly recent capture make this a worthy addition to the literature of the mob.