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

3.61  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,355 Ratings  ·  157 Reviews
This fresh account of Massachusetts's infamous Bulger brothers unveils a stunning criminal alliance, and with its dual biography format, goes deeper than the New York Times bestselling Black Mass. For the first time, journalist Howie Carr reveals the real story behind the infamous Bulgers—two brothers from South Boston who grew up to control a state.

With political corrupti
Audio CD, Unabridged, 0 pages
Published February 23rd 2006 by Tantor Media (first published 2006)
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Jan 04, 2009 kevin rated it liked it  ·  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
Kenneth P.
Feb 22, 2015 Kenneth P. rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: boston
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
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 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.
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
Aug 18, 2014 Ru rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 30, 2014 Nick rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
A terrific expose. William "Billy" Bulger ran the Massachusetts State Senate and was the most powerful political force in the state. Everybody was on the take. That's how Massachusetts politics operated. Nothing on the level, everything was a deal, and no deal was too small. The police, judges, and FBI were called "the good guys", but were just as corrupt as the politicians. Anything could be fixed. Absolutely anything. Pay to play, strictly cash and carry. Extortion and bribery were pervasive, ...more
Kay Steeves
I gave this book 3.5 stars. I think it would be most interesting to Massachusetts residents who have heard about William and Whitey Bulger over the decades. But the story Howie Carr tells is one that goes way beyond what has been generally understood about these brothers, touching on public employment, the legislative process, influence peddling, crime, law enforcement and greed and corruption everywhere! It makes it clear while "cleaning up" the way things have historically been done is no easy ...more
Chris Schneider
Jan 18, 2015 Chris Schneider rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book discussed the corruption and crime that took place behind closed doors on Boston's "south side" for over 20 years. More specifically, it discussed the relationship between Whitey Bulger, a notorious mob boss, and his brother Billy, the president of the Massachusetts senate.
Jun 29, 2014 Beth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 26, 2014 Curt Blair rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
B Shea
Jan 25, 2016 B Shea rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book proves truth is stranger than fiction. It's like Tony Soprano and Dick Cheney being brothers. The mobster brother is bad, very bad but the politician brother is really just as bad, he just does not get bloody. I love when as President of UMASS he increased his salary from $185K to $370K and hired a bunch of his pals for do nothing jobs at $100K each. Now you know why tuition is so high. Typical politician stuffing his pockets with taxpayer's money. I think I'll stick to fiction; it's l ...more
Oct 22, 2015 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting take on the Whitey Bulger story as it juxtaposes his criminal career with the political career of his brother Billy who was President of the Massachusetts Senate. The focus is away from the FBI's involvement which is covered superbly in Black Mass. The author has a clear point of view and it tends to overwhelm the story at times. He very ailing does not maintain journalistic distance from his subjects. He also has a slight obsession with Bulger's sexuality which seem unnecessary for ...more
Joseph Lavoie
May 29, 2012 Joseph Lavoie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 31, 2013 Tom Schulte rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 13, 2013 Anthony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fbi, history, police
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
Sep 24, 2007 Aileen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 18, 2008 david-baptiste rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 06, 2011 Megan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 31, 2011 Kirk Morrison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 21, 2013 Nemo Erehwon rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.

Feb 28, 2014 Verusex rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Jun 16, 2013 Laurel rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 03, 2012 Ruth rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 31, 2015 Mike rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
jaw dropping true story of whitey and his brother Billy who ran Boston for a number of years. Howie Carr did an amazing job at finding out the events behind the scenes. This story will leave you wondering what else happens behind closed doors in the political world.
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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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