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

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3.78  ·  Rating Details ·  5,237 Ratings  ·  400 Reviews
John Connolly and James "Whitey" Bulger grew up together on the streets of South Boston. Decades later, in the mid-1970s, 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 bring down the Italian mob in exchange for protection for Bulger -- would spir ...more
Audio, Abridged, 6 pages
Published June 1st 2001 by HarperAudio (first published May 1st 2000)
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J.R. "Black mass is a reference to an unholy agreement, or a deal with Satan." - That's what Susan says. That, however, is incorrect.

A Black Mass is a…more
"Black mass is a reference to an unholy agreement, or a deal with Satan." - That's what Susan says. That, however, is incorrect.

A Black Mass is a corruption of the Catholic Mass. In a Black Mass, Satanists make a mockery of the actual Mass, using Eucharistic Hosts typically stolen from a Catholic Church. Catholics believe these Hosts are the actually Body of Christ, making them extremely sacred. The Satanists use Black Masses to desecrate these hosts.

The reason the term used is "Black Mass" and not "Deal with the Devil" is that, in the analogy, the mob (Satanists), use the FBI (something sacred), to further their own ends and "desecrate" the FBI. The FBI is supposed to be good, but the mob takes it, and uses it for something evil. (less)
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Community Reviews

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Nancy Oakes
Mar 24, 2008 Nancy Oakes rated it really liked it  ·  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
Grace
Aug 09, 2011 Grace rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Becky
I was absolutely glued to this book after about the first 30 pages wherein the South Boston scene is set. I know jack about south Boston, I'm not really drawn to books about crime, but this is book was immaculately researched and wholly unbelievable, and yet its all true. I think its an especially important book as you see the evolution of wiretapping and information gathering culminating in today's Patriot Act.
Robert Palmer
This book is a fascinating topic of the FBI ( John Connolly ) getting in bed with the MOB ( Whitey Bulge ) and it took the justice department about 20 years to figure it out and finally bringing both Men before the court. I do believe that the Authors spent a lot of time researching the lives of both Men,who both grew up in South Boston and formed a partnership that as the title of the book tells us "a devils deal " it reminded me of an old saying " the devil is in the details " . However no mat ...more
meganlwhy
Oct 04, 2015 meganlwhy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great research. Awesome insight. Saw the movie and wanted so much more! Fascinating to see just how corrupt the law enforcement really was. The rise and fall of the Bulger/Flemmi empire.
Emily
May 29, 2015 Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, boston
Too much FBI, not enough gangsters.
Lady♥Belleza★✰
Black Mass has been sitting on my bookshelf for quite a while, I was looking for a third book about Jimmy “Whitey” Bulger written by Dick Lehr, I have “Whitey” and have been trying to find “Underboss”. Then I saw the movie “Black Mass” (starring: Johnny Depp and Benedict Cumberbatch as the Bulger brothers and Joel Edgerton as John Connolly, former FBI agent) was scheduled to be released in September 2015. I decided I had to read the book before I saw the movie, which I desperately want to see.

In
...more
Samantha
Mar 21, 2012 Samantha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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/
...more
Gina
Jan 14, 2016 Gina rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The term "black mass" essentially refers to a deal with the devil. In this case it refers to a handshake deal between criminals Whitey Bulger and Steve Flemmi and their FBI handlers John Connolly and John Morris, with a few others, to do pretty much whatever criminal activity they wanted as long as they fed them some occasional tips on other mobsters. Those tips, of course, paved the way for Bulger and Flemmi to run the gun, drug, and off book betting trade in Boston in the 1970s-1980s.

The stor
...more
Kelly
Sep 24, 2015 Kelly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not the best read if you are looking for a story-telling version of these events (as this is not the type of book to give you the play-by-ply-on-the-scene action and dialogue of a good story). But, a fantastic book if you are looking for a solid background on the life of the notorious Southie Irish gangster Whitey Bulgar, his associates, and their corrupted relationships with the FBI.

