What we now have is an embarrassment of riches in telling our story. You want bloodshed? At least 19 people allegedly die by Whitey’s hands — rival mobsters, suspected informants and — if his onetime colleagues are right — two women whom he strangles to death. (For details, if you must, go to a competing book, “Whitey: The Life of America’s Most Notorious Mob Boss,” by two ex-Globe reporters, Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill.)
When Whitey allegedly killed bookmaker-turned-killer Louis Litif in February 1980, he used an icepick, stabbing Litif 38 times. “The puncture wounds perforated Litif’s liver,” a federal judge wrote later; according to Lehr and O’Neill, this is “a wound thought to cause exquisite agony.”
(W. W. Norton) - ’Whitey Bulger: America's Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt That Brought Him To Justice’ by Kevin Cullen and Shelley Murphy
You want film noir? Whitey and colleagues bury three victims in the dirt basement of a house in the neighborhood. You want scenes right out of “Goodfellas”? How about Whitey, his partner Steve Flemmi, and a group of FBI agents dining at Flemmi’s home as his mom cooks up an Italian feast.
But this movie’s not going to be smooth sailing. While apologists like brother Billy may have seen Whitey as “a bad good guy,” Kevin Cullen and Shelley Murphy paint a different picture. He did not keep drugs out of Southie. He extorted money from dope dealers. He is charged with killing fellow gangsters and innocent bystanders alike. We are not talking Robin Hood here.
And the story’s penultimate chapter sags. Tipped off by the FBI’s Connolly of an impending indictment, Bulger and a longtime mistress skipped town and spent 16 years on the lam (as the old Warner Brothers films would have it), most of it living the overwhelmingly uninteresting life of a retired couple in Santa Monica. And his capture? No “Made it, ma! Top of the World!” shootout, but a peaceful arrest after a former neighbor living in Iceland saw his photo on CNN.
Whitey’s going on trial in June in Boston on a string of federal charges; virtually all of his onetime colleagues have turned on him. His FBI protector Connolly will likely spend the rest of his life in prison for enabling some of Whitey’s murders. Billy Bulger has been forced out of his job as University of Massachusetts president for his evasive explanations of just how much he knew and did to protect his brother.
But it’s still one hell of a story. I wonder what Mark Wahlberg is up to?
is a Yahoo News columnist and host of PBS’s “Need to Know.” His new book of alternate history, “If JFK Lived,” will be published this fall.