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Legends of Winter Hill: Cops, Con Men, and Joe McCain, the Last Real Detective [Kindle Edition]

Jay Atkinson
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $14.99
Kindle Price: $9.99
You Save: $5.00 (33%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Kindle Edition $9.99  
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Book Description

“At McCain Investigations, I’d be sent looking for people who didn’t want to be found, following guys who didn’t want to be followed, and entering neighborhoods where I was not at all welcome. There would be no commercials, no time-outs, no ‘do-overs’ if somebody got shot or stabbed or run over. These guys were playing for keeps.”

Seasoned journalist and adventurer Jay Atkinson spent a year working as a rookie private eye for the storied firm McCain Investigations, founded by the late Joe McCain, Sr., one of the most decorated police officers in Boston history. In his colorful narrative style, Atkinson describes some of the cases he worked as a detective, chasing down an assortment of felons, thieves, and con artists, as well as the ghost of a real-life American hero, legendary cop Joe McCain.

Atkinson traces McCain’s story from the day he put on his Boston Metropolitan Police uniform in the 1950s through the heyday of his run-ins with mafiosi, bad cops, and ruthless killers. Big Joe was the genuine article, a detective so committed to his work that a gunshot wound suffered in the line of duty took thirteen years to kill him. McCain pursued such infamous Winter Hill mobsters as Stephen “the Rifleman” Flemmi and the murderous James “Whitey” Bulger, who remains on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list. Here Atkinson reveals new details—based on his exclusive interviews and an abundance of his own shoe leather—about how Bulger, one of America’s most notorious fugitives, came within inches of being apprehended during Joe McCain’s reign.

Atkinson also tracks the career of Joe McCain’s son, Joe Jr., a tattooed, hard-riding motorcycle fanatic who followed his old man onto the force. Since big Joe’s death, young Joe has learned the hard way that a father’s mythic persona can be both a blessing and a curse, as a fellow cop with a grudge against Joe Sr. may be out to ruin young Joe’s career. Atkinson delves into this dark and dangerous aspect of “the job,” where it’s uncertain which side some cops are on.

