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Whitey Bulger: America's Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt That Brought Him to Justice 1st Edition

318 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0393087727
ISBN-10: 0393087727
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Editorial Reviews


“If you locked director Martin Scorsese, screenwriter Nick Pileggi and TV producer David Chase in the same room for a month, I doubt they would come up with anything as rich in scope and details as the real-life tale of Whitey Bulger.” (Jeff Greenfield - Washington Post)

“This is the definitive story of Whitey Bulger. As much social documentary as riveting crime story, the book is a masterwork of reporting by Cullen and Murphy. I couldn’t put it down.” (Michael Connelly, best-selling author of The Black Box)

“Whitey committed every crime outside. He lived years in prison and was certain that prison was preferable to the risks and disgrace in his life of South Boston. This book is easily the best story about crime I’ve read.” (Jimmy Breslin, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and author of The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight and The Good Rat)

“This is the Whitey Bulger book by the two expert journalists who know the turf best. An unflinching look at the culture of silence and death fostered by Bulger—and by his friends in high and low places—and an important affirmation for young people growing up in today’s neighborhoods of good people besieged by thuggery, corruption, and codes of silence.” (Michael Patrick MacDonald, best-selling author of All Souls: A Family Story from Southie)

Whitey Bulger... is as much a social history as a biography or manhunt thriller.... In the same way that J. Anthony Lukas’s Common Ground is essential to understanding Boston’s racial history, Whitey Bulger is an authoritative treatise on the city’s late-20th-century underworld.” (Sean Flynn - Boston Globe)

“Solid writing, remarkable details and the addition of Bulger’s fairly recent capture make this a worthy addition to the literature of the mob.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“[A]n authoritative study of the legendary criminal and the long manhunt that culminated in Santa Monica in 2011…. Whitey Bulger is a portrait of its subject in all his complexity: devoted son and brother, vicious killer, neighborhood folk hero, anti-integration activist…. It's a terrific book—comprehensive, deeply reported, invested with an understanding of place and character, and the subtle, at times pernicious, ways they interact. This is hardly surprising; the authors, Polk Award-winning Boston Globe reporters (Cullen also has a Pulitzer), have been on the Bulger trail for nearly 30 years. Their expertise infuses Whitey Bulger with authority, a depth and an engagement that makes it less a work of true crime than a social history.” (David Ulin - Los Angeles Times)

About the Author

Kevin Cullen, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has written for the Boston Globe since 1985, was the first to raise questions about Whitey Bulger's relationship with the FBI. A frequent commentator on NPR and the BBC, Cullen has won major journalism prizes including the Goldsmith Prize, the George Polk Award, and the Selden Ring Award.

Shelley Murphy has covered Whitey Bulger and organized crime in Boston since 1985, beginning at the Boston Herald and moving to the Globe in 1993. She has won a George Polk Award for National Reporting.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (February 11, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393087727
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393087727
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 0.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (318 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,574 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

95 of 98 people found the following review helpful By D. Graves on February 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Overall, excellent. This is not 'Black Mass' or 'The Brothers Bulger'. There isn't any 'creative non-fiction' from these two Boston Globe writers; rather, it's the story of Whitey Bulger based on the facts, including heretofore unknown yet documentable facts. So, on one hand, it's the most credible book on the Whitey saga. However, some readers knowledgeable about the Bulgers will be disappointed in the writers' reticence to 'connect the dots' and draw conclusions about certain aspects of the criminal enterprise Whitey ran (e.g., the depth and breadth of Billy Bulger's involvement). But I suppose the authors' objectivity is commendable: they give us the dots, we connect them.

The book is, first and foremost, an engrossing read. While most 'true crime' books sensationalize the crimes and criminals, Cullen and Murphy calmly reveal just how evil Whitey and his minions were. The scene of innocent Deborah Hussey, stepdaughter of Stephen Flemmi whom he had molested for years, being murdered by Whitey and Flemmi, with Flemmi pulling her teeth out with pliers afterwards (to prevent ID of the body, if found), is, really, all you need to know about these dirtbags.

As for new revelations, there is actually some comical stuff about "criminal mastermind" Whitey and his new pen pal, Dick Sunday, an old con who served time with Whitey in Alcatraz. Apparently the "mastermind" has been writing letters to Sunday, not only whining about his detention at Plymouth County Jail but admitting many of the crimes he is accused of. The feds now have those letters. Good luck at trial, Mastermind. Other revelations concerning Whitey's involvement in the Boston busing violence and IRA support are very interesting.

