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Harvard Book Store is pleased to welcome award-winning Boston Globe journalists Kevin Cullen and Shelley Murphy with WBUR’s Robin Young for a discussion of Cullen and Murphy’s new book, Whitey Bulger: America’s Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt That Brought Him to Justice.
Raised in a South Boston housing project, James “Whitey” Bulger became the most wanted fugitive of his generation. In this riveting story, rich with family ties and intrigue, reporters Kevin Cullen and Shelley Murphy follow Whitey’s extraordinary criminal career—from teenage thievery to bank robberies to the building of his underworld empire and a string of brutal murders.
It was after a nine-year stint in Alcatraz and other prisons that Whitey reunited with his brother William “Billy” Bulger, who was soon to become one of Massachusetts’s most powerful politicians. He also became reacquainted with John Connolly, who had grown up around the corner from the Bulgers and was now—with Billy’s help—a rising star at the FBI.
Once Whitey emerged triumphant from the bloody Boston gang wars, Connolly recruited him as an informant against the Mafia. Their clandestine relationship made Whitey untouchable; the FBI overlooked gambling, drugs, and even homicide to protect their source. Among the close-knit Irish community in South Boston, nothing was more important than honor and loyalty, and nothing was worse than being a rat. Whitey is charged with the deaths of nineteen people killed over turf, for business, and even for being informants; yet to this day he denies he ever gave up his friends or landed anyone in jail.
Based on exclusive access and previously undisclosed documents, Cullen and Murphy explore the truth of the Whitey Bulger story. They reveal for the first time the extent of his two parallel family lives with different women, as well as his lifelong paranoia stemming in part from his experience in the CIA’s MKULTRA program. They describe his support of the IRA and his hitherto-unknown role in the Boston busing crisis, and they show a keen understanding of his mindset while on the lam and behind bars. The result is the first full portrait of this legendary criminal figure—a gripping story of wiseguys and cops, horrendous government malfeasance, and a sixteen-year manhunt that climaxed in Whitey’s dramatic capture in Santa Monica in June 2011.
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