Legends of Winter Hill takes you into an alluring and gritty world where heroes go unsung every day, and moral boundaries aren’t always black and white.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Bestselling author Atkinson (Ice Time) has produced an unhappy blend of hagiography and true-crime reporting as he presents the story of Joe McCain, a classic old school Boston detective, as well as Atkinson's own experiences tagging along as a private eye with the firm McCain founded. Clichés and labored writing frequently distract from the narrative and impart a false urgency to a fairly run-of-the-mill story ("It's 4:00 A.M. and as black as a dirty cop's soul..."; "Our sandwiches arrive, the blunt, aromatic bread sliced into triangles..."). McCain certainly comes across as a dedicated cop, open to bending rules and risking his life and professional reputation in the cause of truth and justice, but the subtitle's hyperbole will probably be viewed as insulting by the many dedicated professionals still serving the public throughout the country's police departments. The pedestrian cases Atkinson describes will add little to most readers' knowledge; those interested in thoughtful ruminations about what being a private investigator involves would be better served by tracking down a copy of Josiah Thompson's Gumshoe. Gratuitous literary references fit awkwardly with gritty descriptions of street brawls and mob hits, and leave the impression that the author—whose knowledge of McCain is all secondhand—found himself with less material, and less material of significance, than he had anticipated.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Atkinson immerses readers in the world of Boston-area mobsters via the career of the late detective Joe McCain, one of Beantown's most decorated police officers. From 1959 to 1988, when a drug dealer shot and severely injured him, McCain was on the force of the Metropolitan District Commission, a since-dissolved entity whose multijurisdictional purview allows McCain's story to travel the breadth of the metropolis. Its geographical base, however, is the suburb of Somerville, the hometown of McCain and his son, Joe Jr., also a police officer. McCain's forte was handling informants, and the adventures of one named "Black Jimmy" furnish many hair-raising war stories. McCain also crossed the so-called blue line to testify against bad cops, earning him enmity that, according to Atkinson, might underlie the bad blood Joe Jr. has encountered in his career. In a Plimpton-like move, Atkinson also worked as private eye for the investigation firm McCain founded, and the author integrates gritty visual description of his gumshoe experience into his burly biography of a notable Boston cop. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 355 KB
  • Print Length: 384 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1400050766
  • Publisher: Crown (March 15, 2005)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000FCK1LG
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #547,582 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars
3.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Flavorful, fast-paced and entertaining May 16, 2005
Okay, the title is a bit much. But I enjoyed this book tremendously. Some of the criticisms point to the elements I liked best. The routine cases, how they were approached, and the results were a revelation to someone who has no real idea of police work except what I've seen on "Cops" (constant action and crisis!). There was a new story on every page, and I wound up reading until 1 a.m. on a work day because I just couldn't help reading "one more page". The descriptions of the surroundings, the characters, the sounds and smells of the settings, conjured up a real sense of being there. I was fascinated by the character faults and virtues of the people in the book, as Atkinson tried to remain true to McCain's philosophy that most people aren't entirely good or bad. As a resident of the area, I finally understand the gang wars that were taking place when I was growing up (I remember the old Boston Record American newpaper with the crime scene photos splashed across the front). I HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone who lives in the Northeast, and to others who'd like a glimpse into how Boston politics are practiced in every profession!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Breath of Fresh Air January 7, 2007
I could not disagree more with the review by Publisher's Weekly! I thought that Atkinson did an outstanding job in depicting the Boston area and some of its most important members of the law enforcement community. Atkinson's vivid depictions of setting and his uncanny ear for authentic dialogue help to create a mesmerizing and hypnotic narrative about cop life and private investigation. In today's society, in which we find organized crime figures to be charming and endearing, and our heroes are limited to vapid low life reality television stars, Atkinsons tale of Joe McCain, a police officer to be truly admired, is a breath of fresh air.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great story of the old Metro Police May 25, 2009
This book is a fantastic story of a Met Cop and his family on the North Shore/Boston Metro North area. I really enjoyed Mr. Atkinson's novel. He did a good job of telling the stories of Joe McCain as a Met Cop and P.I. Joe McCain was a shining example of a good cop and an example of the character that can only be developed in Boston. It was interesting all the rogues he would run into that we have come to know through the case of Whitey Bulger. I don't want to give away too much about the story because I highly encourage any true crime fan to read this book. I have reccomended this book to friends and no one was disapointed. One friend admitted he was brought to tears by the touching story. Buy this book, you will not regret it
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I liked it December 10, 2012
I liked it so much I read it twice. I noticed a lot of misspellings in the negative reviews, not that spelling is totally correlated with intelligence, but... I've lived in Somerville, where much of the book takes place. I thought Atkinson really captured the spirit of the place. Book is full of interesting stories. Whether he got every fact correct, I don't know. In view of the fact that no one has sued him for anything he wrote, I would say he tried very hard to make it accurate. Lots of great info about police and detective work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Scattered May 12, 2011
This book glorifies former MDC police detective Joe McCain. It switches chapters detailing McCains exploits (glorifying them really) and his son's current police career, which is uneventful at best. The chapters regarding the son are best skipped. Atkinson does not paint him in a likable format. That said, half the book is not even worth reading, and the other half is not worth buying.
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More About the Author

Jay Atkinson is a novelist, short story writer, essayist, critic, investigative journalist, and itinerant amateur athlete from Methuen, Mass. He is the author of two novels, a story collection, and three narrative nonfiction books, with a fourth, MEMOIRS OF A RUGBY-PLAYING MAN, forthcoming from St. Martin's Press. Atkinson's latest books are PARADISE ROAD: JACK KEROUAC'S LOST HIGHWAY (Wiley & Sons) and TAUVERNIER STREET (Livingston Press, University of West Alabama). His book, ICE TIME (Crown Publishers), was a Publisher's Weekly book of the year in 2001, and LEGENDS OF WINTER HILL (Crown Publishers) was on the Boston Globe bestseller list for seven consecutive weeks in 2005. Atkinson has written for the New York Times, Men's Health, Boston Globe, New York Post, and many other publications. A former two-sport college athlete at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada, Atkinson has competed in rugby for three decades and continues to play in exotic locales with the Vandals Rugby Club out of Los Angeles, California.

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