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The Brothers Bulger: How They Terrorized and Corrupted Boston for a Quarter Century
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The Brothers Bulger: How They Terrorized and Corrupted Boston for a Quarter Century

3.53 of 5 stars 3.53  ·  rating details  ·  1,050 ratings  ·  140 reviews
James "Whitey" Bulger would qualify as the bad seed in any household. Now a wanted fugitive, this street-smart South Boston mobster stands accused of numerous violent crimes, including no fewer than 18 murders. Not surprisingly, Whitey's brother Billy has always been known as "the good son." But according to this revelatory book, William Bulger's career as a Massachusetts ...more
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Published August 19th 2008 by Tantor Media, Inc. (first published 2006)
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kevin
Jan 04, 2009 kevin rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who grew up Irish-Catholic in or around Greater Boston
Shelves: non-fiction
Herald columnist Howie Carr's utter disdain for the Bulgers and Boston townie politics is evident on every page of this lightly dramatized true crime book.

As someone who lived in the neighborhoods described here, I loved all of the local detail. The prose is journalistic and Carr takes liberties with the public record to recreate conversations, events, (and some particularly gruesome violent episodes.) At times, the chip on the author's shoulder rubbed me the wrong way (multiple potshots at a f
...more
Kenneth P.
This is a fascinating and frightening story of corruption and terror. Billy Bulger, President of the Massachusetts State Senate and his gangster brother, Whitey, manage to poison and corrupt Boston's FBI office. Agents on the take look the other way as a crime wave wreaks havoc on the neighborhood of South Boston. Dozens of murders are ignored by authorities.

It's an incredible story but Howie Carr is not the man for this job.

Throughout this book he takes shots at people who have nothing do to
...more
Leah
Jun 13, 2008 Leah added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who loves Boston
Recommended to Leah by: Howie
Wow...this book is insane. If you like Howie Carr this book reads just like his dialogue on air. It is rich in the history of Southie, the politics of Massachusetts, and the inside truth behind the Bulger brothers. I was at Umass when Billy was the President, and I met him at an awards dinner for the All-American Athletes. He seemed like a typical politician, rather dry much like the dinner they served. I love this read...it reminds me of driving around Boston with my dad listening to Howie and ...more
Madeleine McLaughlin
Great read about the regime of Billy and Whitey Bulger in Boston. This book throws up so much dirt about the politics of the city and the FBI, that I had to take a shower after reading it.
Sebastian
Very poorly written, but fascinating true story nonetheless. Tells the story of two of Boston's most infamous figures, and is good background for anyone wanting to know the details of organized crime in Boston in the 60s through the 90s. I'm not a big true crime genre guy, but fans of such work will love this. Howie Carr, aside from his transparent (and probably justified) loathing of the subjects of the book, shows more of his bias in the implication that everything in Boston was simpler and mo ...more
Ru
Last year, Whitey Bulger was apprehended and sentenced to prison after almost two decades of being on the FBI's Most Wanted List. "The Brothers Bulger" covers, in an almost police blotter-esque account, of the ascent of Whitey and his brother Billy in the ranks of organized crime in the Boston, MA area, and documents a trail of just about every conceivable crime as they held the New England area in a grip of fear, through tactics of intimidation and corruption.

