(Whitey Dressed In White, Like Tom Wolfe)
Whitey Bulger may be a full-blown psychopath, but you can't call him stupid. Why, many consider him a kind of criminal genius. I recall an episode from that ridiculous new crime show, Rizzoli & Isles, in which the long lost father of the genius IQ medical examiner, Dr. Isles, turns out to be none other than Boston's top Irish mobster - obviously a Whitey stand-in. Whitey Bulger was definitely a reader. His little brother Billy was never without a book as a boy, and Whitey enjoyed books himself, favoring history, military studies and true crime. One of his lieutenants, Red Shea, has reported that Whitey urged him to read books - that books would teach him new things and open up worlds to him. Whitey was a talented story teller as well. When he was first out of prison in the middle 1960's, he worked as a janitor in a courthouse. According to his lunchmates from those days, he could tell a tale like nobody's business. And when he wrote, as he did in his letters to Billy while he was in jail, he used an "elegant script" and his prose beamed with brotherly love and encouragement. The man was born for the pen. Too bad he picked up the ice-pick instead. But, like many a thwarted artist, he succeeded as a teacher as he never did as a writer (except, of course, as the "auteur" of his own legend).
Consider the litterateurs under his tutelage:
Eddie "Mac" Mackenzie - A sexually frenzied ruffian during his criminal days, he served as one of Whitey's choicest enforcers, later penning the "raw and compelling" Street Soldier: My Life as an Enforcer for Whitey Bulger and the Boston Irish Mob.
Kevin Weeks - Whitey's most trusted lieutenant and, like his master, the son of a crippled parent who established himself in Southie the only way he could - through his fighting skills. A man with a reputed IQ of 145 (administered at a Boy's Club, of all places), not to mention two brothers who went to Harvard, Mr. Weeks had brains to burn, finally publishing his own memoir, Brutal: My Life in Whitey Bulger's Irish Mob. Condemned as self-serving and egocentric by some (although why expect anything else from a sociopath?), the book still sold well.
John "Red" Shea - Another claimant to the title of Whitey Bulger lieutenant, Mr. Shea is the author of Rat Bastards: The Life and Times of South Boston's Most Honorable Irish Mobster. This is perhaps the weakest of the books by Whitey's proteges, reproached by the critics as dull, ungrammatical and (again) self-serving. Nevertheless, publication is scarcely failure! Rat Bastards is even being made into a movie. In an interview conducted by the MBTA's commuter paper, Metro, Shea admitted to having visited Venice Beach without even knowing that Whitey was in hiding just blocks away - and to being "freaked out" about it after Whitey's capture.
Bobby Martini - More the son of a Whitey Bulger associate, Howie Winter, than a bonafide gang member, Mr. Martini may only have audited Whitey's tutorials. But he, too, has succeeded in publishing Citizen Somerville: Growing up with the Winter Hill Gang.
When you consider the exposes written by Bulger's nemesis, Howie Carr, and the memoirs of South Boston residents who simply grew up under Whitey's reign, you can only conclude that Whitey's mere presence forged a whole new sub-genre of literature. Frank Conroy, eat your heart out.
Whitey Bulger memoirs (Amazon.com)
I-Team: Letters Written By ‘Loving’ Whitey Show Bond Between Bulger Brothers (CBS Boston)