The book is divided into three sections: "The Rise", "The Reign", and "The Run". All of it is well-written and factual, neither building Whitey Bulger up nor condemning him. However, the facts alone condemn him.
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65 of 69 people found the following review helpful By JUDGEGERRY on February 23, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was a criminal defense attorney for thirty-eight years before ascending to the Massachusetts Judiciary for ten years. I have met and represented many of the individuals about whom the authors write. This book nails it. It reads like a gripping crime novel and captivates the reader from page one. It is fodder for a mesmerizing movie, presenting the problem of what NOT to include. There are other books on this subject but they pale as knockoffs to this GENUINE gold Rolex. Set aside some time when you begin this read for it's a thrilling visual insight of the inhabitants of the world of organized crime. Non-fiction books as exciting as this don't come along that often. It's a gem.
Judge Gerald Alch (Ret.)
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Whitey Bulger by Cullen and Murphy will forever be known as the authoritative resource for filtering out fact from fiction on the infamous and repugnant life of James" Whitey" Bulger.

I was just one of many aspiring young detectives who spent several years of our careers trying to take this murderous sociopath off the street, only to be intercepted by corruption time after time at the highest levels of government. Cullen and Murphy were alongside with us through those years.

This book should be mandatory reading at every local, state, and federal law enforcement academy in the country.

Bob Long
Detective Lieutenant Inspector
Massachusetts State Police, Retired
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Deirdre H. Robbins on February 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The authors, who are quite familiar with the Bulgers from their (the authors') years as reporters for the Boston Globe, have done a masterful job telling the story factually, without sensationalizing or over-analyzing those facts - and quite a story it is! The study of Whitey's character fascinated me, from his childhood on. The things he was able to get away with, largely because he was very tight with his FBI "handlers," chilled my blood. Yes, the FBI was concentrating principally on the Italian mafia, but did the FBI need to give Whitey a complete pass and look the other way as he systematically and brutally murdered, by his own admission, at least 40 people? Did the FBI try very hard to capture Whitey after he went on the lam? These are questions the authors raise, and, thankfully, do not answer definitively. The book certainly left me thinking.

Now that we are seeing Whitey's defense shaping up (he will not deny what he did, but claims he has immunity but was not an informant - read the book and you will see where this is coming from), part of me hopes that not too many people read this book, because as an attorney I hope the court will be able to seat an impartial jury, and this book gives details going back to the beginning, in the 1970s. (As another reviewer pointed out, Whitey's involvement in the South Boston busing mess was one of many revelations.) However, the book is so good that I believe it will be widely read.

I think the authors should do another book about John Connolly, the principal FBI handler who is now serving a long prison term. It appears the authors had a lot of material for their book on Whitey, including trial transcripts and judicial decisions (over 600 pages from Judge Mark Wolf alone, in the Connolly case!).
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By R.L. Jenkins on August 22, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have to say that above all other genres of book, I love true crime stories so I was very intrigued about this book when I heard the authors interviewed on Talk of the Nation (RIP) one afternoon. Admittedly, the Irish mob particularly in Boston, was a subject that I had little prior experience with as most of my true crime books relate to serial killers or the Italian Mafia so I was really excited to dive into this book. What I found has been both, at times, riveting and excruciatingly boring. The authors have done an excellent job with this book, no question, however their style of reporting can make for tiresome reading at times. At the end of the day, this is a newspaper article that is hundreds of pages long and, as such, it can get to be a real slog to get through some parts. That said, this book is as straight forward a piece of reporting that you're going to get. The book is not prone to flights of artistic fancy or inferred insights into the minds of the central criminals. This book explores the facts and for that it is a fine book and if you're one that enjoys just straight up reporting, you'll find this book right up your alley. If you're like me, and enjoy a little more art and style to your writing, you might do better with a different book. I didn't learn anything in this book that I didn't learn in a 15 minute Google search of Whitey Bulger's name which may be the way to go. Fine book, well written just not entertaining enough for my taste. I am by no means suggesting that this is not an excellent book written by very talented reporters, I just mean to suggest that, if you like a little more flare with your reading, you might enjoy another book more.
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