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Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  2,716 ratings  ·  211 reviews

John Connoly and James "Whitey" Bulger grew up together on the streets of South Boston. Decades later, in the mid 1970's, they would meet again. By then, Connolly was a major figure in the FBI's Boston office and Whitey had become godfather of the Irish Mob. What happened next -- a dirty deal to being down the Italian mob in exchange for protection for Bulger -- would spir

Paperback, 400 pages
Published May 1st 2002 by Publicaffairs Ltd. (first published May 1st 2000)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Nancy Oakes
Mar 26, 2008 Nancy Oakes rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nancy by: history channel
Shelves: nonfiction
The scene is Boston, starting in the 1970s. The FBI has made it a top priority to clamp down on organized crime (in this case, the Mafia, populated by the Italians of North Boston). John Connolly, a very young FBI agent, is called to the Boston office to work in the Organized Crime unit. The idea was that if he could find someone to rat out the Italians, the FBI's job would be made much easier. Connolly begins to cultivate James (Whitey) Bulger, a former acquaintance from Connolly's old neighbor ...more
When I was in my early teens I had an unhealthy obsession with the mafia. I read every single book Mario Puzo wrote, The Way of the Wiseguy, Joey Pistone's Donnie Brasco among other mafia books. Reading Black Mass was like returning to an old friend, but I'm a no longer a pre-teen. I now know that besides just protecting their family, the people in the mafia actually killed some people who were not bad guys. See, as a kid I figured that they just killed each other, and since they were bad guys, ...more
For any reader looking for a dramatic, engrossing true crime story, this one is fantastic. It is well organized, well written, and because of Whitey's recent capture, well timed! (well: the book has been edited since his capture; it originally came out well before.)

I won't say much except that the Bulger/Flemmi alliance with the Boston FBI is a story that should have been made up. How a relationship this corrupt could have happened, and happened for so long, is just gross/despicable/infuriating/
If you've ever been curious about Whitey Bulger, the Winter Hill Gang, Southie politics or FBI corruption, this is an excellent primer. The Boston Globe investigative journalists who reported on Bulger for numerous years pulled together all their research and the trial transcripts to create this informative and unbelievable tale. At times I got a little bogged down keeping all of the people and stories straight because this is truly an example of fact being stranger than fiction. And my interest ...more
Jacky Mac
Being from Boston, Whitey Bulgar has always been a 'local legend' and I have read several books about him and his life of crime. This book was the most articulate and detailed. It included shocking facts about corruption and misguided loyalty. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes crime or non-fiction books.
I liked the book a lot and was quick to read. Probably not the best time for me to read a book about how corrupt the FBI is as I hate them and already know that they are corrupt. I would recommend it though, very detailed and really interesting.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
The Southie of the 1970's and 1980's was run by a gangster named Jimmy "Whitey" Bulger, who took over the Winter Hill Gang after its leader, Howie Winter, was put behind bars. Whitey and his right-hand man, Stevie "The Rifleman" Flemmi, controlled everything that happened there, from gambling, to drugs, to weapons. Beyond a penchant for violence and a ruthless reputation, the thing that kept Whitey and Stevie out of trouble with the law was a close friendship with Michael Connelly, a high-rankin ...more
Written by two Boston Globe reporters who covered the story for many years, the book details infamous mobster Whitey Bulger's decades-long deal with the FBI that allowed him to effectively rule Boston's underworld unchallenged.