Both Bulgers are inherently immerse
...more
Nick
This is one of those good books that's hard to recommend. It details how - well, I guess you can tell from the title. Our two villains are Billy Bulger, the politically minded brother (who gets less ink), and his criminal brother, the notorious Whitey Bulger. Most of the book is about Whitey and his astounding corruption of multiple FBI agents and his getting away with murder for dozens of years (until he finally ran out of competitors to rat out and ended up on the FBI's most wanted list). It's ...more
Beth
This was a fascinating, scary, and at times depressing account of the influence that Billy and James Whitey Bulger had over the state of Massachusetts from the 1970's to the 1990's. It was especially relevant with the recent capture and trial of Whitey Bulger. Billy Bulger was just as much a greedy thief as his brother; Whitey used illegal means and killed people who got in his way and Billy was just a ruthless using "legal" means to garner as much money from the state as he could possibly accum ...more
Curt Blair
When all of the systems fail. This book is a fascinating, if not repulsive study of the lives of two brothers who controlled Boston for years. The larger question the book raises is which was worse. The brother who was ranked as the fourteenth greatest (worse) criminal of all time responsible for more murders than Dillinger and Bonnie and Clyde together. Or the State Senator who controlled the operations of state government while sustaining a great organization based on patronage while contribut ...more
Joseph Lavoie
The book "Brothers Bulger" was written by Howie Carr on how corrupt the city of Boston had become in the time period where the infamous Whitey Bulger had ruled the streets of Boston. Carr explains how Whitey, and his brother Billy, had risen to power in two completely opposite ways. First, he begins with their childhood, the Bulger family had been one of the first residents of the new South Boston housing projects. The Bulger family had then moved into their new home in the newly built housing p ...more
Frank Stein
Although poorly written (there's a blizzard of names on almost every page), the story is still un-freaking-believable. The fact that the city and police in Boston could be this corrupt is truly astounding. The book centers around the speaker of the Massachusetts House, Billy Bulgar (the "corrupt midget") and his brother the drug-dealing Irish mafia kingpin, Whitey Bulgar. Whitey managed to suborn numerous local police and FBI agents (some of whom grew up in the same housing project as the Bulger ...more
Tom Schulte
It is really sickening the way James "Whitey" Bulger's role as an FBI informant gave him an implicit U.S. government umbrella of protection to his life of villainous, murderous crime through tip-offs of recording devices, etc. This book covers that sordid tale and brother William Bulger's rise as a corrupt Massachusetts/Boston politico. The context of a weak and disorganized Mafia (La Cosa Nostra; "LCN" here) that allowed Bulger and the Winterhill gang to flourish is interesting. There also came ...more
Christopher Carbone
The Brothers Bulger chronicles the epic story of corruption, power and crime in Massachusetts through two of the most powerful people ever to come out of the Bay State: James "Whitey" Bulger and his younger brother, former President of U-Mass Amherst and the Massachusetts Senate, William "Billy" Bulger. The story stylizes and explains how Billy conquered Massachusetts politics and dominated its state landscape for 30 years; and how Whitey dominated local crime finally becoming one of the most wa ...more
Anthony
This is another incredible story in the saga of Whitey Bolger and incorporates some of his brother's involvement with him. the story is incredible because it outlines the level of corruption he was able to achieve within law enforcement and the FBI. The not so clear aspect is his brother's involvement in criminal activity other than his efforts to protect a fugitive. I found the story embarrassing for the FBI and its honest agents. I know for a fact that this is an anomaly of moral conduct among ...more
Aileen
What a book. Fascinating subjects notwithstanding, the lack of footnotes or verifiable research makes this non-fiction tome read like a fantasy. Nary a Pulitzer Prize winner, Carr's tabloid-esque style of writing grated my nerves throughout the book. Working at the Boston Herald for a career does not a journalist make. While I shared Carr's disdain for the Brothers Bulger, his contemptuous tone and haughty treatment of the characters read like vengeance. Revenge probably well placed, but it detr ...more
david-baptiste
Having lived in Winter Hill and other ares Howie Carra writes of this book, and during the time periods he writes of, I highly this book for the not just the great reporting, but also the style. Howie Carr gets inside the uses of language, the tone of words, the inflections of accents and the thinking expressed in the clipped gallows humor phrases used by the denizens of the worlds he presents. It's a brutal, grim, raw world filled with some of the most outrageous and preposterous forms of pagen ...more
Fuchsia Rascal
Let's be honest here: I would not have gotten through this if I hadn't been listening to the audiobook. As an audiobook, however, it wasn't such a chore. I got my information about the Bulger brothers in 20 minute spurts while walking to the library and back home, and that broke it down to manageable chunks. It still wasn't perfect-- the editing is weird, both in the text and by the reader. The text largely has no overall coherent flow, instead jumping from one topic to another with no segue. As ...more
Megan
This will probably come off incredibly trite, but I don't care. As a Boston-area native with parents who grew up in the city in and around Bulger associates, family and friends, I found this book to be an amazing resource in a couple of ways. 1) It's a fantastic quick and dirty history of twentieth century Boston politics, and a less-quick, but exponentially dirtier history of 1960s-1990s Boston politics and crime, the era in which my parents came of age and established their families and career ...more
Kirk Morrison
Only in Boston, right? Howie Carr dramatizes the rise of the Bulger Bros. in their respective "careers" in this fascinating, harrowing, angry saga. Howie continues to be a polarizing figure in Boston politics and your interest in this book may be determined by how you view his commentary in the Herald. Taken on its own merits though this is a fine book. Howie's old-school tabloid style writing is really the perfect tenor for this kind of street-level reporting. Although Howie's obvious bad blood ...more
Nemo Erehwon
The prologue bounced around so much I thought Whitey Bulger had escapee arrest by becoming unstuck in time. Chapter 1 was not an improvement.
Carr also spent too much time foreshadowing.

There is also a question of Carr's sources, and his willingness to accept their assertions without skepticism.

