Allan May, Crime Historian
Allan May is an organized crime historian, writer and lecturer. He teaches classes on the history of organized crime at Cuyahoga Community College. Contact him at AllanMay@AmericanMafia.com
A Plethora of Mob Books for 2000
By Allan May
So far in the year 2000 at least six books have been published about organized crime. The releases have taken us from Boston, Detroit, and Philadelphia to Canada and Moscow. They run the gamut from before prohibition to the 1990s and even into the new century.
Allow me to introduce these to you:
“The Enforcer: Johnny Pops Papalia: A Life and Death in the Mafia”
by Adrian Humphreys.
At Amazon: List Price: $29.00 Amazon Price: $20.30 Hardcover - 256 pages (August 1999) Harper Collins. Availability: This title is currently on back order. Amazon expects to be able to ship within 3-5 weeks.
Although this shows a 1999 release date, I don’t believe it came out until this year. I still don’t have my copy. I’m beginning to fear that they have all been purchased and we will soon see them for sale at RussMcDermott.com for $90.00 each!
“Red Mafiya: How The Russian Mob Has Invaded America”
by Robert I. Friedman.
List Price: $25.95 Amazon Price: $18.16 Hardcover - 288 pages 1 Ed edition (May 2000) Little Brown & Company. Availability: Usually ships in 24 hours.
“Before Bruno: The History of the Mafia and La Cosa Nostra in Philadelphia: Book One 1880-1931”
by Celeste Anne Morello
This book is not available at Amazon –Sorry, Rick.
List Price: $29.95 Barnes and Noble Price: $23. Paperback - 200pages. (April 2000) Morello self-published this, pretty high for a paperback – and only Part One at that!
“Black Mass: The Irish Mob, The FBI and A Devils Deal”
by Dick Lehr, Gerard O'Neill.
List Price: $26.00 Amazon Price: $18.20 Hardcover - 304 pages 1st edition (May 30, 2000) Public Affairs. Availability: Usually ships within 24 hours.
“The Purple Gang: Organized Crime In Detroit 1910 – 1945”
by Paul Kavieff.
Amazon Price: $22.00. Hardcover (April 2000) Barricade Books. Availability: On Order; usually ships within 1-2 weeks.
I’m beginning to see a color pattern here – Red, Black, Purple…
“Encyclopedia of Organized Crime in the United States: From Capone's Chicago to the New Urban Underworld”
by Robert J. Kelly.
Amazon Price: $59.95 Hardcover - 392 pages (April 30, 2000) Greenwood Publishing Group. Availability: Usually ships within 24 hours.
An added bonus, I want to share with you a new old book I recently purchased. In doing some research on Prohibition I came across the book “Criminals and Politicians: A History of the Rackets’ Red Rule,” by Denis Tilden Lynch. I also noticed it listed in the bibliography in “The Purple Gang.” The book, published in 1932, talks about the then current underworld activities of New York and Chicago, as well as other cities. This is the only book I have come across that has any discussion of Joseph DiCarlo the Mafia boss of Buffalo, New York in the early 1920s. The dust jacket proclaims:
“Here is the true story of the gory reign of the alliance of the underworld of crime and corrupt politics, a reign marked by thousands of murders … Every city of consequence where the racket flourishes has been visited by Mr. Lynch who obtained most of his information firsthand from honest officials, federal, State, and local, and from citizens who have organized to fight the rackets.”
Editors Note: Make sure you place all your book orders through AmericanMafia.com’s link with Amazon or Rick will send Youngstown Charlie and a couple of knuckle draggers out to visit you.
Review of Black Mass:
“Black Mass” was written by the two award winning Boston Globe reporters, Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill, who gave us “The Underboss: The Rise and Fall Of A Mafia Family.” That book, published in 1989, tells the story of Gennaro Angiulo, under boss to Raymond L. S. Patriarca. This new effort, which includes an index and bibliography – thank you gentlemen – is a much better read and more focused and in depth. After following the events that these two journalists, as well as reporters Andrea Estes, Shelley Murphy, Jonathan Wells and Howie Carr, have written about on a daily basis, it is a treat to have a book that recaps all of the events and provides analysis and deeper insight into what has happened, why it happened, and the ramifications.
Over the past decade or so, I feel that some of the best books written on organized crime have come from newspaper journalists. The best examples I can provide for that conclusion are the works of George Anastasia and Jerry Capeci.
In this case it seems that most of organized crime’s history buffs have been following the story of James “Whitey” Bulger, and the debacle created by the Boston FBI office, for the past five years. At AmericanMafia.com we have been blessed by the efforts of Youngstown Charlie and Thom Basie to get these articles posted on our website to keep us up to date. Now with the book published, Lehr and O’Neill finally put all of the pieces of the puzzle together – except, of course, where the hell “Whitey” is.
As many AmericanMafia.com followers know, I am a big law and order fan, always on the side of the FBI and law enforcement. Reading the revelations in “Black Mass” is frighteningly embarrassing to me as the authors detail the misconduct of Boston agent John Connolly and his supervisor John Morris.
Connolly grew up in South Boston where he was friends of both the Bulger brothers; William, known as Billy, who became president of the Massachusetts State Senate, and James, known as “Whitey” because of his blonde hair, who became one of the city’s most feared mob bosses.
