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Rat Bastards: The South Boston Irish Mobster Who Took the Rap When Everyone Else Ran Paperback – January 9, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Shea—who at age 20 was the drug boss for South Boston Irish mobster James "Whitey" Bulger and later served 12 years in federal prison for drug trafficking (yes, he was given the opportunity to rat, but, "like a man," he didn't)—gives gangster honor a bare-knuckled workout in his memoir, a slick read dripping with the underworld holy trinity of sex, drugs and violence. Born in 1965 into a "fucked up family" in South Boston, Shea traded a foundering boxing career for a gig making $4,000 a night selling cocaine and marijuana. Before long, Bulger took him under his wing and, being a tough and honorable guy, Shea ascended the ranks and had a crew working for him before he was busted and did his time. To hear Shea tell the story, he's about the only guy in South Boston who can keep his trap shut—including Bulger, who turned rat and is now in hiding—once the cuffs are on. And though his unrelenting swagger can wear thin and the writing has lackluster moments, Shea's story is a bawdy page-turner in the Iceman tradition that true crime fans will enjoy. 16 pages of b&w photos.(Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“...a slick read dripping with the underworld holy trinity of sex, drugs, and violence...a bawdy page-turner.” (Publishers Weekly)
“...the hottest Irish-American mob story of all time.” (Liz Smith, New York Post)
“...dish-a-thon on Whitey Bulger.” (Boston Herald)
“...the only memoir told from the perspective of a mobster who refused to betray the code of silence.” (The Improper Bostonian)
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On another level though, all you can do is shake your head.
Talk about a "stand up" guy, my favorite "stand up" episode has got to be when he presents his girl with a diamond ring telling her, "You know what this is for." How romantic! In the very next paragraph he informs his readers that he wouldn't think of marrying the woman. So... pretty dang clever how he goes about it, you know, suggesting a marriage proposal, but technically speaking a ring is just a ring. Smooth, yes? I don't know. Honorable? I don't think so! But then again, she's only a woman. There is a brand of "respect" you give women, it just doesn't amount to much. When he was threatening his sister with a knife, after all, he was just trying to scare her! Why? Because she suggested he wouldn't act on his threat to stab her and her boyfriend FOR GOING TO THEIR MOTHER'S BIRTHDAY PARTY! You see, she was casting aspersions on his masculinity, his very manliness itself! She implied he wasn't "man enough" to stab 2 people FOR SHOWING UP AT MOM'S BIRTHDAY PARTY. Frankly, I have an Irish brother who is a pale imitation of this guy and let me tell you: nobody in the family wants anything whatsoever to do with him. Is it any surprise?
This guy's "moral code" or whatever you want to call it, about which he is not merely evangelical but out and out tyrannical is nothing short of pathetic really. This celebration/veneration of overkill, and in particular his completely weird fanaticism against gays (You gotta wonder a bit about this. There was just released recently, in April 2012, a study which purports to offer scientific support for the idea that anyone so drastically homo hating just might have a "problem" as Warhol used to put it. I mean, yikes! This guy's 'homophobia' would seem to be the real article alright (ie fear of, as opposed to what C. Everett Koop insisted the word homophobia stands for as a general rule, ie the hatred of homosexuality). His apprehensions about man on man action are simply off the charts! In fact there is a definite sense that as much as he despised the many and various men (although only men of color as they say are mentioned specifically) who went homo in prison, that once even the porno had been removed from the facility it may have required the greatest of all exercises of his much vaunted iron will for "Little Red" to resist the particular remedy to stir craziness that comes naturally to so many in the prison situation. One gets the sense that this boy was in fact, mightily tempted!); his repeated insistence that since two wrongs don't make a right, it was therefore just the greatest thing, of such immense value - wouldn't trade those years behind bars for anything in the world! - that he spent 13 of em locked up to contemplate his own 'stand up' greatness, protecting someone who didn't merely betray him, but used him 'like a pack of cigarettes' set him up and got him put him away for nothing less than the sum total duration of whatcha'd call 'the prime of life'... Yikes yikes and yikes!! Odd that over the course of 13 years of thinking it over he is still puzzled by the Whitey Bulger persona, it never occurring to him that the man was a sociopath who played this megalomaniac like a Stradivarius for his own unfathomable (only in the sense of limitless) needs.
Ok Shea, so if two wrongs don't make a right, how many wrongs do make a right? Do you suppose that being ready to seriously 'take apart' anybody who looks at you sideways rinse and repeat over and over ad nauseum constitutes some kind of path to righteousness? You bet it does, "in [his] world" as he puts it (in which the rest of us, dontcha know, merely live). In the end you certainly can't but laugh not only with - for this volume is nothing if not funny - but most definitely at this clown and feel more than a little sorry for him. Maybe it's the mental editing of the actualities of recollection here that explains something I certainly failed to grasp, which is why he left California when things seemed to be going pretty darned well for him in the whole boxing game thing. Rationalization, not honor, would appear to be the name of the game here.
All in all, I sure don't read books to discover only the thoughts and feelings and histories of people who are like, or think like me. This is definitely a decent read. At the very least if anyone dares, someone I hope might please break the news gently to this dude that however impressed he is with himself, the arguments put forward in this book to support this high esteem are not so convincing to a great many of his readers. As this domineering Taliban worthy philosopher finally concedes, he can sure as hell go to hell!
If you're just interested in this book, it is, essentially, one big self-inflicted ego stroke minus numerous details that would have added to the intrigue of the tale. There are almost no interesting, well-developed or enlightening stories aside from the tales of prison life.
The biggest thing I came away with from this book is that Shea feels the need to tell you how tough he is at least once in every single chapter. Frankly, it gets tiresome and takes away from the story. Shea turns from a would be protagonist (if you buy into the "admirable" qualities the main character portrays) into someone you hope will at least bring something redeeming to the table in the end. It doesn't happen.
This one had potential. Unfortunately, the egomania, the lack of details, and the lack of developed stories take away from the impact.
As mentioned, read the compilation books first, followed by All Souls (truly excellent), Street Soldier (what this book could have been, ie, very authentic and interesting, even if horrifying), and A Criminal and An Irishman (Nee, it seems, is one of the only genuine stand-up guys). From there, the rest are pretty much the same.
The book has been a quick and easy read. A whole lot of chest thumping from Red. I wish there were a few deep dark stories, but it sort of got lost in prison life. I guess that's the chronology of the story and the whole book is only a couple hundred pages or so.
Anyhow...I've enjoyed it for what it is.