It's one of the those stories that's so crazy you can't believe it actually happened. Super ambitious and morally compromised FBI agents make a deal with up-and-coming Irish mobsters to exchange information about the Italian mob in exchange for immunity from prosecution. T
I finally got around to reading this after having bought it some years back. I had read a lot of the original reporting by the authors that ran in the Boston Globe back in the nineties and they did a very good job of turning it into a very readable novel-like book. Sources and reference material are included and the index seems quite good, which is also a plus. The only real issue is that the story wasn't quite finished when the book was published (e.g. Whitey Bulger was still on the lam) and so ...more
Jessica Leight
The author and his colleagues have done an admirable job chronicling the shocking story of the alliance between the Boston FBI and Whitey Bulger. I have a couple of quibbles with the book: first, the pacing drags in the middle section. After setting up the alliance between the FBI and Bulger, the authors proceed through many years of crimes committed by Bulger before investigations into the whole sordid affair begin. While this is partly dictated by the true chronology of events - Bulger and the ...more
Great book. Written by Boston Globe reporters who covered the Bulger brothers back in the nineties and who also led the public outrage that got Billy ousted as president of UMass, this book details the entire breadth of Whitey's sweetheart deal with the FBI. Basically, the worst gangster in America got a cheat code. In exchange for help bringing down the Italian mafia in New England, Whitey gets his main rivals eliminated and receives advance notice whenever the law is closing in. This goes on f ...more
This was entertaining but at the end of the day I find stories like The Man in the Rockefeller Suit: The Astonishing Rise and Spectacular Fall of a Serial Impostor more interesting than Whitey Bulger stories. That being said, I do understand why people are so fascinated by this all and I thought one of the most interesting questions of all was brought up at the very end (view spoiler) ...more
Don't go in thinking this is a bio of Whitey Bulger. It is definitely not. It is one crazy story, though. I didn't know anything about Bulger and associates and their role as FBI informants. In this book you've got FBI vs state troopers, Irish mob vs Italian mob. Who is informing for whom? Is anyone here to be trusted? Probably not.

I think the book gets fairly bogged down in listing dates and names. These are real people, and some of them have very similar names (yes, there are two Kevins). It c
Wow. Just wow. It's so crazy to think that all of this shit really went down within the FBI. I really enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it to others. Even those who wouldn't normally read a book from this genre. And I'm also keeping my fingers crossed that something like this doesn't ever happen again...
Erin D

Review of Black Mass

The novel, Black Mass, Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neill depict the illegal relationship between two FBI agents, John Connolly and John Morris and two mobsters, James “Whitey” Bulger and Stephen Flemmi. The authors describe how Connolly and Morris let Bulger and Felmmi escape prosecution for incredible crimes. To illustrate, on page 203 Morris allegedly tells the mobsters at a dinner party, “You can do anything you want as long as you don’t clip anyone.” The authors also describe
Erica Rosenberg
I haven't read anything like this in a while - essentially, the true story of the movie The Departed. Having loved the movie, I picked up the book. The story is truly insane - how this alliance between high powered members of the FBI and Boston's most notorious criminals continued over 3 decades…mind-blowing. The book takes us through the happenings of those 30 years in great detail, and most of it made sense (at some points, it was just a little too detailed). A good read but admittedly, I was ...more
This is a very interesting (and very disturbing) story. The book format was a little too much for me--I would have preferred the same information in a long article.
I did not care for the sensationalist style of writing which was used in this book. Though it purports to be a work of journalism, phrases such as the following are not uncommon:

"Stephen's little girl wandered into the kitchen to see what was going on [...] 'Isn't she cute?', Flemmi said. The gangster tousled her blond hair. The gun's hard metal caught the girl's attention, and she reached for it. Flemmi let her touch it, and the girl even put part of the gun in her mouth. 'It would be a sin fo
Frustrating, yet fascinating, read. First and foremost, I suck with names in real life and when reading, so when you have as many people involved as in this story, I nearly need a hint about who they are talking about, like Bob (FBI Boss). I hate having to flip to the front of the book, find the name, remember who they are and why they are important, and then reestablish where I was before I got lost. Secondly, as I said in one of my updates: give me the story in near or chronological order plea ...more
Growing up in the Boston area, I'd always heard about Whitey Bulger, even as a kid. However, it was the tale of Whitey Bulger, because by the time he was on the run in 1995, I was only 11. Even as an adult, having learned more about his life as a gangster, I still didn't fully comprehend the level of scandal involved with Bulger's ties to the FBI. Black Mass lays it all out there, in great detail. Sometimes I failed to accurately keep track of the Irish mobsters, Italian Mafia and FBI agents, an ...more
Written by Boston Globe reporters, Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neal, Black Mass is the true story of how members of Boston's Irish mob used their relationship with their childhood pal and newly annointed FBI agent, John Connolly, to become informants against their competition, the Italian mob. All the while, they continue with their own crime, corruption, and murder without reprimand, until a defense attorney, named Cardinale, exposes the decades long travesty.