Then there is the "inside baseball" problem for those not totally familiar with Boston politics, with the names coming fast, furious and without explanation.
It's too detailed in parts, to vague in others.

I
...more
Verusex
A book by Howie Carr ... A strange concept. Howie's history is as smear jock on radio with no interest in facts. The Bulgers are remarkable men. I can't claim any knowledge of Whitey but have met Billy. He is a man of intelligence and a mesmerizing speaker committed to effective and useful politics. Howie's smear of him is despicable.
Andreasoldier
Picked this up to have most of the Whitey tale in one place.
While Kevin Week's take, "Brutal," is exactly that in its cold-bloodedness, and Dick Lehr and Gerry O'Neill's "Black Mass" was better written, Carr excels at juxtaposing the Brothers' Bulger individual climbs to power. Both took no prisoners — Whitey alleged killed his enemies, while Billy maneuvered them into ineffectiveness.
It also a story about Massachusetts corruption, with a lot of well-known names. Im not a political junkie, but
...more
Laurel
I actually listened to this one. After many years listing to Howie Carr promote his book, I decided to listen to this one on the eve of the Whitey Bulger trial. Perhaps it might have made a better read than listen. For the most part, it felt like Carr was (as he shifted from brother to brother) listing the events and then adding his own snide commentary. I got lost in the names before the '90s, but the read became more interesting as Carr began relaying tales about politicians I knew, from more ...more
Ruth
Since Whitey Bulger is sitting in jail, I thought it would be good to refresh my knowledge of the crook and all his nasty work. But, as the title indicates, you cannot forget Whitey's brother, the "corrupt midget", named Billy.

This book is pulls together all the parts and pieces--FBI informants, government wheeling and dealing, good cops and bad feds. Mr. Howie Carr, pulls it all together is a clumsy, yet colorful narrative. He might not be a literary genius, but he is a reporter and pulls the
...more
Angi Hurst
I couldn't bring myself to listen to the last 3 hours of this book. The book was like a very very long, tedious timeline of events. I was looking for true crime, and although it was definitely true crime, it was true boring crime. However, and I'm not being sarcastic, if you like the way history textbooks read, then I think you'll find this one enjoyable.

My scale (since the speed of my listening is directly proportional to how well I like the book):

1 - couldn't get through it
2 - actually got t
...more
Florence Primrose
Howie Carr, a long-time newsman from Boston, reveals the true lives and deeds of two of Boston's most famous sons, Whitey and Billy Bulger, including their dealings with the F.B.I., national politicians and public figures from Massachusetts.
Ann
Just started . Wanted to read it for a few years. always listening to Howie about the "boys' and knowing and agreeing how corrupt the Speaker was. Thrilled when our Governor Mitt Romney stood up to the corruption and got rid of the scoundrel. Who still takes the peoples' money with his grand pension. Billy laughs all the way to the bank. It is annoying how the some of the people of Massachussets put these boys on a pedestal . A killer and a crook! What a mess! Now we are paying $100,000.00 to f ...more
John somers
Good book and and quite easy read.Brothers who grew up to be a feared gang boss and corrupt politician. Found the sections on Whitey more interesting than those on Billy which seemed to over emphasise what he had done as Howie Carr obviously had his own axe to grind in writing this book, having received death threats from Whitey. Having said that Billy is the perfect Irish politician in that like those we still have in Ireland in that he cannot remember for definite whether he did or did not say ...more
Steve Frank
The story is great, incredible in fact when you consider what these guys have done. My interest is due to the upcoming Affleck/Damon film I heard is in the works (I'm no expert, BTW, but ran across this and thought I'd give it a try). I read some true crime occasionally and mobster crime is always interesting. At times though it was a tad boring and drawn out--so many names! I recommend if you like mobster and true crime along with some history. There's lots of political figures in there from Ma ...more
Nathan
The SCOPE of the interaction between Whitey Bulger and the Boston FBI is unequalled in known history. Whitey essentially had the entire Boston FBI working on his behalf to protect him and his close associates against both the Mafia and the State Police. His brother and president of the Massachussetts Senate Billy Bulger, with his HUGE distribution of patronage jobs and coordination of political favors also helped corrupt FBI agents with sweet jobs upon their retirement.

This book documents some
...more
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Howie Carr is a columnist for the Boston Herald and hosts a radio talk show syndicated throughout New England. He is the New York Times bestselling author of the true crime biographies The Brothers Bulger and Hitman, and author of the crime novel Hard Knocks. In 1985, Carr won a National Magazine Award, and in 2008 he was elected to the National Radio Hall of Fame. He lives in suburban Boston with ...more
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