Among the questionable acts committed by the FBI was an incident in 1972 when Morris had trouble turning a hood named Eddie Miani into a government witness. Morris told Miani that his “friends” were going to kill him. One night Morris and two agents went to Miani’s home and wired a fake contraption resembling a bomb to his car. They then placed an anonymous call to the police who went to the house, awoke Miani, and showed him what had been done, and that someone was trying to kill him.
Infractions committed by Morris and Connolly with Bulger and Steve “the Rifleman” Flemmi, leaders of the Winter Hill Gang, included the many meetings that were held. Instead of the case agent meeting the informants one on one, or two on one, Morris and Connolly would invite Bulger and Flemmi into their homes for elaborately prepared meals. The Winter Hill duo usually brought along wine for Morris, whom they nicknamed “Vino.” At one meeting Morris became so inebriated that the mobsters were forced to drive him home. Morris’s wife quickly realized that what he was doing was clearly against bureau policy. The authors write, as she saw it, “Maybe he’d brought work home with him, but never two actual gangsters.” Later Bulger gave Morris’s FBI secretary $1,000 so she could visit her boss for a sexual tryst in Atlanta where Morris was attending a conference.
The gifts of wine, sometimes cases, and later cash, helped Bulger and Flemmi sink their claws deep into the weak-willed Morris. Meanwhile, Connolly, because of the reputation he had gained by landing Bulger as a confidential informant (CI in Bureau-speak) had become the Boston FBI’s version of the “Big Man On Campus.” He strutted like a peacock around the office and seldom had time for deskwork. This façade was kept up as Morris kept feeding the legend with glowing reports to Connolly’s personnel file, although he didn’t give positive feedback for his advancement.
When he was not strutting around, Connolly was busy thwarting the efforts of the Massachusetts State Police and the DEA in their efforts to build a case against Bulger and Flemmi. These efforts, in addition to not cooperating with the agencies, included tipping off Bulger and Flemmi to wire taps, buggings and investigations.
While Connolly was running interference for the two, Bulger and Flemmi were literally getting away with murder under the protection of their FBI handlers. The low point for me came when Lehr and O’Neill detailed how the two mobsters muscled in and took over a liquor store belonging to Julie and Stephen Rakes, which had been in operation less than a week. As Bulger threatened Stephen Rakes in the kitchen of the Rakes’ home, Flemmi let the couple’s infant daughter play with a handgun he has pulled from his belt. It would be hard to believe how anyone could have any respect for Bulger after reading how this sick bastard treated this family and got away with it with help from his FBI friends.
Other low points described by the authors include FBI agents in court who, “mimic tactics usually displayed in court by the gangsters they pursued.” In discussing the testimony of retired bureau supervisor Dennis Condon, the authors reveal, “but Condon pleaded a blank memory. He set the standard for responding, ‘I don’t recall.’ Even when an attorney showed him an FBI document he’d prepared, Condon would shrug, say he didn’t recall writing it, and was therefore unable to elaborate further.”
After Connolly retired from the bureau and was working as the head of security for Boston Edison, he talked with reporters about John Morris while his former supervisor testified – with immunity.
The authors wrote:
“But Connolly saved his best lines for Morris, whom he began calling ‘the most corrupt agent in the history of the FBI.’ Each day after Morris finished testifying, Connolly would condemn his former friend and supervisor. Morris may have only met with Connolly, Bulger, and Flemmi a dozen times over the years – while Connolly saw the mobsters hundreds of times – but Connolly insisted that he himself was a model FBI agent who’d never broken a single rule. All of Morris’s wrongs, said Connolly, ‘he did that on his own.’”
Even Flemmi gets into the innocent act with his testimony:
“I believe I was performing a service for the United States government in my role as an informant,’ he told Fred Wyshak once the prosecution’s turn came to ask the questions. Flemmi said he and Bulger had helped the FBI ‘to destroy the LCN, and I believed whatever I was doing I was doing in the interest of the United States government.’”
As for his co-defendants in the trial, “Cadillac Frank” Salemme and Robert “Bobby” DeLuca, they became so disgusted with Flemmi when they found out he had been an informant for all those years that they refused to sit near him at the defense table. John Martorano, another defendant, became a government witness.
After Bulger was tipped off by one of the agents that he was about to be indicted, he disappeared and has been a fugitive since 1995. In 1999, the FBI announced that he was added to the bureau’s Ten Most Wanted List. Bulger is believed to be the only FBI informant to make the infamous list.
The two authors tie up as many details as they can in their epilogue. However, the case will never be closed until “Whitey” Bulger is brought to justice. With all of the dirt revealed about the FBI’s Boston office though, many wonder if the FBI really wants to find this man. If they do, the trial will certainly be an interesting one.
Lehr and O’Neill do an excellent job of detailing one of the FBI’s darkest moments. It’s enough to turn the stomach of an ardent FBI supporter like myself. In perhaps a naïve way I want law enforcement to prevail without having to lower their standards to those of the criminals they are pursuing. I still want the FBI to ride into town like the cavalry on white horses and blast all of the bad guys – just don’t shoot them in the back!
Next Review: “Red Mafiya” and “Before Bruno.”
Copyright A. R. May 2000