All this has the potential to be explos
Anthony Luongo

Black Mass by Dick Lehr is about the relationship between the FBI and Whitey Bulger. The story opens in 1975 with a meeting near Wollaston Beach in Quincy. Two men from the old neighborhood, “Southie,” meet in darkness, neither one wanting to be seen with the other. Two men who had gone in completely different directions, coming together to see what each had to offer. John Connolly, a young, ambitious FBI agent in the Organized Crime Squad, who wanted to make his name taking down the Mafia and
Well, I understand a whole lot more about the Irish Mob than I did a week ago, i.e. now I can be an informed follower of the Whitey Bulger trial. This was a really interesting, focused look at the four principal actors in the debacle: crime boss Whitey Bulger, his partner Stevie Flemmi, and the two FBI agents John Connolly and John Morris, who recruited them as informants but wound up practically becoming their partners in crime.

The fascinating thing about the web of corruption that unspools he
Sean Allen
The book I read is Black Mass “The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob.” This is a very fascinating book and makes you wonder what the FBI is doing behind our backs with mobs and gangsters. This book is mostly about Whitey Bulger and his contacts with Agent John Connolly of the FBI. But they also throw in some stories about the winter hill gang which Whitey was in. A little brief info on whitey is after being one of the FBI’s top wanted list he fled Massachusetts. ...more
Black Mass lays out, in eminently readable and often shocking detail, the incredible story of how Bulger and Steve Flemmi co-opted the Boston FBI, using their role as informants against the Mafia to eliminate their rivals and evade other local and federal law enforcement agencies. They even "tipped off" the Feds to crimes they committed (or ordered), casting suspicion on players they would like out of play. I read the first chapter thinking Black Mass must be a glamorized and highly speculative ...more
Corruption...murder...extortion...racketeering... and those were the crimes committed by the FBI in this book! James "Whitey" Bulger, one of the FBI's most prominent informants in the Boston office who gets the protection he needs from the FBI, while unbeknownst to the entire crime syndicate in Boston he's dropping the dime on them, Italians and Irish loyalty from Whitey, but yet he demanded loyalty from his people. Seems like the FBI (Forever Bothering Italians) is more focused on br ...more
Reading this book was a struggle, but I had to finish it considering it's been on my to-read list for about a decade. Lehr and O'Neill thoroughly investigated and researched the case of Bulger, Flemmi, Connelly, and Morris, but Jesus, they read like a text book. I think I must have been reading their articles in the Globe growing up everytime my dad tried to force the newspaper on me. Snoozefest.

I will say I found it funny how when this was written in 2000 the "roving bug" was considered the "m
Feb 13, 2013 Heather rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Heather by: Michael Flynn
Shelves: adult
This wasn't perfect, but I really liked it. The story itself is just completely fascinating. A few times, I had difficulty following it and felt like it wasn't going in chronological order, but I then realized that there were just so many details and so many facets to the overall story that they sometimes had to backtrack and start over from a different angle. My favorite part was the end, when the whole thing started to be uncovered.

I would love to read even more on this topic - I think it's i
Kevin Symmons
Not the type of books I usually enjoy but this one held my attention throughout. Having lived in the Greater Boston Area throughout the Whitey Bulger era I found this frighteningly refreshing, Especially since my wife's extended family were South Boston residents. I was glad to read the hideous Bulger "Robin Hood" myth debunked. This degenerate was a low-life, homicidal, sociopath who used violence, terror, and extortion to extract revenge and build a terrifying criminal empire. He did his best ...more
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Dick Lehr is a journalist who received a BA from Harvard in 1976.
More about Dick Lehr...
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