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Street Soldier: My Life as an Enforcer for Whitey Bulger and the Irish Mob Hardcover – April 10, 2003

3.5 out of 5 stars 60 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

All due respect to the Gambinos and the Genoveses, but the Italian mob families aren’t the only gangsters to make for compelling memoirs. In terms of relentless ruthlessness and its obsession with the almighty dollar, the Irish mob of Boston’s 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 doesn’t 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 Steve’s 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 I’d had enough money to buy the gasoline that day that’s what I would have done. . . but I’d 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.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Steerforth; 1 edition (April 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586420631
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586420635
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,471,593 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book offers a raw insight to the days when Whitey Bulger and his Irish mob ruled the streets of Southie. It was written by one of Whitey's former legbreakers, Eddie Mac who does not hold back on detail when telling his story - faint of heart be warned! This book is a must-read for those who enjoy reading true crime/mob books!
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Format: Hardcover
Street Soldier is as intense as a kick in the teeth with a steel-toed boot, but without the pain and drive to the hospital. You get the same cringe of discomfort and sick-to-your-stomach feeling reading about MacKenzie's horrible acts of violence, though- not to mention all the same rubbernecking fascination. His tale is formulaic in a lot of ways: "Mac" is passed around from one foster home to another, abused and molested as a kid; he quickly excels at a life of crime and rises to great and seedy heights; and he gets caught, crashes, and waxes about his mistakes. Those heights reached were probably not known outside of South Boston, even notwithstanding the raft of Irish Mob stories of the last decade (representing a wave that Street Soldier is clearly trying to ride). Locality doesn't matter, though, since the story is interesting enough to transcend state and cultural lines.
It is also violent enough to cross the lines of good taste. Not like I objected, but be forewarned that no details are spared as Mac clinically and dispassionately describes the kicking in of ribs, biting off of ears and fingers, and pulling out of teeth, all to collect a buck or spread the word of his boss' displeasure. All in a day's work...
Some of the more interesting aspects of this story that separate it from its peers include MacKenzie's love for, and prowess in, the martial arts and boxing. While obviously helpful to his career as a thug, they allowed Mac to win heaps of athletic awards that in another lifetime could have been his ticket to legitimacy. Mac also didn't seem to indulge in the drugs and substances that he pushed, which arguably helped him remember the last 20 years more clearly.
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Format: Hardcover
Reading Edward MacKenzie's Street Soldier has brought back a lot of memories from another place and another time. Ed's memoir has a universal, transcendent quality about it, it's a raw and insightful narrative about that ugly part of big city life that those who live behind the fences don't see or are too squeamish even to admit it exists. The story could have been about a lot of people I personally knew in Tbilisi, Georgia and Moscow, Russia. Ten thousands miles removed from Boston, entire generations of young kids grew into relentless killing machines brought into the system by the strictest recruiting mechanism with its initiation rites and sacred codes of honor. And like Edward MacKenzie, the mean streets have always been the testing ground. Many like Ed started as vicious street brawlers, then were noticed by the "the men of honor" and later inducted into the system. Their progress within the hierarchy was accomplished according to merit assessment and the decision-makers were our domestic Dons. Reading Ed's book is like reading a familiar story in which only the setting and the names are different. Ed also makes many interesting observations dealing with fear, self confidence, and the ability to stand up for oneself. Now, if I ever were to write my own version of the story on the other side of the Atlantic, I'd like to invite Edward MacKenzie as my co-author.
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By A Customer on July 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I've met Eddie on 4 or 5 occasions, and I have had long talks with him. I know some of the R.I. people he talks about. I've read the book. Everything Eddie says in this book is the truth as he saw it and lived it. I wish all of you could look into his eyes as he tells his story and see the pain of his youth, the disgust of Whitey's sexual tastes, and the true love he has for his 5 daughters.
This book is real, it deals with a part of life that most of us will never see. It does not make Eddie a hero it makes him a man that found the only door open to him to survive.
Read it!! It's hard, it's raw, it's true. If you start it in an evening plan on not going to sleep until it done---you can't put it down.
If he has a book signing anywhere near you go see him, talk to him, you'll never forget it!!!!!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This lowlife legbreaker writes about the sexual pleasure he gets from breaking peoples legs, rats out other crooks to save his own criminal behind, and then tells us about how touched he is after going to college and finding out he's a good guy who loves his daughters. I felt disgusted with this guy who seemed top think the OTHER crooks were bad and he was good, after all he went to college. (so did Ted Bundy)

I had read BLACK MASS earlier and liked it. Still curious about Whitey Bulger, I tried this book. It stunk. I could write about my disgust with this book (and I LOVE mob books) for days, but instead just send me your address and you can have my copy. This fool should not take anyone else's money.
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Format: Paperback
I'm an Irish-Catholic guy in his 40's who grew up in Boston in the late 60's and 70's. I've read Streeet Soldier and Brutal several times each, and I personally believe much more of what Eddie Mac has to say about the "real" Whitey, as opposed to the relatively reverant tone in which Weeks still speaks of Whitey. Sure, Eddie Mac and Weeks are both equally dangerous sociopaths, and will surely go to Hell (assuming it exists) for all the evil they inflicted on their fellow human beings over the years. Having said that, Weeks still seems to be loyal to Whitey, and probably knows exactly where he is hiding out these days. For that reason, I don't believe a word he says when he defends Whitey against allegations that he was a rapist, a child molester, etc. Eddie Mac definitely gives the reader more insight into what Whitey was really like...and isn't that why we all read these books, anyway?
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