The New York Times bestselling author of The Westies and Paddy Whacked offers a front-row seat at the trial of Whitey Bulger, and an intimate view of the world of organized crime—and law enforcement—that made him the defining Irish American gangster.
For sixteen years, Whitey Bulger eluded the long reach of the law. For decades one of the most dangerous men in America, Bulger—the brother of influential Massachusetts senator Billy Bulger—was often romanticized as a Robin Hood-like thief and protector. While he was functioning as the de facto mob boss of New England, Bulger was also serving as a Top Echelon informant for the FBI, covertly feeding local prosecutors information about other mob figures—while using their cover to cleverly eliminate his rivals, reinforce his own power, and protect himself from prosecution. Then, in 2011, he was arrested in southern California and returned to Boston, where he was tried and convicted of racketeering and murder.
Our greatest chronicler of the Irish mob in America, T. J. English covered the trial at close range—by day in the courtroom, but also, on nights and weekends, interviewing Bulger’s associates as well as lawyers, former federal agents, and even members of the jury in the backyards and barrooms of Whitey’s world. In Where the Bodies Were Buried, he offers a startlingly revisionist account of Bulger’s story—and of the decades-long culture of collusion between the Feds and the Irish and Italian mob factions that have ruled New England since the 1970s, when a fateful deal left the FBI fatally compromised. English offers an authoritative look at Bulger’s own understanding of his relationship with the FBI and his alleged immunity deal, and illuminates how gangsterism, politics, and law enforcement have continued to be intertwined in Boston.
As complex, harrowing, and human as a Scorsese film, Where the Bodies Were Buried is the last word on a reign of terror that many feared would never end.
English, who has produced some notable books on Irish organized crime in America, like The Westies (1990) and Paddy Whacked (2005), finally weighs in, in-depth, on the now familiar story of murder and corruption centered on Boston gangster Whitey Bulger, the inspiration for Jack Nicholson's character in the film The Departed. English combines firsthand coverage of Bulger's 2013 racketeering trial with flashbacks to the decades leading up to Bulger's conviction in a court of law, and his account is enhanced by access to one of the jurors on the case. English's passionate outrage at the corruption in the FBI and Department of Justice stemming from their reliance on confidential informants whose hands were as bloody as those they gave up is compelling, but he takes it too far; he concludes that since Bulger's conviction by jury was a foregone conclusion the trial "could have been a legal exploration of the law enforcement policy that makes it possible for a man like Whitey Bulger to thrive." His prose can also be over-the-top ("The defense lawyer misread the recipe and undercooked the main course, leaving the jury, paradoxically, both gaseous and malnourished"). Though English's account adds insight to the trial, it is not the definitive account that fans of the author's may have hoped.