It was fascinating to read about Bulgar/FBI's relationship, and how they progressed over time. All starting with
...more
Sabot
Aug 05, 2014 Sabot rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
CC
Feb 11, 2011 CC rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Jessica
Aug 31, 2014 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Bonnie
Feb 24, 2016 Bonnie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've always been intrigued by biographical Mafia stories, but this account of the boundaries crossed by the FBI was shocking. That officials went above and beyond to protect criminals who were committing murder, to leak secrets compromising hundreds of man-hours of work, and to tell lie after boldface lie was straight out of Hollywood. Looking forward to watching the movie at the end of week to see how it correlated to the book.
Jacky Mac
Feb 03, 2013 Jacky Mac rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Vincent
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.
Chase Wilson
Mar 24, 2017 Chase Wilson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

It's 1970 in South Boston, Whitey Bulger is an up and coming gangster in the winter Hill Gang: A vicious group of "Southies" with plans of over throwing the mafia. In Boston, the Winter Hill Gang aren't the only ones wanting to take down the mafia; The cities FBI bureau has also had their eyes on the legendary mob group for years. The FBI knows that taking down the Mafia is a task comparable to breaking into Fort Knox. If they want to eliminate the most infamous gang in the world, they'll need h
...more
Michaela
Jan 30, 2012 Michaela rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ben
Feb 03, 2015 Ben rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adulthood
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
Callie
Jan 10, 2013 Callie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Erin
Jul 13, 2009 Erin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: boston, true-crime
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
...more
Kenneth Barber
Sep 05, 2015 Kenneth Barber rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a intriguing book about the gangster, Whitey Bulger. He was involved in every type of crime imaginable in the city Boston. His boyhood friend, John Connolly, worked for the FBI. The FBI was trying to break up La Costa Nostra and its chokehold on criminal activities. Connolly approached Bulger about becoming an informant to help break up the mafia. The deal was struck and the two began a relationship that spun out of control. In return for little information of value, Connolly became a bu ...more
Zelmer Wilson
Aug 16, 2015 Zelmer Wilson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I never heard of Whitey Bulger until I saw the movie The Departed and found out that the Jack Nichaloson character was based on a real life gangster. I then saw the Sixty Minutes story of his capture, after nearly seventeen years. When I saw this book in the nearby Wal-Mart, I decided that I had to get it. And I'm glad that I did.
I won't say anymore, don't want to give away too much about the story. For those who haven't heard of him, Whitey Bulger was an Irish gangster in Boston who became an F
...more
Mark Auld
Jan 24, 2017 Mark Auld rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Black Mass was one of the most interesting book that I have read. Being the self that I am, I like to know the history of what happens in my city. This is exactly what this book did for me. It gave me more details that I never knew about Boston Massachusetts. This book is a completely true story about Bostons major criminals back in mid 1900's. That is what I liked the most about this read. One thing that I didn't like about Black Mass was that there were a lot of people to remember. I often got ...more
Melissa
Sep 03, 2015 Melissa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, b-n
I had not heard about Whitey Bulger until his name was brought up as a possible suspect in the Gardner Museum heist.

Then I saw the previews for this movie and was like I need to know more. And the book is always more informative than the movie so I got it. And I was completely enthralled. So many more people were involved along the way than just Whitey himself.

A corrupt FBI branch. A blank check so to speak for being informants Bulger and Flemmi were basically told they could do whatever they
...more
Drew Krajeski
Sep 03, 2015 Drew Krajeski rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a very interesting book. It really kept my attention and I did not get bored reading like some books can get. It even more interesting because I'm from Boston but was not born when all of this stuff went down with Whitey and the Winter Hill gang. They book is very in depth with what went on with him and FBI agent John Connelly. I recommend this book to others who are interested in what Whitey did and crime in general.
Erin
Jan 02, 2015 Erin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Admittedly, I did not finish this book. I got about halfway through and had to give up. It's interesting information, but awfully written!! Too many Irish and Italian people without any character development. I couldn't keep them straight. And, instead of writing the story in the order in which it happens, it jumps all over the place. I just hated it. So, I'll figure out the rest when I see the movie.
Cole
Jan 10, 2011 Cole rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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...
Lauracastellano
Apr 11, 2015 Lauracastellano rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great Mobster novel! It reads like a newspaper article. Unfortunately these bad guys did not go to jail till they were in their 70s! Still can’t believe that Bulger was living in Santa Monica for 14 years and no one knew it was him!
My favorite line in the book was…“Whitey’s undoing turned out to be Tiger the tabby cat”!
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Dick Lehr is a professor of journalism at Boston University. From 1985 to 2003, he was a reporter at the Boston Globe, where he was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in investigative reporting and won numerous regional and national journalism awards. He served as the Globe's legal affairs reporter, magazine and feature writer, and as a longtime member of the newspaper's investigative reporting unit, the S ...more
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“He was the antithesis of the gaudy mafiosi” 1 likes
“press, and Connolly had a plan, a work-in-progress” 1 likes
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