All due respect to the Gambinos and the Genoveses, but the Italian mob families arent the only gangsters to make for compelling memoirs. In terms of relentless ruthlessness and its obsession with the almighty dollar, the Irish mob of Bostons James "Whitey" Bulger could match its New York counterparts hit for bloody hit. For decades, Edward J. MacKenzie, Jr. (a.k.a. Eddie Mac) was a drug dealer, enforcer, and key associate of Bulger (on the lam as this book was published). Mac's first-person account of those years is rife with more gory details per page than the entire last season of The Sopranos
By the brutal code of honor and loyalty in the streets, the candid dishing of such dirt marks MacKenzie as a world-class rat, second only to Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano, the man who put John Gotti away. But Eddie Mac has some justification in spilling the beans; in exchange for his tips, the Feds turned a blind eye toward his crimes. (It's also worth nothing that Bulger himself was an informant for the FBI.) The author certainly doesnt portray himself as any sort of hero or "gangster with a heart of gold." Witness his charming account of one of many attempts to "enlighten" a wayward associate: "Probation notwithstanding, I had to open Steves eyes a little. I headed over to Dunkin Donuts and bought a cup of coffee for $1.24. Medium, black, scalding hot. . . .Steve was still in his car, sleeping like a baby. The window was down and he had his head against the door, hands under his cheeks. I poured the hot coffee down the side of his face, making sure to get some on his eyeballs. . . I swear if Id had enough money to buy the gasoline that day thats what I would have done. . . but Id only had $1.30, so the coffee had to do."
Although MacKenzie has not one but two ghost writers (Karas is a contributor to People magazine and the author of The Onassis Women, while Muscato is a self-described "strategic communications consultant"), the prose never rises above the level of the sleaziest pulp fiction. But that of course is exactly its appeal, and fans of the true-crime genre will find Street Soldier a supreme pleasure, guilty or not. --Jim DeRogatis
From Publishers Weekly
Former mobsters turning around and spilling their guts is nothing new, but this memoir is more than just true crime sensationalism or conscience-cleaning confessional. Instead, it's a window into an inconsistent world created by inner-city masculinity and the innate need to belong. While one-time drug dealer MacKenzie dispels the myth of James Whitey Bulger being a cross between Don Corleone and Robin Hood by portraying him as a murdering, child molesting, drug pusher who ratted on his own gang before disappearing, he admits to looking up to Bulger (who went into hiding in 1995 and is on the FBI's most-wanted list) and feeling proud doing his boss's dirty work. But Bulger's story, the essence of evil, takes a back seat, playing the foil to MacKenzie's tale of an internal struggle of good versus evil that speaks to America's obsession with the duality of mobster life. MacKenzie's brutally honest account of a childhood branded by absentee parents, foster homes, physical and sexual abuse and poverty is moving. He deftly walks the fine line of sentimentality, rarely blaming others for his transgressions while giving a chillingly detailed account of the role his past played in constructing his personality of contradictions: athlete-hood, husband-philanderer, role model drug dealer, parent-child, gangster-rat. Presenting these contradictions, MacKenzie's straightforward writing (with People magazine contributor Karas and communication consultant Muscato), shifts momentum like a street fight, weaving between the fantastic world of crime, violence and sex and the reality of their counterparts: prison, death and pregnancy. Permeated with the feeling that the now clean author still relishes the charge of criminal life, the memoir contains the edginess of a great thriller. Photos. Map not seen by PW.
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